When crime photographer and news reporter Sarah Bain gets married to
Detective Sergeant Thomas Barrett, the ceremony gets interrupted by a murder. The victim is a photographer specializing in taking scam photos of ghosts. Sarah investigates the technology and tricks used to con grieving people.
A Portrait of Peril is book 5 in the Victorian Mystery series by Laura Joh Rowland, published by Crooked Lane Books. The setting is London 1890 and we follow newspaper photographer Sarah Bain, her police husband and her news photography/reporter team as they investigate how some members of the spiritualist community use a combination of new technology and tricks to con grieving people. Sarah and Thomas’ wedding ceremony is interrupted when
a scam photographer is found murdered in the church crypt. Later his publisher is found dead too. A member of Sarah’s team is standing over the body with blood on his hands and he ends up in jail charged with the murder. Besides investigating the two murders, Sarah secretly looks into the murder case relating to her own family.
Main character is crime photographer and reporter Sarah Bain. She is very self sufficient and has a hard time controlling her temper and struggles with the relationship with her late mother. She seems a complex and believable character who is my favorite of this story.
Supporting character is detective Sergeant Thomas Barrett. He seems a bit bland to me, and I struggle to connect with him. But I picked up on his deepest respect/fear for his mother. I wonder what that might mean for his relationship with fiercely independent Sarah.
I enjoyed how this story starts where similar reads have ended- with marriage. I found it strange and surprising that Sarah and Thomas didn’t find it terribly disturbing to have their wedding ceremony interrupted by a murder. They seemed to go on with things like on a normal day.
The plot contained details of previous stories which made it function as a standalone, but I would have preferred to read the series from the beginning to get to know the characters and follow their development through the series. As I jumped in at book 5, I felt I had missed out on this.
My favorite part of the story was descriptions of the living arrangements with Sarah’s group of unlikely friends and co-workers. The least favorite part was descriptions of an autopsy procedure.
Anyone who loves historical crime fiction will enjoy this. As will fans of Laura Joh Rowland. Similar authors to explore might be Anna Lee Huber or Erin Lindsey.
Thank you to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for this opportunity to share my honest review. All opinions are completely my own.
Conclusion: A Portrait of Peril is the interesting and entertaining story about a wedding ceremony interrupted by the murder of a photographer specializing in ghost photos to con grieving relatives.