cover image Portrait of Peril

Portrait of Peril

Laura Joh Rowland. Crooked Lane, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-64385-472-4

Rowland’s well-crafted fifth Victorian mystery (after 2020’s The Woman in the Veil) finds London newspaper crime photographer Sarah Bain and her fiancé, Det. Sgt. Thomas Barrett, about to get married—but are they prepared to confront the concept of what it means to be “man and wife” in the full Victorian sense of the term? Family and social tensions boil over at the wedding breakfast, but more distressing is the body of a ghost hunter that’s uncovered in the church’s crypt just as the groom kisses the bride. Not every woman could photograph a crime scene in her bridal dress, but Sarah doesn’t flinch, and she soon becomes involved in an intriguing mystery involving spiritualist frauds, debunkers, and believers. The literal meaning of her marriage vows adds a new level of complexity to Sarah’s headstrong nature, which can lead her into needless danger and sometimes even damages her investigation. As always, Rowland blends acute psychological observation and meticulous historical research to explore the conflicts faced by an independent woman in Victorian society. Readers will hope Sarah has a long career. Agent: Pam Ahearn, Pam Ahearn Agency. (Jan.)