The Hangman’s Secret by Laura Joh Rowland

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and the author via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is due to be published on the 18th of January 2019

Sarah, Hugh and Mick are awakened early one morning from rapping on their windows. They race to get ready, grab their photography equipment and head out for another day. They photograph crime scenes for the Daily World newspaper, and have also been known to help solve a couple of crimes themselves. Once they get to the crime scene at the pub The Hangman’s Daughter, they are sickened by what they find. Harry the hangman has been murdered, hung in such a way that his head has come clean off and it seems that there are no clues as to who was responsible. As they investigate further, Sarah and Co. fall down the rabbit hole of secrets upon secrets when they learn that the murder may have to do with a hanging of a woman named Amelia Carlisle, The Baby Butcher, and what transpired at her hanging. Though thanks to the Secrets Act the other people present aren’t at liberty to tell anyone what happened that day, letalone reporters for the Daily World. Sarah and Co. must find out what really happened that day in order to solve the mystery of the hangman’s botched hanging and time is running out, fast. Who hung the hangman? Did it have anything to do with the baby butcher’s hanging? And will Sarah and Barrett’s relationship stand the test of this mystery?

Once again, I didn’t realise that this was part of a series when I requested it, though this is book three in said series, and I haven’t read the previous two books, it really does not impact the story at all. If anything, I’ve only missed the relationship evolution between Sarah, Hugh, Mick and Barrett, which I can live with, it honestly didn’t impact the story at all or make it hard to understand what was going on.

I loved the Victorian setting that this book is written in, there’s something about stories written in the world of the 1800s that just gives a certain charm to the novel. I found myself many times thinking about how murder mysteries these days often give the characters so many more abilities when it comes to proving the truth. Such as with revelations, when that moment happens where whodunit? is answered. When that pivotal part came about in this story, I found myself almost wishing it was written as a modern mystery because that would mean that the characters could record what was being said on the handy mobile phone that everyone has. Alas, it was not to be, as come on now, we’re in the 1800s here, and I must admit, it does add that extra bit of suspense and anxiety, to me anyway, worrying that the culprit will get away, that there won’t be sufficient proof to put them away. I believe this falls under one of those charms I was talking about earlier. Rowland has such a way with the written word. I felt completely immersed into the world of London in the 1880’s, I felt like I could taste the coal dust on my tongue, that I could see the smog and the pollution that the characters had to walk through. Rowland also has a beautiful way of illustrating what life was like for a woman in that time through the small things. *Gasp* a woman reporter?! A woman asking questions?! OH THE SHOCK HORROR! I love it.

The characters were well written. Sarah Bain is a fantastic character and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her jaunt to catch a killer. Hugh is so likable, I absolutely love that Rowland has included Hugh in the story as she has, a gay man in 1880’s London, and it’s no secret, the poor man has had his secret laid bare for all to see and scrutinise. He deals with it swimmingly, and I feel like he’s almost my favourite character because of his strength and the way he is portrayed. Mick…I honestly found Mick to be increasingly annoying as the book progressed. I get that things were different back then and that men had to become men at such a young age, but something about him being 14, trying to win the heart of a 19 year old actress, and declaring that he doesn’t need to go to school while speaking with poor English, just absolutely grates on me. I just really didn’t like him at all. I felt no empathy towards him and just wanted to smack him upside the head and tell him to get to school and learn how to speak properly. Honestly though, that’s just me, either you like a character or you don’t, and in this instance, I really didn’t like him one bit. Barrett was a great character, he loves Sarah so much, he will do anything for her, and while he wishes that she would quit the paper and marry him so he could care for her, he does not push the subject and understands her love for independence. The romance between them was tastefully done and didn’t overshadow the main plot of the story at all. It was a lovely addition. Sir Gerald’s character was such a mean, ask no questions man but I found myself strangely liking him.

The mystery itself was amazing!! I honestly had NO IDEA whodunit, none whatsoever. I had my inklings and suspects, as there is good reason for a few characters to have murdered the hangman, not until the characters found out did it all become glaringly clear. The way the mystery was written was fantastic, the twists and turns were done phenomenally, I loved the sub-mystery of Sarah’s Father as well as the inclusion of the baby butcher’s mystery. It was all so wonderful and I felt myself becoming elated along with the characters when they discovered something new, another step towards finding out what had happened.

all in all this was a wonderful mystery and was a seriously satisfying read. I’m interested to read the previous two books in this series and see how they stack up.

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