When a mutilated ‘Sleeping Beauty’ washes ashore in London, a trio of crime scene photographers must uncover whether her kin and killer are one and the same—the fourth installment in a richly atmospheric Victorian mystery series.
London, June 1890. Sarah Bain and her friends Lord Hugh Staunton and Mick O’Reilly are crime scene photographers for the Daily World newspaper. After solving a sensational murder, they’re under pressure to deliver another big story. On a foggy summer night, they’re called to the bank of the river Thames. The murder victim is an unidentified woman whose face has been slashed. But as Sarah takes photographs, she discovers that the woman is still alive.
The case of “Sleeping Beauty” becomes a public sensation, and three parties quickly come forward to identify her: a rich, sinister artist who claims she’s his wife; a mother and her two daughters who co-own a nursing home and claim she’s their stepdaughter/sister; and a precocious little girl who claims Sleeping Beauty is her mother. Which party is Sleeping Beauty’s rightful kin? Is someone among them her would-be killer?
Then Sleeping Beauty awakens—with a severe case of amnesia. She’s forgotten her name and everything else about herself. But she recognizes one of the people who’ve claimed her. Sarah is delighted to reunite a family and send Sleeping Beauty home—until one of the claimants is murdered. Suddenly, Sarah, her motley crew of friends, and her fiancé Detective Sergeant Barrett are on the wrong side of the law. Now they must identify the killer before they find themselves headed for the gallows.
At the start of Rowland's clever fourth Victorian mystery (after 2019's The Hangman's Secret), Sarah Bain, a London newspaper crime scene photographer, is assigned to take pictures of the corpse of a naked woman with a mutilated face. But as she prepares to take the photo, Sarah realizes the woman is breathing. Sarah's boss, Sir Gerald Mariner, thinks "Sleeping Beauty" would make a great story, and fortunately Sarah's fianc , Det. Sgt. Thomas Barrett, is on the case. Many claim to know Sleeping Beauty's identity, but Barrett quickly narrows the possibilities to three: artist August Legrand claims that she's his wife; Frances Oliphant insists the woman is her stepsister; 10-year-old Venetia Napier is sure Sleeping Beauty is her long-missing mother, Maude. When Sleeping Beauty finally awakes, she remembers Venetia, and a joyful reunion ensues. But Sarah learns that not all stories have a happy ending when one of the claimants is murdered. Is Sleeping Beauty really Maude, or did she choose the lesser of three evils? Readers will enjoy Rowland's original approach and realistic characters.