Category Archives: Victorian Mystery Series

Review: A Mortal Likeness by Laura Joh Rowland

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

Summary:

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.

Review:

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.

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Filed under A Mortal Likeness, Crooked Lane Books, Historical, Laura Joh Rowland, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, Vickie McDonough, Victorian Mystery Series

Review: The Ripper’s Shadow by Laura Joh Rowland

Title: The Ripper’s Shadow by Laura Joh Rowland
Victorian Mystery Book One
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Historical, Mystery
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The year is 1888 and Jack the Ripper begins his reign of terror.

Miss Sarah Bain, a photographer in Whitechapel, is an independent woman with dark secrets. In the privacy of her studio, she supplements her meager income by taking illicit “boudoir photographs” of the town’s local ladies of the night. But when two of her models are found gruesomely murdered within weeks of one another, Sarah begins to suspect it’s more than mere coincidence.

Teamed with a motley crew of friends–including a street urchin, a gay aristocrat, a Jewish butcher and his wife, and a beautiful young actress–Sarah delves into the crime of the century. But just as she starts unlocking the Ripper’s secrets, she catches the attention of the local police, who believe she knows more than she’s revealing, as well as from the Ripper himself, now bent on silencing her and her friends for good.

Caught in the crosshairs of a ruthless killer, Sarah races through Whitechapel’s darkest alleys to find the truth…until she makes a shocking discovery that challenges everything she thought she knew about the case. Intelligent and utterly engrossing, Laura Joh Rowland’s Victorian mystery The Ripper’s Shadow will keep readers up late into the night.

Review:

The Ripper’s Shadow by Laura Joh Rowland pits an intrepid woman and her diverse group of friends against Jack the Ripper.

Upon learning another one of her racy photographs models has been murdered, photographer Sarah Bain is certain the killer is using her photos to select his victims. Quickly realizing she cannot risk telling the police about her suspicions, Sarah tries to warn the other women they are in danger. None of the “working girls” take her warnings seriously and yet another one of Sarah’s models soon falls victim to the Ripper.  With the help of street smart orphan Mick O’Reilly, Jewish couple Abraham and Rachel Lipsky, actress Catherine Price and aristocrat Hugh Staunton, Sarah is determined to keep her models safe. At the same time, Sarah is working hard to unmask the killer whilst evading the very attractive Police Constable Thomas Barrett and the rest of the police.

Having never recovered from the death of her beloved father, Sarah  is a gifted photographer who supplements her regular photography business with a select number of salacious photos of prostitutes.  With a litany of advice learned from her bitter and unhappy mother constantly running through her mind, Sarah never lets down her guard or lets any of her neighbors or customers get close to her. The first person to sneak past her defenses is Catherine Price, an upcoming and coming actress whom Sarah helped until her frosty demeanor put an end to their budding friendship.  After an inauspicious first meeting with young Mick, she cannot help but take care of the plucky lad who tugs on her heartstrings every time he stops by her studio. Following her somewhat uncomfortable first encounter with Lord Hugh Staunton, Sarah forms an unlikely friendship with the sympathetic nobleman after they confide in one another. Rounding out her list of recently met acquaintances are married couple Rachel and Abraham, whose loyalty and affection are unexpected but surprisingly welcome as Sarah and the rest of her newly formed “family” try to keep the naughty models safe from harm.

Once the police set their sights on Sarah, she has no choice but uncover the identity of the Ripper on her own.  She and Mick quickly track down the customers who purchased her racy photographs but which one of them is killer? At the same time, Sarah and the rest of her crew continue guarding the prostitutes as they go about their nightly business.  With PC Barrett and his boss turning up at somewhat inopportune moments, will Sarah be able to convince them she innocent of any wrongdoing? And can she protect herself from further heartache at the hands of the occasionally unscrupulous Barrett?

With a cast of colorful yet endearing characters, an atmospheric setting and a clever storyline, The Ripper’s Shadow is an absolutely captivating historical mystery. The characters are richly developed with relatable flaws and the descriptive prose brings the setting vibrantly to life. There is no shortage of stunning plot twists, unexpected revelations and  surprising suspects as Sarah and her friends investigate the horrifying murders. Laura Joh Rowland puts an incredibly unique spin on the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders that is guaranteed to capture the imagination of anyone who reads historical mysteries.  An outstanding mystery that is hopefully just the first novel starring amateur sleuth Sarah Cain (and the rest of her friends).

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Filed under Contemporary, Crooked Lane Books, Laura Joh Rowland, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, The Ripper's Shadow, Victorian Mystery Series