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A Review of ‘The Hangman’s Secret’ by Laura Joh Rowland

Intrepid photographer Sarah Bain and her motley crew of friends are back to hunt criminals in the dark, seedy underbelly of Victorian London, but little do they know, the darkness may lurk closer than they first divined.

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?

Length: 304 Pages
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Published Date: January 8th 2019
Genres: Historical | Fiction | Mystery
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Granddaughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants, Laura Joh Rowland grew up in Michigan and where she graduated with a B.S. in microbiology and a Master of Public Health at the University of Michigan. She currently lives in New Orleans with her husband. She has worked as a chemist, microbiologist, sanitary inspector and quality engineer.

The Hangman's Secret (Victorian Mystery, #3)The Hangman’s Secret by Laura Joh Rowland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Firstly a large thank you to NetGalley, Laura Joh Rowland, and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

“The Hangman’s Secret” is the third in a series set in Victorian England by Laura Joh Rowland and the cover of this book is really great which made me interested in reading this victorian tale. The characters of Hugh and Mick could have done with a little more information. Hugh is mostly just ‘the homosexual’ and Mick ‘the urchin’. Since this is the third book in a series, I suppose the author plans to work on these characters in books that follow this one. I had no trouble getting into to story although I didn’t read the first two books. In fact, sometimes I could have done with a little bit less information regarding the past of the three main characters.

The story begins with a terribly gruesome murder while not much was happening while the characters circle about. Quickly – Sarah Bain and her friend Hugh Staunton (who have definite secrets of their own), along with their young friend Mick O’Relly, have been summoned to the scene. This arises out of their work for Sir Gerald Mariner, who as a newspaper publisher employs Sarah to take photographs of crime scenes. The murder of Harry Warbrick is all tied into his work as a hangman, specifically the hanging of the “baby butcher” Amelia Carlisle. The ending finds them all in jeopardy.

There’s a lot going on in this book, perhaps too much and I would enjoyed less information at times. It’s not easy going for the characters as they faced many issues while following the Leeds. In fact, it got to the point where I just wanted Sarah and Barrett, her policeman/paramour, to get on with it already. Caught up with all this is Sarah’s search for her long-missing father, which occupies much of her thoughts and emotions. Got pretty tired of that while reading through the pages.

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