Title: A Mortal Likeness by Laura Joh Rowland
Victorian Mystery Series Book Two
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A photographer in 1889 London, Miss Sarah Bain runs a private detective agency with her friends, Lord Hugh Staunton and former street urchin Mick O’Reilly. Their sole credential is that they solved the Jack the Ripper case, a secret they can never tell because they did it outside the boundaries of the law. Their new big case arises when a wealthy banker, Sir Gerald Mariner, posts a handsome reward for finding his missing infant. All of London joins in the search. But Sarah has an advantage—a photograph she took during a routine surveillance job, which unexpectedly reveals a clue about the kidnapping.
After Sir Gerald hires Sarah, Hugh, and Mick to find his son, they move into his opulent mansion and discover a photograph of baby Robin. It eerily resembles postmortem photographs taken of deceased children posed to look as if they’re alive. Was the kidnapping real, or a cover-up for a murder? Is the perpetrator a stranger, or someone inside the troubled Mariner family? The case hits close to home for Sarah as it intertwines with her search for her father, who disappeared after he became the prime suspect in a murder twenty-three years ago. She finds herself on the wrong side of the law, which threatens her budding romance with Police Constable Barrett. But Sarah must uncover the truth about Robin’s kidnapping, and her own family, before her past catches up to her in A Mortal Likeness, the gripping follow-up to award-winning author Laura Joh Rowland’s The Ripper’s Shadow.
A Mortal Likeness by Laura Joh Rowland is a twisty turny historical mystery. This second installment in the Victorian Mystery series easily stands on its own, but I highly recommend book one, The Ripper’s Shadow, as well.
Photographer Sarah Bain and her close friend Lord Hugh Staunton are attempting to get their private inquiry business up and running. Their current case involves suspected adultery and while attempting to obtain photographic proof, Sarah and Hugh inadvertently stumble into the middle of a double homicide and a kidnapping case involving a baby. Sir Gerald Mariner, whose son Robin is missing, suspects the kidnapper is someone close to the family so he hires them to investigate. Will Sarah and Hugh uncover the kidnapper’s identity? Will they find Robin before harm befalls the missing boy? And what will the personal fallout be once Sarah’s Police Constable boyfriend, Thomas Barrett, discovers she has not been completely honest with him about her involvement in the case?
Upon their arrival at Sir Gerald’s estate, Hugh and Sarah must investigate a rather large pool of suspects. Robin’s mother, Lady Alexandra is keeping to herself with only her sister Tabitha Jenkins by her side. They also discover Gerald has a bit of a strained relationship with his children from his previous marriages. Oldest son Tristan is a member of the clergy and he is no longer in line to inherit his father’s vast wealth. Seventeen year old daughter Olivia is rather volatile, impetuous and angry with her father for shipping her off to boarding school. Non family members include bodyguard John Pierce who resents Hugh and Sarah’s presence and their investigation. Sarah is deeply suspicious of medium Raphael DeQuincey but just because she believes he is a charlatan does not necessarily mean he is involved in Robin’s disappearance.
Then there is the matter of baby Robin’s last photograph which was taken about six months before his disappearance. Sarah picks up on a bit of an irregularity in the picture that deeply troubles her. She and Hugh learn some rather disquieting information from the servants that might support Sarah’s suspicions. However, this theory is just one of many they consider throughout their investigation.
A Mortal Likeness is an intriguing mystery with a very perplexing crime to solve. Sarah and Hugh are extremely close but they find themselves at odds throughout their investigation and their friendship becomes precarious as they search for the truth. Sarah is dismayed when her romance with Thomas is threatened when he discovers her involvement in Robin’s case. Laura Joh Rowland brilliantly keeps readers on the edge of their seats with a dazzling array of stunning twists and turns. While the current case is completely wrapped up by the novel’s end, Sarah’s discoveries about her long missing father will leave fans breathlessly awaiting the next installment in the Victorian Mystery series.