Monday, January 1, 2018

Review: Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Kat Holloway Mysteries, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Historical Mystery
ISBN: 9780399585517
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N
Jennifer Ashley Reading Order

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.

Murder, secrets, and seedcake all come together to form one highly entertaining mystery in Death Below Stairs. Jennifer Ashley’s first Kat Holloway novel is a delight, thanks in large part to the wonderful cast of characters.

Kat Holloway is a talented cook and I loved seeing how a Victorian-era household chef works. Yet while that’s interesting in its own right, that’s not what endeared her to me. Kat is smart, no-nonsense, and stands up for what is right, even when it might get her in trouble. She’s a clever sleuth, and when her assistant is murdered in the middle of the night, she becomes determined to find out who killed the girl and why. But a cook – no matter how quick – cannot solve crime alone, which is why she needs the help of Daniel McAdam. Daniel is a mysterious figure who puts on and sheds personas at the drop of a hat. He seems to be able to find anything at any time and I’m desperate to know more about him. What I do know so far, I absolutely adore. Even though this isn’t a romance (though it does have romantic elements), I still have to say that Daniel is a pretty swoon-worthy hero. His charm radiates off the page and the way he interacts with Kat makes me sigh more often than not. The two of them have seriously fantastic chemistry that I’m hoping will continue to develop over the course of the series.

Daniel and Kat are at the heart of Death Below Stairs, but they’re not the only interesting characters. Daniel’s son James is as charming as his father and Kat’s daughter Grace is as sweet as can be. Lord Rankin’s household staff are a bunch of colorful characters that add life and depth to the story. Every single supporting character in this book is well-drawn and adds to the tale. But though the characters are what stood out most to me in Death Below Stairs, that doesn’t mean the mystery is lacking. A not-so-simple case of murder leads to clues about a Fenian plot, one with dire implications that leads to an exciting race against the clock. Ms. Ashley seamlessly blends historical details in with fiction and the result is a marvelous mystery that’s filled with action.

Death Below Stairs is the first full-length Kat Holloway novel and readers can easily dive right in here. However, there is a prequel novella, A Soup├žon of Poison, that I highly recommend reading first. It gave me a better sense going into the novel of Kat’s character, background, professional situation, and her relationships with Daniel, James, and Grace.

Death Below Stairs is an engaging murder mystery overall. Jennifer Ashley’s writing always draws me in and this story is no exception. And while I finished this book a well-satisfied reader, I cannot wait to see what Kat and Daniel take on next in Scandal Above Stairs!


FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

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