A Mortal Likeness (Victorian Mystery #2), by Laura Joh Rowland

Eight stars

Continuing this series, Laura Joh Rowland takes readers back to Victorian England for more mysteries. Sarah Bain and Lord Hugh Staunton made a name for themselves while working on the Jack the Ripper case, though few know of their successes. They’ve chosen to open a private investigation firm, willing to work for anyone who has the means to pay them. While tailing a philanderer, Sarah and Hugh are able to capture a photo to substantiate their investigative claims. Soon thereafter, the subjects of the investigation turn up dead, with Sarah and Hugh the prime suspects. While dodging that bullet for a time, Sarah seeks to become involved in the kidnapping investigation of little Robin Mariner, baby to Sir Gerald and Lady Alexandra. While many others have sought to get in on the action, Sarah and Sir Gerald strike up some professional connection and she’s hired on the spot. Sir Gerald is certain that the kidnapping is tied to someone in his home, but does not want Sarah and Hugh to tip their hands for the time being. While trying to piece together suspects and motives, Sarah reexamines some of her photos from the philandering case, seeing a man who resembles her father. Sarah tracks down some leads and discovers that her father’s disappearance all those years ago is not entirely as straightforward as she might have liked. While stirring up a hornet’s nest in her personal life, Sarah must work alongside and love struck Hugh to learn if Robin Mariner’s kidnapper can be found, discovering that there was a ransom drop/pick-up that may clear her from the aforementioned double murder. The discovery of a body only thickens the plot and begins a series of events that could have dire results for more than the Mariner household. Will Sarah and Hugh find themselves as saviours to Sir Gerald or vilified for their accusations and sent off to jail? Rowland does well to continue this series, full of great plots and interesting characters. Recommended for those who love mysteries set in Victorian England that have unique twists.

I received an advance copy of the third book in this series, but wanted to get the proper context before delving in too deep. Rowland sets the scene well and pulls the reader in from the opening pages of the first novel, keeping the setting and plot developing throughout. This second novel is just as exciting, set a year or so after the Jack the Ripper goings-on. Sarah Bain remains an interesting character, sure to interest most readers. A photographer by trade, Sarah uses her amateur sleuthing capabilities in this novel, accentuated by grit and determination to get to the answer, no matter what hurdles stand before her. Lord Hugh Staunton, who made his mark in the opening novel, returns and has been dealing with some of the character revelations from the series debut. Hugh has been disowned by his family for his homosexuality and this is a thread that continues in this piece, though his presence is somewhat subdued after a fallout with Sarah over some potential suspects. Some of the secondary characters shape the story effectively, particularly as they propel the mystery of the kidnapped child to its climax. There are many interesting developments that occur using these minor characters, sure to keep the attentive reader enthralled. As in the opening novel, I liked the banter between the authorities and the amateur sleuths, which turns into a competition for Sarah throughout. Overall, the story worked well and kept my attention through to the final sentence. Rowland has created an interesting series that mixes history with key elements of a decent mystery. I will keep reading and hope to add Laura Joh Rowland to my list of authors to follow.

Kudos, Madam Rowland, for an interesting series continuation. I can see much coming from this series as the characters come into their own.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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