Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Hangman's Secret by Laura Joh Rowland

The Hangman's Secret by Laura Joh Rowland
  • ISBN-10: 1683319028 - Hardcover $25.80
  • Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (January 8, 2019), 304 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of NetGalley.

The blurb:
Photographer Sarah Bain and her friends Lord Hugh Staunton and sometime street urchin Mick O’Reilly are private detectives with a new gig―photographing crime scenes for London’s Daily World newspaper. The Daily World is the latest business venture of their sole client, Sir Gerald Mariner, a fabulously wealthy and powerful banker. 

One cold, snowy January morning, Sarah, Hugh, and Mick are summoned to the goriest crime scene they’ve ever encountered. A pub owner named Harry Warbrick has been found hanged and decapitated amid evidence of foul play. His murder becomes a sensation because he was England’s top hangman and he’s met the same fate that he inflicted on hundreds of criminals. 

Sir Gerald announces that the Daily World―meaning Sarah and her friends―will investigate and solve Harry Warbrick’s murder before the police do. The contest pits Sarah against the man she loves, Police Constable Barrett. She and her friends discover a connection between Harry Warbrick’s murder and the most notorious criminal he ever executed―Amelia Carlisle, the “Baby-Butcher,” who murdered hundreds of infants placed in her care. 

Something happened at Amelia’s execution. The Official Secrets Act forbids the seven witnesses present to divulge any information about it. But Harry had a bad habit of leaking tips to the press. Sarah and her friends suspect that one of the other witnesses killed Harry to prevent him from revealing a secret related to the execution. What is the secret, and who hanged the hangman?

I'd enjoyed Laura Joh Rowland's series focusing the Japanese samurai detective. The Hangman's Secret, the third in Rowland's series with Sarah Bain, the young photographer, and her colleagues Lord Hugh Staunton and young Mike combined romance with a complicated murder mystery.  

We find that Sarah Bain is carrying the secret of her father's criminal history - he has been accused of molesting and murdering a child.  Hugh is homosexual and was spurned by society when this secret was revealed.  But Sarah, Hugh and Mike have the favor and trust of the wealthy and reckless newspaper man, Sir Gerald Mariner.  As Sir Gerald seeks more complicated stories and takes greater risks,  Sarah, Hugh and Mike find themselves in difficult waters.  They are committed to solving the bloody murder of a hangman and are in a contest to beat the police investigators.  As Sarah is in love with/dating Police Constable Barrett, this competition brings an added problem to them both.

The Hangman's Secret takes Sarah, Hugh, Mike and Barrett to grave danger - I found myself rooting for them throughout.  While Mike acts quite young especially when dealing with his infatuation with the actress Catherine, The Hangman's Secret is a fun read.

About the Author:
Laura Joh Rowland is the award-winning author of the samurai detective Sano Ichiro mystery series set in 17th century Japan, as well as a historical suspense series starring Charlotte Bronte. Her work has been published in 21 countries; nominated for the Anthony Award, the Hammett Prize, and the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award; won RT Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award; and been included in the Wall Street Journal’s list of the five best historical mystery novels. Laura holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan. She is a former aerospace scientist, a painter, and a cartoonist. She lives in New York City with her husband Marty. This is her third Victorian mystery.

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