The Hangman's Secret

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 25 Dec 2018

Member Reviews

Hi ,
My next review is as follows:-

"The Hangman’s Secret:A Victorian Mystery") written by Laura Joh Rowland and published in Hardcover by Crooked Lane Books on 24 Jan. 2019.  304 pages ISBN-13: 978-1683319023

In London during 1890, photographer Sarah Bain and her friends Lord Hugh Staunton and sometime street urchin Mick O’Reilly are private detectives with a new job―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? 

This book is the third in Rowland’s Victorian Mystery series and the first book I have read by the author but I will be picking her up again. There is no way, after reading this book, that I will not be grabbing the earlier books in this series and really getting to know this unique crime solving team.
It was fascinating for me to read a book by an American born author that was so well researched and gave a really evocative taste of life in Victorian England at that time.

Laura Joh Rowland is the award-winning author of the samurai detective Sano Ichiro mystery series set in 17th century Japan, as well as a historical suspense series starring Charlotte Bronte. Her work has been published in 21 countries; nominated for the Anthony Award, the Hammett Prize, and the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award;  She is a former aerospace scientist, a painter, and a cartoonist. She lives in New York City with her husband Marty. 

This is her third Victorian mystery. The characters were fascinating and likeable. An unlikely group of friends who are amateur sleuths, each having their own backstories that add more to the story. There is suspense, mystery, romance-but all set in 1890s London. Each of the characters add to the story and make it an enjoyable read. It is a page turner that had me guessing until the very end, and what an ending it was! I had no clue who the killer was, although I had suspicions throughout the story. There are many to be suspicious of. so many suspects., but each is ruled out. Just as Sarah gets closer to solving the mystery, she finds herself in more imminent danger. I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to reading the next story in this new series. A copy of this book was provided by Crooked Lane Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Very strongly recommended.

Best wishes,

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I thought the time period and occupation of Sarah Bain was just fascinating. Photographing of crime scenes was a fairly new development for the police force and placing the main character in such a fast-paced field was brilliant. Also, the press vs. police reminded me of the newspaper war between Pulitzer and Hearst (same time period). 

I'm not sure the class system of Victorian-era England was so fluid, with a gay titled lord, an urchin and an unmarried woman running around dangerous areas...but if I put that all aside--the book was nice. The writing was detailed enough that I didn't think I was in over my head by starting with the third book in the series instead of the first. I would note that I think it's best to read from the series beginning to really understand all the previous alluded cases. 

The writing style wasn't my favorite (it was too modern for the story somehow) but it flowed well, the mystery was solid and the main characters are diverse and interesting. That being said, this book wasn't quite for me as I didn't relate to the characters at all (and their motivations/relationships) but I thought the atmosphere that Rowland created was top notch.
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Sarah Bain is a thirty-three-year-old crime scene photographer and amateur sleuth who works for the Daily World newspaper along with her friends and colleagues, Hugh Staunton and fourteen-year-old Mick O'Reilly. The publication's owner, Sir Gerald Mariner has no compunction about printing sensational stories filled with half-truths and innuendos in order to boost circulation. When pub owner and hangman Harry Warbrick is murdered, Sarah and her partners set out to find out who did the deed. Their inquiries lead them to, among other places, Newgate prison, the Old Bailey, and an asylum for people with mental disorders. 

Laura Joh Rowland's "The Hangman's Secret," narrated by the outspoken and high-strung Miss Bain, is a lurid and over-the-top historical mystery that contains everything but the kitchen sink--grisly slayings, long-hidden secrets, corruption in high places, lustful encounters, and violent altercations. Sarah, Hugh, and Mick are roughed up during their forays, which is not surprising, since they recklessly rush into dangerous situations time and again. Sarah and Hugh use ruses to worm their way into the confidence of witnesses who may have useful information to impart. 

Rowland's colorful characters, melodramatic scenarios, and theatrical dialogue impart a Gothic flavor to this novel. Furthermore, the author makes the most of her setting, with evocative passages and vivid descriptive writing that convey the sights and smells of the less salubrious areas of London in 1890: "Coal smoke rising from chimneys mixes with the fog, the chemical fumes from the factories, and the stench from nearby slaughterhouses." Sarah is in a relationship with a police constable Thomas Barrett who reciprocates her feelings. There is tension between this pair, since police officers (some of whom, as depicted by Rowland, are unethical and/or inept) disapprove of the press's meddling in criminal matters. Sarah, Hugh, and Mick attempt to overcome the obstacles that stand in the way of their success and personal happiness. Readers who are willing to overlook this book's implausible elements, histrionics, anachronisms (the dialogue bears little resemblance to the language of the Victorian era) and overly cluttered plot, may find "The Hangman's Secret" to be a lively, action-packed, and atmospheric whodunit.
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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 hangman's 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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One of my new favorite books! This author has such a way with words the pages flew by in no time! I can’t wait to see the next work by this author! This was such a joy to read!
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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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THE HANGMAN'S SECRET is a murder mystery, which takes us on an interesting and thrilling journey in the dark alleys of Victorian London. Our main Protagonist, Sarah Bain is a photographer for the newspaper, Daily world. But apart from being a photographer, Sarah also works as a private detective along with her partners, Hugh and Mike. When the gruesome murder of Harry Warbrick, a pub owner and England's top Hangman shakes the country, Sarah and her friends are called in to find the culprit behind such a foul act. What follows is a suspenseful and electrifying chase to find the truth.

Despite the fact that the story has quite a slow beginning, I think the plot was rather, atmospheric and filled with suspense, especially the second half, which had me hooked. I really liked the chase to finding out the truth. However, the best thing about this book are honestly, its characters and I think the author did a wonderful job in writing down all the relationships in the book. Sarah, Mike and Hugh, were amazing as a team and so was the relationship between Sarah and her sister, Sally. I also loved the LGBTQ+ representation in the book, Keeping in mind the era, in which this story is set, I thought it was done really well.

This is actually, the third book in a series but can be read as a standalone. Also, this book has lots of flashbacks from previous novels and honestly, that's also the reason, why I am not giving it a higher rating. Too much was happening already in this book and on top of that, I didn't think we needed so much of the back stories as well. I know back-stories are important for character development and depth but I really thought, in the case of this book, it kind of disrupted the flow of the story at times.

Overall, I still ended up enjoying it and if you are someone, who loves reading, historical cozy mysteries, you can sure try this one.
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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.
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Thanks to Netgalley for this book in exchange for an impartial review.  This is the first of the series that I picked up and I now need to go back and read the ones before, as it was a thoroughly entertaining read.  The characters are realistic and interesting and the subject matter is suitably gruesome.
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I don't know how I have let this author and this series slip by me.  This was an awesome mystery novel.  Even through it was the third book in the series, I didn't feel like I was in the dark about what was going on.  The author does a wonderful job of not only making it part of a series but also a book that can stand on it's own.  The feeling I get from this series is you can read them out of order and not be confused.  The characters are well developed and very interesting, the story line within the story mixes nicely.  The use of historical events that took place during the Victorian era is a nice touch,  This was a well written and had the hard to put down read to it.  A true great read. Anyone that loves a good, mystery, with action and human elements and feelings should read this series and this book.
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Sarah is really a amazing woman. Working as a photographer, being amazing at it, and then being amazing at solving mysteries and crimes. Even better than her love, that works in the police department.

When the famous hangman is found dead, just like he works, the case gets big. And now she and her crew are in the mix of it all. Can she solve the mystery without endangering herself and her crew, and without losing Barret?

Who hanged the hangman?

With amazing writing, and a very nice mystery, Laura Joh Rowland has us page turning until we find out the culprit! With scenes that really had me not breathing, it was such a amazing book that I cannot not recommend for the mystery lovers!
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In London, the year is 1890 & photographer Sarah Bain & her companions are summoned to photograph the death of a man who used to be a "Hangman" for the city. In this Victorian mystery, we are reminded at how little woman are regarded as human beings with lawful rights by the opposite sex. A good reminder that women have come a very long way in our fight against male domination/suppression of our equal rights. I have always been fascinated by history especially English mysteries. This book kept my attention, has an excellent main character, some lovable witty co-workers & devious characters that I hope to meet in some of the other books in the Laura Joh Rowland's "Victorian Mystery Series." Well done and well worth reading.
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In this, the third installment of the Victorian Series, we are again reunited with Sarah Bain and her cohorts Lord Hugh and sometime Street urchin Mick who are now crime reporters for the London newspaper the Daily World. This time, they are sent to a crime scene involving the “Hangman on London”. At first it appears that the hangman has hung himself but upon further inspection, he was definitely murdered. As the trio digs deeper, they are fac d with lies, deception and danger. Can the trio find the murderer before they become the next victims and find out what Secret is so personal that it was worth killing for?  Mixed throughout the story are glimpses into the personal lives of each of the characters and the troubles they each face individually. 

The book is well written and can be read as a stand alone even if you haven’t read the previous two books in the series. Laura Joy Rowland writes a twisted tale that will keep you guessing until close to the very end.

I enjoyed the book but I am not sure I will read anymore in the series. Laura Joh Rowland is a very talented writer and if you enjoy historical mysteries then you will enjoy this book.
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I've read the previous book in this series, A Mortal Likeness, and think I had the same issues with this one as I did with that one - I'm not a great fan of Sarah, and so I found it easy not to read. I don't dislike Sarah, I just like the other characters a bit more than her.

In this book, Sarah, Hugh and Mick investigate the murder of one of the most renowned hangmen in London - who would have an issue with him, and why? Along with that, Sir Gerald, their employer, has decided that he will be running a contest that will see the Daily Globe beat the police in discovering the murderer, so this puts more pressure on Sarah and her relationship with Barratt, her policeman paramour.

Complicating matters is the fact that Hugh is in a relationship with Sir Gerald's son, Tristan, a reverend, and Mick is in love with Catherine, the actress, who, we discover is in another relationship with a gentleman who turns out to be a suspect. So, all these relationships get sorely tested during this investigation, as they go from Newgate Prison, to the newspaper, to Leeds and Ely. Along with this investigation, Sarah and her half-sister Sally are still looking for their father.

As I said, I found it easy to put down for a couple of days before picking it back up again and carrying on. It was a relatively steady read and I do enjoy the Victorian era, although the dialogue sometimes felt a bit too modern, and Americanisms ruined the Englishness of it - a 'sidewalk' is a pavement in the UK, and 'candy' is sweets. These are the little things that can affect the reader's enjoyment of the book.

But overall, I enjoyed it enough to continue the series should there be another one. And I'd like to go back to the first one because there are a lot of references to it in this book that I didn't get.
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I can never say it enough: I LOVE Victorian Mysteries! I don’t read them as much as I would like to and I really need to work on that. It’s a flaw. Don’t judge me.

The Hangman’s Secret just pulled me right in. There is nothing I love more than a true historical setting, an excellent murder mystery and a group of people who have no business getting in the middle of an investigation doing just that. This book hit all those points and I couldn’t get enough! Special mention goes to the “Baby Butcher”. That nod to history surprised and thrilled me. I am such a sucker for books that incorporate real life monsters into their stories, even if there are small detail changes like names. I find it really adds something a little extra to the story and shows the amount of research the author has put into the book. Don’t ever stop doing that. I love it!

I think the pacing was excellent and even though I haven’t read the previous books in this series (oh, but I will!) I didn’t feel that I was missing too much. I’m sure I would have enjoyed getting more background on Sarah, Mick, Hugh and their previous “cases” but for the purposes of this book on its own, I didn’t feel that it was needed. 

Honestly, I don’t think there is anything that I didn’t enjoy about book except maybe Barrett….him I’m not a big fan of but that’s just a personal opinion of the character. The flow of the story worked great for me. I was immediately engrossed in the mystery and the seedy Jack the Ripper setting (another great historical nod, by the way. Seriously cannot get enough of them!) pulled it all together. The writing style was fantastic and made for such an enjoyable read. 

This book is the third in Rowland’s Victorian Mystery series and the first book I have read by the author but I will be picking her up again. There is no way, after reading this book, that I will not be grabbing the earlier books in this series and really getting to know this unique crime solving team. 

I expect Laura Joh Rowland will become an easy auto-buy author for me from now on.

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with a copy of this book to read and provide my own opinion.
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So, this book turned out to the be the third in a series – I wonder if I just didn’t read the page on NetGalley properly or it didn’t actually state it, I don’t know. Luckily, it’s not necessary to have read the other two novels to make sense of this one. There is a lot of explanation and exposition whenever we encounter characters we already know, and a short summary of events in previous novels that have shaped these relationships. I do think it’s probably a more entertaining experience to read the books in order, as I did feel a little sad I hadn’t read the stories first-hand, so to speak.

This is an historical mystery novel following a group of amateur detectives who – because of their backing from an influential and wealthy newspaper owner – get embroiled in a one-sided competition with the police to see who can solve the murder of the hangman first. This leads them to Newgate prison and other local haunts, as well as further out of London as they try and figure out what secret is being protected around the hanging of a serial killer. Looking back at the synopsis I think it’s way too elaborate – as it already reveals a lot of the plot points that occur further in the story (luckily I didn’t remember it that clearly!)

I liked our – to me – random group of characters, though I probably would be a lot more attached to them and their personal stories had I read the first two books, as we do start off with an already formed dynamic. There is a wide range of supporters and suspects thrown in there as well. It was quite nice to have our main girl Sarah who pursues some unfeminine pursuits for the era, but is not completely averse to everything to do with a mainstream female’s life, if that makes sense. So she has her own photography studio, works as a photographer for the newspaper, and solves murders, but then also has a relationship which may be heading towards marriage. This healthy combination was very refreshing.

The mystery was alright, nothing too intricate, but enjoyable. I did feel the resolution was a bit too convenient, with handy confessions. Some reasoning was not only based on emotions but then also was proven right, which irked me a bit. The writing was very easygoing. The dialogue was perhaps a bit too modern for the era it was set in, but it did make for a very comfortable reading experience, so I didn’t mind as much myself, but it may be something that takes someone else out of the story.

All in all I enjoyed this book, it was a very fast read. I probably won’t read the earlier books, but mainly because I’ve been spoiled for some of the story line with the recaps in this book. I will however probably read any further books featuring this cast.
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I received an ARC of this from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was the first book that I've read in this series and it was really good. It gave enough of a background that I didn't feel like I missed out by not reading the previous books but I'll probably go back and read them anyways. This was a very well done whodunnit that kept me guessing for most of the novel. The cast of characters are fantastic and  I like their back stories. Each one of them is dealing with their own personal being gay in 19th century England, another trying to weave through what is socially acceptable for a woman both as work and when dating, and lastly, the teenager with his first unattainable crush.  There's lots of action, close calls, and serious detective work.

I enjoyed it and I'll continue to keep this author on my radar. There was obviously a ton of research that went into this novel and it made the story that much better.
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Private detectives, a gruesome crime scene, a race against time to solve the mystery...yes please! Highly enjoyable. Could not put it down!
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The third in a series and in my opinion the best so far, the mystery keeps you guessing and the characters seem to come alive a great read
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Laura Rowland immerses the reader in a dark late Victorian mystery, the Hangman's Secret.   The hangman is dead and there are concerns that one of his victim's was not hanged.  The female photographer and the investigative reporter for a tabloid newspaper uncover corruption at the London jail and in the officials surrounding the case.  Who will win out? The police, the journalists or the corrupt officials ?  Read this noirish story.
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