Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Title: Death Below Stairs
Author: Jennifer Ashley
Series: Kat Holloway, #1 (also called A Below Stairs Mystery)
Date: January 2, 2018
Victorian class lines are crossed when cook Kat Holloway is drawn into a murder that reaches all the way to the throne.
Highly sought-after young cook Kat Holloway takes a position in a Mayfair mansion and soon finds herself immersed in the odd household of Lord Rankin. Kat is unbothered by the family’s eccentricities as long as they stay away from her kitchen, but trouble finds its way below stairs when her young Irish assistant is murdered.
Intent on discovering who killed the helpless kitchen maid, Kat turns to the ever-capable Daniel McAdam, who is certainly much more than the charming delivery man he pretends to be. Along with the assistance of Lord Rankin’s unconventional sister-in-law and a mathematical genius, Kat and Daniel discover that the household murder was the barest tip of a plot rife with danger and treason—one that’s a threat to Queen Victoria herself.
First, read the prequel to this book – A Soupcon of Poison. It’s less than a hundred pages, but really sets up the background for Death Below Stairs. The prequel is wonderful and I was anxious for the first actual novel in the series. What do you mean I have to wait two years before it is published?!?
Guess what? Not only did I score an early reviewer’s copy, I got it almost five months before the publication date. And this book was so worth the wait.
Jennifer Ashley is a wonderful author. Some authors write really well in one genre, but lose me when they write something different. She is definitely not one of those authors. I discovered her years ago as a science fiction/romance author writing as Allyson James. I don’t know if I found her historical or paranormal books next, but it doesn’t matter. I love them both. The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie will always be one of my favorite books in any genre.
Anyway, Death Below Stairs is set in Victorian London and focuses on a cook for the upper classes name Kat Holloway. She is an excellent cook and has little trouble obtaining a new position when it becomes necessary. She also has the unfortunate habit of finding dead bodies.
And that is the true focus of this series.
These are historical novels. Yes, there is a developing romance, but it is strictly a subplot. The heart of these books is a mystery. It’s not necessarily just one mystery either. There is a murder, of course, but the why is just as interesting as the who.
Speaking of interesting, to me, it is not the mystery or the romance that makes these books so engrossing. It is the details. Kat talks about the dishes she prepares for the family in the house as well as the servants. It’s not tedious at all. It adds flavor (and yes, that pun is intentional) to the story. And while the family is integral to the plot, it is the characters below stairs and their lives that I find fascinating.
I am not normally a fan of historicals, but the author makes the events so compelling that I am tempted to delve into a little nonfiction reading just to get more of the background. It’s not needed, but my interest has been piqued. Just who were the finnegans?
I highly recommend anything by Jennifer Ashley, but if your taste runs to historicals, you will love this book.
This book was sent to me by NetGalley in return for an honest review.