Death Below Stairs
By Jennifer Ashley
A Kat Holloway Mystery #1
Berkley Prime Crime Book
Paperback, 329 pages
Setting: 1881 London, England
Jennifer Ashley introduces us to Kat Holloway, a talented young cook who accepts a new position in the house of Lord Rankin. No sooner does she get the tour of their home and begin preparing dinner for his family, does Lady Cynthia, Rankin’s sister-in-law, nearly run down a man while driving a new rig. Being a relative of one of the wealthiest men in London, it could easily drift toward scandal. If that isn’t a sign of a problem with her new employer, his request for, Sinead, the young Irish cook’s assistant to bring him coffee to his chambers, should have signaled trouble. Believing the situation would have been one of force, Kat brings the coffee herself. Not only does she have to deal with the aggressive nature of the lord of the manor, she recognizes the man he was speaking with. Daniel McAdam’s mysterious presence in Rankin’s home has her silently questioning why he is truly there.
The next morning, Kat stumbles in the pantry and is heartbroken to learn that the young assistant is dead. She immediately feels guilty for not watching over Sinead. The constable is summoned and Lord Rankin and his wife are informed of the situation. Rankin tries to fire Kat, but his sister-in-law stands up for her. This begins a friendship not influenced by their rank in society. Kat also realizes that the housekeeper is overcome by the young woman’s death.
Kat, Daniel, Cynthia and a love-struck math whiz work together to try in figure out who killed Sinead and why. Kat’s intuition leads her to believe that Daniel is either a detective or he has a higher position within the Queen’s realm. What would seem like an isolated murder turns into something devious that could very well lead to war.
I don’t know where to begin with this one. Downton Abbey fans are going to recognize the connection between the wealthy family and the individuals that devote every moment around the clock to serving them. There’s the reality of Kat’s frustrating situation that has denied her a life with her daughter and may even be severed further. There’s the mystery behind Sinead’s friendship with some troubling young men. Add another measure of mystery in trying to figure out Daniel’s identity. His responsibilities, which he never mentions, put him and his son in constant danger and the boy seems to know his way about the city, better than Kat. Then there’s the relationship between Cynthia and her friend. Cynthia wants the freedom men are allowed, will even dress like a man, but you sense she draws the line at going beyond friendship with the other woman. This is another book I loved. I was even reading it at a Mariano’s hot buffet bar because I couldn’t wait to read the ending. Looking forward to the next book in the series.
Four cook’s aprons out of five
April 15, 2018