The Hangman’s Secret: A Victorian Mystery

Written by Laura Joh Rowland
Review by Bryan Dumas

Sara Bain returns in Rowland’s third installment of her Victorian Mystery series (after A Mortal Likeness), and this time Sara and her ragtag group search for the murderer of a brutal serial killer in 1890s London. Sara, a crime-scene photographer for the Daily World, is summoned to the site of the murder of hangman Harry Warbrick, who was gorily hanged himself. Along with her partners—Lord Hugh Stanton and a streetwise 14-year-old Mick O’Reilly—she delves into the mysterious nature of the hangman’s death and a missing length of rope purportedly being the one use to hang Amelia Carlisle, the notorious baby farmer and baby killer. As Sara and her team begin their investigation, she unearths connections that could rise to the highest ranks of power in London. Along the way, Sara finds enemies close—at the Daily World—and some that threaten her budding relationship with Police Constable Barrett.

With deeper backstories—from Hugh and his homosexuality, to Sara’s own fractured family and her criminal father, and Mick’s longing for the budding actress Catherine Pick—along with a tight plot and sharp, witty banter, Rowland definitely picks up the pace and crispness. Her feel for her characters and their world has come together, and that has created a delightful and suspenseful page-turner that is both engaging and keeps readers guessing. A satisfying and fun way to spend the weekend.