A Mortal Likeness

Written by 3 Laura Joh Rowland
Review by Susan McDuffie

1889, London: Sarah Bain, a photographer turned private detective, and Lord Hugh Staunton, her business partner, accept what they expect to be a run-of-the-mill assignment, seeking evidence of marital infidelity. Trailing their suspects to the Crystal Palace, they find the evidence they seek among the life-size dinosaur models that dot the grounds. However, Sarah finds something else as she develops her photographs—a mysterious figure which could be her father, missing for the past twenty-four years.

When the original suspects are murdered, possibly involved in a high-profile kidnapping case, Sarah’s rekindled search for her father grows vastly more complicated. Sir Gerald Mariner hires Sarah and Hugh to investigate the abduction of his child. The perpetrator could be a member of Sir Gerald’s own household, and the ensuing investigation endangers Sarah and Hugh in many different fashions.

Sarah Bain is a complex and interesting sleuth. A number of her views and reactions seemed very modern for the time period to me, but the late 19th century was an era of rapid change. This series and its heroine reflect that, and Sarah’s many inner conflicts mirror the complex plot. Despite the satisfactory resolution of this inquiry, numerous threads of the ongoing larger story arc remain unresolved to add texture to future mysteries in this series.