Friday, August 21, 2020

The Hangman's Secret (A Victorian Mystery #3) by Laura Joh Rowland

The Hangman's Secret (Victorian Mystery #3)
The Hangman's Secret by Laura Joh Rowland 
Series: A Victorian Mystery (Book 3)
ISBN-10: 1683319028 - Hardcover $
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books (January 8, 2019), 304 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and 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?

My review: 
I've been enjoying Laura Joh Rowland's mystery novels set in Ancient/Feudal Japan for years so I was interested to read her latest historical mysteries set in Victorian London. This time we follow her heroine Sarah Bain, a photojournalist who is in love with a detective constable. Sarah finds herself hiding much about her personal life from PC Barrett not so much for her own sake but to protect her fugitive father.  

Sarah's living arrangements are unorthodox as well. Sarah doesn't have family left but she lives with her close friends and they work together to cover news and uncover crimes. Hugh is gentry and was disinherited because for being gay. Homosexuality is still a criminal offense in Great Britain and there is considerable stigma and danger to Hugh. Mick is still a teenager but has a hard time adjusting to school - he would prefer to make a living and be treated like an adult.   Sarah, Hugh and Mick all work for Sir Gerald at the Daily World. They'd earned his trust in their previous adventures and he gives them a position of trust. 

As Sir Gerald at the Daily World challenges the police to a competition as to who can discover the murderer in the latest crime, we readers and Sarah's group know it is a bad idea.  But bad ideas and grave errors don't much harm the rich and powerful -- instead Sir Gerald is drawn to the popularity of the idea, the huge interest from the public and his own image of a crusader of justice.  

There is much professional jealousy and intrigue at the Daily World and Sarah Bain finds herself at the center of an expose and controversy.  When Sarah, Hugh and Mick's investigation leads to a red herring and accusations that blow up, the Daily World is forced into an awkward position and Sarah, Hugh and Mick find themselves thrown over. 

This doesn't stop them from conducting their own investigations but it does draw a bullseye on their collective backs. It also makes the story much more interesting.  I found myself rooting for Sarah and her friends and drawn into this version of Victorian London.  Laura Joh Rowland has created characters that one can care about and an story that it hard to put down.  

About the Author: 
Laura Joh Rowland is the author of A Mortal Likeness, the second book in her mystery series set in Victorian England, starring photographer Sarah Bain. The third book, coming out in January 2019, is The Hangman’s Secret. Her other series features 17th-century Japanese samurai detective Sano Ichiro. Her work has been published in 21 countries, won RT Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award, and made 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. Visit her website at

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Bento by Yuko and Noriko

Bento: Over 70 Make-Ahead, Delicious Box Lunches
Bento by Yuko and Noriko 
ISBN 9781631067303 - Race Point Publishing Hardcover $15.99
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley. 

The blurb:

From the creators of the website Japanese Cooking 101, Bento (a newly reformatted edition of Simply Bento) is a complete collection of over 50 delicious and healthy box lunch ideas for everyone in the family. 

Ready to make lunch quick, easy, and tasty? Japanese bento boxes are single-portion packed lunches, perfect for anyone looking to save money and eat a balanced, satisfying meal for lunch every single day.

Bento features over 100 healthy and delicious recipes—including mains and sides—that you can make every day of the week and mix and match using a combination of traditional and nontraditional ingredients. Learn about different types of bento boxes and accessories, how to assemble your box, and everyday items you will need in your pantry, as well as how to plan ahead so that your morning prep is a breeze.

Bento shows you the finer points of bento-making, and there is something for everyone: Classic Japanese BentoSandwich Bento Sushi and Onigiri BentoNoodle BentoPopular Japanese Bento10-Minute Bento Rice and Grain Bowl BentoLow-Carb BentoVegan BentoBento for Special Occasions (including for the first day of school and Halloween!)Bento at Home So, if you're in the mood for Chicken TeriyakiRamenShrimp Avocado Pasta SaladCauliflower Fried RiceFalafelSweet and Sour MeatballsTempura, or Chicken Nuggets (for the kids), Bentohas the recipes—plus much more!

Bento starts by giving the history of bento boxes in Japan and reasons for their continued popularity.  I remember being fascinated by bento boxes in the 1980s as I had become fascinated with Japanese products and culture.  When we visited Japan a few years ago, I loved ordering lunch bento boxes and buying bento boxes from their department stores.  The many different items in small portions made it possible to taste different things and to switch tastes.  I'd seen photos of bento boxes that people would prepare for their children but it looked complicated and time consuming.  So, I found Yuko and Noriko's practical advice very helpful and encouraging.

Remember to avoid temperatures 40 to 140F.  When packing leftovers reheat them in the morning to freshen the food and kill bacteria.  Allow the food to cool completely before closing the lid.  Try adding natural antibiotics like salt, vinegar, ginger, or seasoned or marinated vegetable dishes.

Their tips on packing attractively help establish a method. Use healthy edibles like lettuce to compartmentalize food.  Pack tightly with no space for the food to move around - use small vegetables to fill the spaces. Eat the rainbow and pack with contrasting colors. Vegetable sticks and salads that are prepared for the bento can be served during breakfast to encourage us to eat healthy. 

Yuko and Noriko include recipes for different types of dashi, rice, tamagoyaki (my favorite egg dish!), noritama furikake (egg and roasted seaweed seasoning), as well as popular and delicious bento dishes.  These include but are not limited to: Chicken Teriyaki Bento, Beef Roll-up Bento, Tsukune (Ground Chicken) Bento, Grilled Mackerel Bento, Beef Shigureni Bento, Sukiyaki Bento, Salmon Teriyaki Bento, Pork Shogayaki Bento,  Sushi Burrito Bento, Onigiri Bento, Sushi Roll Bento, Spam Musubi Bento, Inari Sushi Bento, Yaki Onigiri Bento, Shrimp Avocado Pasta Salad Bento, Cold Somen Nuodle Bento, Yakiniku Bento, Tonkatsu Sandwich Bento, Chicken Nuggets Bento, Sweet and Sour Meatballs Bento, Okonomiyaki Bento, Chicken Karaage Bento, Omurice Bento, Oyakodon Bento.  

Our family was particularly happy with the Vegan Bento recipes: Tofu Steak Salad Bento, Falafel Bento, Vegetable Miso Soup Bento, Spaghetti with Lima Beans and Cabbage Bento, Tofu Poke Bento and Hijiki Gohan Bento.  There are fun bento boxes that are geared towards special occasions like the 1st day of school, Valentine's Day, Halloween, Birthdays, etc. 

Since I do most of the cooking, I was very happy with the recipes for the small cold vegetable dishes.  The recipes are simple and I prepare a batch for the week and just add them to our meals to increase our veggie intake. I especially loved the Daikon & Carrot Nimono, Miso Eggplant and Shishito Peppers, Broccoli Namul, Sauteed Green Beans, Carrot Kinipira, Carrot Namul, Pickled Daikon Radish, and Fresh Fruits Jelly.

Overall, this is a useful book for those who are looking to up their lunch game. We don't have children to cook for so I can only imagine how cheering it would be for a child to have a bento box for lunch. I know my husband and I enjoy them. 

About the Authors:

Yuko launched with Noriko in 2012  to show the world how to make fresh, simple, and tasty Japanese meals that can be prepared at home by everyone. Yuko grew up in Japan watching her mother and grandmother prepare food at home. Today she creates recipes based on those memories, as well as her own years of experience cooking at home for her own family. She lives in San Diego, California.

Noriko launched with Yuko in 2012  to show the world how to make fresh, simple, and tasty Japanese meals that can be prepared at home by everyone. Noriko is a professionally trained pastry chef who grew up in Japan watching her mother and grandmother prepare food at home. Today she creates recipes based on those memories as well as her own years of experience cooking at home for her own family. She lives in San Diego, California.