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Victorian Mystery #3

The Hangman's Secret

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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?

304 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 8, 2019

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About the author

Laura Joh Rowland

41 books1,236 followers
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.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 172 reviews
Profile Image for Matt.
3,670 reviews12.8k followers
November 16, 2018
First and foremost, 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.

Laura Joh Rowland takes readers back to Victorian England to continue this mystery series that proves addictive from the opening pages. Sarah Bain and Lord Hugh Staunton have worked well together in the past and, after some results in a recent kidnapping case, have been hired by Sir Gerald Mariner to work at a recently acquired newspaper. Sarah’s skill at photography is sure to help sell copies, alongside the passion she and Hugh have for solving crimes. When they are sent to a murder scene on a tip, Sarah and Hugh discover a decapitated man. He is soon identified as one of the hangmen used across England to execute those deemed worthy of death. During an encounter with the local police, a competition ensues to see who will find the killer first. Sarah and Hugh begin poking around and learn of the hangman’s ties to a ruthless killer, one Amelia Carlisle, who ran a baby farm and was found to have murdered many of the little ones in her care. Working undercover of sorts, Sarah and Hugh make their way to the prison to learn a little more about Carlisle, where they meet the select group who witnessed the hanging. Between learning about this, Sarah’s half-sister comes to call, where she admits that she may have seen their father. Benjamin Bain was thought to have died over two decades before, having disappeared after a clash with the police. However, Sarah came to discover that he had a second family, using a pseudonym. She also discovers that he is wanted as a person of interest in the rape and murder of a young girl, around the time of his disappearance from the Bain household. With new information, Sarah his determined not only to find her father, but clear his name of this heinous crime. When new revelations surrounding the Carlisle execution leaks to the press, Sarah’s job is in jeopardy, though she has other matters on her mind. A killer is on the loose, targeting those who know all about the execution, but Sarah is also keenly aware that there are secrets in her own family that must be revealed before she can learn the truth for her own peace of mind. Rowland has penned another winner, full of great plots and interesting characters. Recommended for those who love mysteries set in Victorian England that have unique twists.

I chose to read the first two novels in the series before jumping into this one, as I felt that it would help enrich the experience. I am pleased that I did so, as Rowland effectively lays the groundwork for this book and develops her characters well in the first two pieces. This novel is just as exciting, set another year or so after the Mariner kidnapping and two years after the Ripper scare made headlines. Sarah Bain remains an interesting character, sure to interest most readers for her relatability and constant curiosity. A photographer by trade, Sarah uses her amateur sleuthing capabilities again in this novel, accentuated by grit and determination to get to the answer. Rowland did well to develop her into a quasi-investigative reporter, utilising all her skills. Lord Hugh Staunton remains her effective sidekick, though it is his interest in keeping things secretive about his true identify that acts as the form of development the reader must accept in this piece. Hugh has been disowned by his family for his homosexuality and his recent relationship could cost everyone a great deal, if it becomes public. Some of the secondary characters shape the story effectively, particularly Police Constable Thomas Barrett. PC Barrett struggles with his love for Sarah and his dedication to the job. His superiors have made it known that Sarah is not welcome to poke around, leading to some interesting secret keeping and revelations between Barrett and Sarah throughout. Overall, the story worked well and kept my attention through to the final sentence. Wonderfully developed in the middle of Victorian England’s most crime-filled years, Rowland captures the feeling of those dark and troubled streets in London’s less savoury neighbourhoods. Rowland has created an interesting series that mixes history with key elements of a decent mystery. I will keep her on my radar and hope that she continues this wonderful series that is both highly entertaining and easy to read.
Kudos, Madam Rowland, for keeping the series fresh with new ideas and established storylines. Victorian England comes alive in your descriptions and I hope the series will continue in the years to come.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Linda.
1,194 reviews1,243 followers
November 29, 2018
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Sarah Bain wakes to a pounding on her door just before daybreak. The rude awakenings are part of her lifestyle. Sarah lives above her photography studio and has a sideline for photographing crime/murder scenes in the Whitechapel High Street neighborhood. She and her two partners, Mick and Hugh, have been employed by Sir Gerald Mariner who runs The Daily World newspaper. What awaits her a few streets over may not be fit to print.

The body of bar owner, Harry Warbrick, has been found on the floor of his establishment in a bloody mess. Harry is a victim of his own trade. He moonlights as a hangman to bring in extra cash. It appears that ol' Harry got tripped up on his own rope tied tightly around his neck from the upper floor. Harry ended up at the wrong end of his rope. Murder? But his former "customers" never hung around to retaliate. Then who?

Sarah delivers the plates to Sir Gerald who wishes to get a leg up on the police investigation. He challenges Sarah to take the lead in finding out what happened to Harry Warbrick. She and her partners had a private inquiry service before hooking up with the newspaper. This will play havoc with her love interest PC Thomas Barrett. Is it possible to refrain from telling Barrett all that she knows about the crime?

The Hangman's Secret is the third offering in the Victorian Mystery Series by Laura Joh Rowland. It definitely reads as a standalone. Rowland nicely fills in the backstories when needed. Rowland swirls the scenery with the sights and sounds of London in 1890 with its factories puffing horrendous chemical fumes and rivers appearing thick in their flow.

Rowland's choice of characters are wide and varied. Even Sarah has some painful experiences from childhood surrounding her father who may or may not be guilty of a serious crime. She still continues to search for him. Rowland slides in the true crime character of Amelia Carlisle who actually ran a baby farm during this time period. This tough investigation may have a connection to Amelia as well. Rowland will keep you on your toes with quite the action. The ending will escalate to lives being in mighty danger.

I received a copy of The Hangman's Secret through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Crooked Lane Books and to Laura Joh Rowland for the opportunity.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,886 reviews488 followers
December 1, 2018
Thanks to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. Book will be published on 8 January 2019

Sarah Bain and her two friends Hugh and Mick are called by their journalist boss to a gruesome murder. A hangman that has been beheaded! Although the three are despearate to solve another mystery, their actions are seen as meddling by the local police. Add to the mix both Sarah and Hugh's personal relationship problems with the men they love and Sarah and her half-sister, Sally, searching for their father- a wanted man, and you have an action packed story!

Although I had not read the two previous stories The Ripper's Shadowand A Mortal Likeness, there are plenty of illusions to Sarah and other characters past relationships that it could be treated as a stand alone. However, there were parts of the novel that seemed a bit drawn out and repetitive. Also, I didn't really buy into Sarah and Barrett's relationship especially after they meet with his parents in the book. Because of this fact I could not go any higher than a 3 in my rating.
Profile Image for Lili  Marcus.
715 reviews405 followers
December 8, 2018
An ARC was provided to me by the author and publishers via Netgalley but my opinions are not at all affected by this. :)

Set in 1890 London this novel features Photographer Sarah Bain, a photographer for "Daily World" newspaper though she usually ends up like a detective solving crimes even before the police do. She do this with her friends Lord Hugh Staunton and Mick O’Reilly. The books opens with Sarah called to a gory crime scene. A hangman named Harry Warbrick somehow died hanged and decapitated. The police, which includes Sarah's boyfriend Barett, believes it's a suicide but they can't ignore the clues. Someone has hanged the hangman. And

Sir Gerald Mariner, owner of the Daily World, wants Sarah and her crew to find out what really happened. But suddenly, a name Amelia Carlisle, a "Baby-Butcher" showed up in their investigation and Sarah, Hugh and Mick never thought that they might be solving the most dangerous crime they ever encountered so far.

First, when I requested this book on Netgalley, I wasn't aware that this is third in a series. But it didn't affect my reading and comprehension at all. In fact, the author did an amazing job on inserting past information to give the reader more understanding.

Second, I was fascinated by the concept of this book. A hangman murdered by hanging and I haven't really read anything with a hangman before. And then as the story goes on, I realized, I got more than I bargained for. There are plenty of twists and turns I didn't see coming. I love how layered the mystery is. And it was well done. Even more complex because of Sarah's personal problems in the way. The pacing is good and I'm usually entertained.

Third, the characters are unique and diverse with their various backstories. I love the friendship between Sarah, Hugh and Mick. It's fascinating how much they love their job. :) I also enjoyed the character of Barett. The romance between him and Sarah is shadowed by the mystery and crime aspect of the book and I think the author did a good job for doing so.

Now why I rated this a star short? There's one character that I don't understand the purpose except for antagonizing Sarah and her crew. The writing though overall is okay, it took me a while before I get into it. And for me, this book needs a serious editing. Just the first paragraph almost threw me off. I read the word 'Window' three times. That can be changed. There are also paragraphs where most of the sentences starts with the same pronoun. If I read it aloud, it won't be good to my ears. BUT I AM READING AN ADVANCE READER'S COPY so I'm sure it'll be fixed on the final copy.

Overall, I enjoy this book and this won't be the last book I'm gonna read from this author.



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Profile Image for Nadia.
267 reviews175 followers
August 15, 2018
Set in 1890 in London, we follow a trio of journalists investigating a murder of a hangman who himself has been hung. The narrator of the story is one of the journalists, a photographer, Sarah Bain who lives well ahead of her time (in her early 30s, still single and focusing on her career). I immediately took a liking to her. Actually, not only her but her 2 partners as well - Hugh and Mick - who are both very likeable characters and compliment each other well. The three of them go on to investigate crime and face many many obstacles.

Despite the book being a book number three in the Victorian Mystery series by the author, it can be read as a standalone. The background of the characters is nicely sumarised for anyone who missed out on the first two books.

This was a fun read, quite different from typical crime novel but one that I enjoyed.

Many thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for my ARC.
Profile Image for Carole.
488 reviews107 followers
January 20, 2019
The Hangman's Secret by Laura Joh Rowland is #3 in her Victorian mystery series but reads very well as a standalone. This novel follows photographer Sarah Bain and her two cohorts Sir Hugh and Mick who are tasked with photographing crime scenes for the London Daily Mail. The story starts with the hanging death of hangman Harry Warbrink. The trio are on the hunt for the perpetrator of this faked suicide. They are in a race with the police department to solve this crime. And then, as they say, the plot thickens. This novel is a joy to read and maintains the tension until the very end. There is a love story, lies, murders, mayhem, deception, all-in-all, a very entertaining read. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a good old-fashioned suspenseful yarn. Thank you to Crooked Lane Books, the author and NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Dee Arr.
734 reviews88 followers
September 10, 2018
At first, I didn’t like the writing because of its form, as it didn’t capture the style and mood of the Victorian Era. In other words, it read like a modern-day novel. As this was my own personal opinion on how a Victorian novel should be written, I initially disregarded my feelings and continued on. It wasn’t long before I realized what was really bothering me about the author’s prose and dialogue.

The writing in the earlier chapters sounds forced, and the author takes every opportunity to introduce backstory, though each time it is with the force of a sledgehammer rather than neatly inserting the information. Ms. Rowland’s characters barely show their emotions, but they are capable of bursting out with the most outrageous statements, thus lending an air of unbelievability to the story. Reporter Malcolm Cross stops to tell the heroine Sarah Bain exactly what he thinks of her, something that could have been accomplished through his actions during a meeting with their boss a few moments previous to this encounter. Inspector Reid, upset when Cross blurts out that his newspaper is in a “contest” with the police to solve a murder, publicly tells his subordinate Barrett that he (Reid) has been blocking Barrett’s promotion. Knowing that Barrett is dating Sarah, Reid then states “If you want a promotion, you’d better dump Sarah Bain.” I was still reading the opening chapters and already was dreading the rest of the book.

The statement by Reid was engineered in an attempt to insert tension between Barrett and Sarah. This could have happened naturally, but use of a heavy hand in this and other scenes destroys the reality the author is trying to create. This was not the only example of excessive explaining, and as the book progressed, more instances appeared. Even though the dialogue and emotions were now showing the interaction between characters, Ms. Rowland would also tell us what we were supposed to think. At the very least, this slowed the pacing of the book.

Characterizations were another issue. Sarah’s partner Hugh Staunton acts more like a rash young teenager than the adult he is. Her other Partner Mick is 14 and in love with a 19-year-old actress, who for some reason keeps him around as a conduit to a newspaper publisher (as if she couldn’t form an alliance with the many suitors seeking her favor). Sarah is the voice of reason, and in another dimension, she may question the author’s reasons for the continued presence of two males who don’t have that much to add (at least, not the way they are presented). The motivation for Sarah’s boss stems from his son’s disappearance, making “…his need for revenge…so insatiable that he’ll exact it from a stranger who killed a stranger.” Possibly, but yet another stretch at the fabrics of reality.

The plot throws red herrings in Sarah’s path, outlandish suspects that readers instantly realize nothing to do with the murder. On the other hand, Hugh and Mick are ready to lock them up and Sarah is swayed enough to keep them on her suspect list. Alas, at times it appears there is no mystery to the mystery.

Somewhere around the middle of the book, Ms. Rowland began exhibiting the skills that explained why she has sold so many books. The pace picked up and I found myself becoming more absorbed in the story. Sarah solves a few of the minor plot issues that travel throughout the books in this series, and the major plot comes to a satisfactory close.

Bottom line: This is a book Ms. Rowland’s fans will devour, and she may gain some new readers. While the second half of the story saved the book, it would have had to be incredible to overcome the slow start caused by muddled characterizations and unnecessary explanations. Three stars.

My thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for an advance complimentary ebook of this title.
Profile Image for Rissa.
1,386 reviews48 followers
August 13, 2018
The hangmans secret 3.5⭐️

“Somebody was here after Warbricks head come off”
We know that there is no mystery in why these people were hung but what happened after the hanging, what happened to the innocent is a different story.

We follow a journalist who is (as most are) looking for the next best, gruesome story to bring them to the top. She finds clues, inconsistencies, struggles after the beheading site which indicate that something else happened. Something that wasnt supposed to.

Really enjoyed the writing style and the characters were intriguing and interesting.

Thank you so much to crooked lane books via netgalley for sending me an ARC copy of the hangmans secret by Laura Rowland. This will be released on January 18,2019
All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for eyes.2c.
2,367 reviews44 followers
January 7, 2019
Victorian Mystery at its best!

Superb continuation of the trials and challenges of denizens of the former detective agency who now work for Sir Gerald Mariner, photographing crime scenes for his London newspaper the Daily World.
Called to a pub to photograph a decapitated body that turns out to be a leading hangman, Harry Warbrick, events open up that will lead the trio through a maze of cover ups, hampered by the Official Secrets Act, along with a threatening visit to Newgate Prison.
Something had happened during the execution of Amelia Carlisle, the “Baby-Butcher,” who'd killed hundreds of infants placed in her care. Something that seems to link the murder of Warbrick to Amelia's death. Warbrick had divulged cryptically, "‘Two minutes and fifty seconds.’ [Sarah was] becoming more certain that something of consequence happened during Amelia Carlisle’s last two minutes and fifty seconds alive."
I teetered on the abyss several times with Sarah, I was devastated for Mick O’Reilly, and Lord Hugh Stanton continues to be, well, Hugh!
Inspector Reid is present as malevolent as ever, threatening Sarah and her search for her father. Constable Barrett finds himself caught between his loyalty to his chosen career and loyalty to Sarah. Sarah continues to be self contained, even as she opens up fractionally to Barrett. Even so, as a habitual secret keeper this is tough going for her and comes near to jeopardizing her's and Barrett's growing relationship.
A power house of feelings, of dank and dark places, and all of us, reader and characters, always on the edge of fearful surprises.
Once again a rapid and diverting read!

A NetGalley ARC
Profile Image for Vicky.
264 reviews5 followers
February 2, 2019
When it comes to reading, I love the Victorian period. There’s something about the grimy glamour of London, of steam mills, of murder in back alleyways… (ahem) that always really grips me. I’m not sure what that says about me, but it does mean that The Hangman’s Secret was the perfect fit when it came to a bit of light winter reading.
Confession time: this is the third book in a series, which I didn’t know when I picked it up. Happily for me, though, the book romps along at such a pace- and fills you in succinctly on what’s happened in the first two instalments- that I never really found that a problem. We’re deposited straight into the lives of Sarah Bain, photographer and part-time detective, and her colleagues as they try to solve the gruesome mystery of a murdered hangman.
Right from the start, I really liked the worldbuilding. From catching the underground train at Aldgate station to visiting Newgate prison, the London that Rowland conjures feels very lived in, fand very authentic. The only problem I had was when modern-day words and phrases slipped into the speech of the characters, marring the illusion: after all, though I’m sure Victorians could have said ‘son of a bitch’, I’m pretty sure they had some far more colourful and authentic cusswords that could have been used instead.
But what about the story itself? There are two, really- or perhaps even three. The mystery of the murdered hangman, the mystery of what happened to Sarah’s father- who was framed for murder and has been on the run for years- and what’s happening to the characters as they live their lives. I’m talking romantic affairs, paying the rent, all that juicy good stuff.
When you mix those all together, you get a very crowded story, which sometimes feels like its straining under the weight of all those disparate plot threads. It doesn’t help that the storyline about Sarah’s father has been going for three books- and looks set to continue spread out over future instalments- but it was a shame, as those random tangents sapped momentum from the murder mystery.
That’s not to say I’m griping, though. I really liked the characters: Sarah is a straightforward, pragmatic and determined woman with a very unconventional relationship with policeman Barrett, and watching her interact with Hugh and Mick, her partners in crime, you really feel like they’re all part of a family. The murder mystery was paced out well, too, stringing you along until the final, satisfying twist, in a suitably grimy location. You don’t often get to see what the life of a hangman is like- or a photographer- and for that alone I enjoyed the read.
What’s the upshot?
Twisty and dark as a London alleyway, The Hangman’s Secret is a good old-fashioned slice of fun that definitely merits a read. Just watch your back as you do…
Profile Image for Tiffany PSquared.
494 reviews87 followers
July 30, 2018
"When we're confronted with a mystery, we feel compelled to solve it, even if it's none of our business."

Somehow London's hangman has himself been hanged. Sarah Bain and her friends take it upon themselves to try and solve the mystery of his death - suicide/murder? They've solved two other cases before this, so it shouldn't be that hard, right?

The Hangman's Secret is full of action and suspense. Its characters are loyal to each other, but I found them to be a little cookie-cutter. I enjoyed the unique friendship between Sarah, Lord Hugh, and Mick, but the three of them had so many enemies - perhaps a few too many for my taste. Everyone in London can't be that mean and hateful, can they?

The pacing was good and the setting of the mystery was enough to keep me entertained. There were also enough suspects and distractions to delay the actual culprit-reveal in a satisfying way. I do wish that Sarah was a bit more assertive. Maybe then she wouldn't get pushed around (literally) as much as she does.

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books, and the author for the opportunity to read and review a free ARC of this book.
Profile Image for Nicola Weideling.
148 reviews
August 2, 2018
I love Victorian Literature, books about Victorian history and society, books based in Victorian times, basically anything remotely 'Victoriana'! So I was looking forward to reading The Hangman's Secret, part of a series of books by Laura Joh Rowland about Sarah Bain, an intrepid photographer and her band of friends.

However, I have to admit that I didn't like this novel. I was put off on page one by the first of many anachronisms that grated on me throughout the novel and made it difficult to settle into the rhythm of the story. I enjoyed the plotting and some of the characterisations but having a woman born and bred in London in the 19th century refer to sweets as 'candy' and the time as '635' is just unnecessary.

I am sure that others will enjoy these exciting stories, and Sarah Bain is a woman to admire, but I won't be reading any more of this series.
Profile Image for Kris - My Novelesque Life.
4,639 reviews191 followers
February 3, 2020
2019; Crooked Lane Books

I just released I missed a book, and so I was happy to read book three and four back to back. Once I started the first chapter, I was back in Sarah Bain's world. And, how I missed them all. Sarah, Hugh and Mick no longer have their detective agency and have another new job. They are now working for Sir Gerald's London’s Daily World newspaper, photographing crime scenes. On their next crime scene, they come upon a hanging of a pub owner It was so brutal he was decapitated. The murder reaches to a sensation when it is discovered he is a hangman. He was the hangman at Amelia Carlisle, the “Baby-Butcher,” who murdered hundreds of infants placed in her care. Something took place at the execution, that has caused the proceedings to be secret from everyone but those who attended. Finding out the truth will uncover the killer or killers.

Rowland is great with forming suspense and intrigue in a story. Part of me wants to read the story slowly to savour it and make it last, but another part wants to race with action and see how it ends. The characters in this book come from all walks of life in London, and seem so realistic. I can feel myself transporting to another time and place. The humour between the trio, and the romance between Barrett and Sarah balances the more dark scenes. If you have not tried this series, you have to give it a shot if you like mysteries and historical fiction.

***I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.***
Profile Image for Maranda.
930 reviews32 followers
August 9, 2018
Rowland's Victorian Mystery #3 is the Hangman's Secret. I got along okay reading this as a stand alone but am tempted to pick up the prior two because these characters are amazing. Set in London and Jack the Ripper time - women were considered like children - "To be seen and not heard". Sarah Bain is a newspaper photographer for the "Daily World" Gathered around her are a group of men with a zest for solving murders. It is enlightening to read these stories where life did not revolve around cell phones and the internet. Times were filled with hardships and challenges. Opening pages describe the hanging of a man who performed hangings for a living. Kind of ironic. Rowland weaves conflict of good against evil with both struggling to stay alive. Loved the duo plot lines that connected up before the end. "A copy of this book was provided by Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley with no requirements for a review. Comments here are my honest opinion."
Profile Image for ABCme.
313 reviews27 followers
June 17, 2018
Thank you Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the ARC.

Set in London in the late 1890's, both the police and the press are struggling to find motive for the hangman's murder as well as finding his killer. Sarah Bain is a photographer for the Daily World newspaper, running her own detective agency on the side. She's a strong female lead, taking the reader through the story at a fast pace. Lines are crossed, the bounderies between press and police get blurry, both camps are competing for the truth. This is entertaining historical fiction, with an ending begging for more.
Profile Image for Julia.
Author 1 book44 followers
December 21, 2018
This is the third installment in the Victorian Mystery series.

The trio of house-mates, Sarah, Hugh and Mick, need to solve the murder of the hangman who was hanged in his own pub. The story leads them around London and England, and into Newgate Prison. They make enemies and friends and eventually solve the murder, of course.

I liked that the main characters are a motley crew, a female photographer, a homosexual lord, and a schoolboy in love with a much older actress.

What I didn't like about the story, how the three friends came together is never really explained. It is hinted at and will certainly make sense if you have read the first two books. Since I didn't read the first two books in this series, I would have liked a little more background information.
Profile Image for Sarah Perchikoff.
437 reviews26 followers
December 9, 2018
I seem to have an affinity for books with hangman in the title as this is the second one I've read this year. Also, full disclosure: I didn't realize this was the third in a series until I started reading and there were events I didn't know about. But, overall, this book does stand on its own if you also haven't read the first two books in the series. And The Hangman's Secret and The Victorian Mystery series is definitely worth checking out. Let's get to the review.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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?

The main character is Sarah Bain. She is a photographer for the local newspaper in London, The Daily World. She photographs crime scenes for the paper for Sir Gerald who she and her friends, Hugh and Mick, helped when his son went missing.  Besides being a photographer, Sarah and her friends (and roommates) also try to solve the crimes they photograph. The crime in this story is the hanging of the local hangman, Harry Warbrick. When someone was sent to death, he was the one to put the rope around their neck and pull the lever to hang them. But now Harry has been murdered (by hanging, because of course) and Sarah and her friends are looking to figure out who did it.

The Hangman's Secret also shows Sarah's journey to find her father. It's clear from the way it's talked about that Sarah has been looking for information on her father for awhile and she finds even more information about him and whether he's innocent of murder throughout the story. NO SPOILERS!

With her father missing for most of her life, Sarah had to rely on her mother and let's just say she wasn't winning any Parent of the Year awards either. She was a cruel woman who rarely had a nice word to say to Sarah. Sarah's only saving grace in terms of family is her half-sister, Sally. She is a sweet girl who works as a maid in a household nearby and she very much looks up to Sarah, much to her mother's disapproval. But despite Sally's mother trying to get in the way,  Sally and Sarah do have a relationship. They are both interested in their father, especially after Sally swears she sees him at the library. (He has been missing for many years after being accused of murder).

But Sarah isn't the only one with a tumultuous and complicated life. Her friend, Hugh (or Lord Stanton if you're fancy) is a gay man who is in a relationship with Sir Gerald's son Tristan. You can probably guess that Sir Gerald does not know his son is gay or that the guy he is employing is his lover. Hugh was outed publicly and disowned by his parents and most of his friends. He only has Tristan, Sarah, and Mick. And just for context: the Jack the Ripper murders happened not too long before this story began, so being gay is still a crime.

Mick is a 14-year-old pickpocket and petty thief who Sarah and Hugh found working on the streets. He now lives with Hugh and Sarah in their shared home/studio. He has a huge crush on an actress named Catherine who the trio have befriended. She is at least 4 years older than Mick, but that doesn't seem to bother him. He can wait. But, as they find out more about the killer, they also learn that Catherine is having a relationship with a married man. Mick, as well as Hugh and Sarah, are all distraught at this information.

Sarah, Hugh, and Mick, despite their complicated lives, work extremely well together to try and find what happened to Harry Warbrick and the incidents surrounding his murder. The police and the wardens at the jail do everything they can to stop them from finding things out but the three still persevere and ultimately find out who the murderer is. I can honestly say I was surprised by who it turned out to be. #nospoilers lol

The trio's thinking is that something occurred during the hanging of Amelia Carlisle. She killed hundreds of babies in a baby farming scheme and was sentenced to death. Sarah, Hugh, and Mick believe something fishy or unusual happened during that hanging and when another person who was at the hanging is murdered, they become even more determined to figure out what the hell happened in that room.

While they have plenty of obstacles along the way, they do have one in on the police force. Sarah's boyfriend/fiance, Barrett is a police constable. And while they tend to get information even before he does, he comes in handy when Sarah needs to travel on her own. He comes along with her and proves very useful when talking to the local police in small towns and when questioning people. He is very protective of Sarah and would prefer she didn't do the work she does, but he also rather know about it than have her lie to him which is what happens more often than now. While I wasn't a fan of Barrett's overprotectiveness, I loved when Sarah and he went on a journey together to try and find out more about what the motive was behind Warbrick's murder. It might have been my favorite part of the book.

One problem I did have with this story was Inspector Reid. Yes, every good mystery story needs a villain but we have that in the killer. What is the point of Reid being so cruel? His character fell flat to me because he seemed so one note. He was mean and nothing else. I didn't see how he served a purpose besides making the main characters (and me) pissed off and possibly threatening Barrett's job as he is his direct superior. I wanted him to be a little more well-rounded or have a reason for awfulness. Now, there could have been a reason in the first two books and if there is, forget this paragraph ever existed. But if there isn't, I would love to see his character have more depth in future books in the series.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Hangman's Secret. There are some great suspenseful scenes, especially toward the end when the murderer is revealed. I also really enjoyed how the relationship between Sarah and Barrett evolved. It felt very natural. They had their fights but they made up and fought for each other when they needed to.  I also loved the friendship between Sarah, Hugh, and Mick. They are so supportive of each other in every part of their lives even when they think the other is making the wrong decision. I enjoyed how well they worked off of one another. It can be difficult to find a group of friends highlighted in a book the way these three are. With all that said, I am giving The Hangman's Secret by Laura Joh Rowland 3 out of 5 stars.

The Hangman's Secret comes out January 18, 2019 (I know. Quite a long wait on this one.)

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for this free ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for BRNTerri.
472 reviews10 followers
January 12, 2019

This was awful. There were too many characters, over twenty!, and hardly any backstory on the main ones. I guess the author thought we'd read the two previous ones in the series where I assume she gave some backstory so she didn't need to retell any of it. There's really not one character I can say I truly liked in this. Everyone was bland and most were unlikable. I don't like first person narration either because we only get one persons point of view.

This takes place in 1889 and spans probably a few weeks. The main plot is a bit convoluted, especially near the end when it all comes together nicely, and not nearly as interesting as the synopsis makes it sound. Too many turns and nonsense in the latter part and it became hard for me to follow along. The subplot involving Laura's father was so boring and a space-filler. I guess they were setting that up to be featured in the next book. This story should have left that out and the pages should have been cut by about fifty.

If I hadn't known this took place in England in the late 19th century I'd have thought it was American by the dialogue and some expressions that were used, though I don't know the origin of said expressions. I just know that we Americans still use them today. There was nothing in the dialogue or lingo that would have made anyone think of England, except the overuse of Mick saying, "Crikey!"

I thought it was absurd that Laura and her boyfriend of a year, Barrett, both in their early 30's, don't have intercourse but do other sexual things that we weren't told about.

I really dislike that the character of Amelia Carlisle was clearly based on real life baby serial killer Amelia Dyer and I don't like that Laura and her crew had previously tried to track down Jack the Ripper. The author needs to be original and not take from history. Create your own unique characters.

And maybe I missed it but I don't know why Harry was hanged but the others weren't, when they knew the "secret" too.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Jannelies.
964 reviews58 followers
August 22, 2018
First of all I would like to say that the cover of this book is really great. 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 rather gruesome murder but in the middle there was a lot of running to and fro and thinking in circles, while not much was happening. At least, not much for the reader.
Sometimes I'm surprised how many good/excellent authors are 'out there' that I never heard of in the 44 years since I learned to read. Laura Joh Rowland is one of them. I will certainly try and read more of her books.

Thanks to NetGalley for this book.
Profile Image for Annie.
2,036 reviews96 followers
December 10, 2018
I arrived late to the party for this series. The Hangman’s Secret is the third book in Laura Joh Roland’s Victorian Mysteries series. Fortunately, there are enough callbacks and exposition for me to feel like I wasn’t missing too much to understand the characters in this fair to middling mystery. There are problems with the writing in this book that almost put me off (discussed below), but the mystery itself was interesting enough that I just had to keep reading...

Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.
Profile Image for Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ Jenn Ƹ̴Ӂ̴Ʒ Schu.
531 reviews58 followers
September 9, 2018
A fantastic read filled with suspense and action. The relationship between the characters, Sarah, Lord Hugh, and Mick, was well done. This reader had a sense of what they meant to one another. I am particularly critical when it comes to pacing, this book did a wonderful job at maintaining the steam throughout the novel, masterfully moving it forward. I enjoyed the setting and the mystery does keep one guessing up until the end. A Net Galley book.
Profile Image for Daniele.
1,032 reviews28 followers
January 15, 2019
3.5 stars
I am fascinated by the Victorian Era, and this series has been on my wish list since it began so I jumped at the chance to read this third installment, THE HANGMAN’S SECRET. With its plucky protagonist, heaps of atmosphere, and an intriguing mystery, the book did not disappoint.

Sarah, a professional photographer, and her friends Lord Hugh Stanton and Mick O’Reilly have formed an investigative team of sorts, having had success with prior cases (books one and two). They are hired by Gerald Mariner to take photos of crime scenes for his newspaper. When they are called to the particularly grisly scene of pub owner and hangman Harry Warbrick’s death, a competition soon erupts between the investigators and the police to see who can solve the case first. This is particularly hard for Sarah as her love interest is part of the police force. The investigation leads to a cover up at the prison involving the hanging of notorious baby killer Amelia Carlisle. Time is against them as more people connected to the hanging die.

I enjoyed every twisty turn in THE HANGMAN’S SECRET. The pace is a bit slow in the beginning but quickly picks up, as does the tension in the tale. Rowland successfully weaves historical figures and places into the story, giving it some gravitas. The characters are a little outlandish, but here is where the fun lies. They are so eccentric, one cannot help but root for them. In addition to the main murder mystery, there is an ongoing subplot about Sarah’s father and her romance with Constable Barrett that fills out the book.

THE HANGMAN’S SECRET is darker than a traditional cozy mystery, but I think any mystery reader, especially fans of historical mysteries, will enjoy time spent with Sarah and crew.

I received a copy of this title from Crooked Lane Books through NetGalley and voluntarily shared my thoughts here.
Profile Image for Brenda H.
828 reviews70 followers
May 13, 2019
The Hangman’s Secret is the 3rd book in Laura Joh Rowland’s Victorian Mystery series. Sarah Bain and her friends, Lord Hugh Staunton and Mick O’Reilly are private detectives, currently working for Sir Gerald Mariner, the owner of The Daily World newspaper, photographing crime scenes.

While at one of their goriest crime scenes yet, the trio realizes that this is, in fact, the site of a murder and not the “suicide” that it appears. The victim, bar owner Harry Warbrick, moonlights as England’s top hangman and he has just met his fate in the same manner as the hundreds of criminals he has executed. When Sir Gerald is informed of the staged scene and the very real possibility that this was a murder, he announces that The Daily World will solve the crime before the police can. This puts Sarah in direct competition with the man she loves, Constable Barrett, as they each race to solve the crime before the other.

During the course of their investigation, Sarah and her friends find connections between Harry Warbrick and his most famous execution, Amelia Carlisle, the “Baby-Butcher” who was sentenced for the murders of hundreds of infants placed in her care. Something happened at this execution but due to the Official Secrets Act, those present are unable to discuss the event. The cover-up extends much higher than originally thought and Sarah and her friends find themselves fighting for their lives and their freedom.

This book was well-written with interesting characters. The storyline kept the reader guessing ‘til the end. I recommend this book. 4 Stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books and Laura Joh Rowland who gave me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
211 reviews
January 8, 2019
There was a time when Laura Joh Rowland was known for her books set in seventeenth-century Japan with Sano Ichiro as the hero. The Ichiro books were great, and I looked forward to each new one which she published. Lately, however she has turned her attention to late Victorian England, and we readers are lucky for it. Rowland is a master, and she has written a corker of a book.

Photographer Sarah Bain and her friends Lord Hugh Staunton and Mick Reilly, who was formerly a street urchin, have formed a private detective agency and also work for the proprietor of a newspaper. At the beginning of the book they are called out to photograph a suicide by hanging, and if that weren’t gruesome enough, the corpse is decapitated. I don’t like spoilers, so I am not going to give any, but trust me, the book takes off from there. I couldn’t put it down.

This is a wonderful, clever mystery; very atmospheric and full of interesting characters. Do yourself a favor and pick it up, I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed.
Profile Image for Solaire_writing.
93 reviews14 followers
February 8, 2019
Sadly this book was a bit too slow burning for me.
And there was another problem: I haven't realized that this book is the third book in a series until I was far far in and often too confused why I lacked informations.

So me not liking this book too much is for sure not the books fault, but mine. I'll see to read the first two books again and then we'll see if I understand the third book better.

In general the ideas of a female reporter, detective and reporter in the 19th century working together with a homosexual and a police officer was quite entertaining and a great idea. Picking up old crimes like jack the Ripper and others and giving them new live is always nice to read about and I liked that the protagonists were not so e crazy curious teenagers but a full grown woman with her own problems and desires.

Over all impression is, that if you love historical books and slow burning crime scenes, then this is the right book for you!

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me a free review copy :) This doesn't cross my honest opinion in any way.
Profile Image for Lyndi (mibookobsession).
864 reviews29 followers
August 18, 2018
I didn't realize when I started this book that it was third in a series. Some of the character histories and previous events in the books were mentioned at first, but the book can still be read as a stand-alone Victorian mystery.
When the hangman is found murdered, a contest begins between the London police force and Daily World reporters to see who can solve the crime first. Crime photographer Sarah Bain and her two friends, Hugh and Mick put themselves in danger to follow the clues.
I like the author's writing style and I'm interested in reading the first two books in the series, especially the one about Jack the Ripper. The character Amelia's story sounded familiar to me because it's based on an actual serial killer in Victorian Britain. Thank you to Laura Joh Rowland, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.
Profile Image for Donna.
263 reviews14 followers
December 9, 2020
Although I enjoyed this book I didn't find it overly exciting or edge of your seat type of historical mystery.
I love the historical aspect and the references to The Ripper murders, the characters where good and very individual in there characteristics and personalities.
The story followed a very independent woman (a photographer and private detective) of the 17th century which was very unusual. She had a very hard upbringing and now lived with a titled man and a young boy both with their own problems and her beau is a member of the local police force.
A very interesting story of the times and of those people who didn't conform to the times. Interesting and easy read but not an exciting one.
The Hangman's Secret
Laura Joh Rowland
Profile Image for Melina.
4 reviews
July 20, 2018
Rowland’s The Hangman’s Secret is a face paced Victorian murder mystery that kept me entertained from the beginning. I couldn’t put this unpredictable novel down until the murderer was found.
You can’t get your hands on The Hangman’s Secret until January 18th, but that gives you plenty of time to read the first two novel in Rowland’s Victorian Mystery series! If you don’t read the first two novels, don’t fret. Rowland briefly gives pertinent information from novels one and two.
Thank you NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for my ARC!
Profile Image for Rebecca Hill.
Author 1 book42 followers
July 25, 2019
When a former hangman is found dead in his bar, everyone believes that it was a suicide gone wrong. But Sarah is not so sure about it. She feels as though he was murdered, and she is determined to prove it.. at any cost possible.

The entire murder seems to go around one hanging, one hanging that holds the key to the entire case. But as Sarah, Mick, and Hugh investigate, they find themselves on the wrong side of the law, and with Sarah's boyfriend being a police constable, it is making things strained.
As the case moves forward, it is just entirely possible that they are the next victims in the secret of the hangmans death.

Oh my, I loved this book! It was fabulous, and I could not put it down once I started. It held my attention from the start!
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