Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Death Below Stairs (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #1)Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: Kat Holloway #1
Publication Date: 1/2/18

Wow! Just WOW! I love Jennifer Ashley’s writing but was a little concerned about whether I’d like this book and series or not – simply because it takes place at a time later than I usually enjoy reading – 1881. Color me pleased and full of enjoyment! I greatly admire Kat Holloway who is NOT your standard heroine in a novel. I was also concerned about how a cook in a very busy and demanding household was going to manage to have time to flit about England investigating crimes. In this book, that was well explained and the absences were accounted for – but – I do wonder how that will work in the future.

Kat Holloway is a straight-laced, no-nonsense, intelligent, logical and strong Victorian woman who is twenty-nine years of age, plump, brown-haired, attractive and kind. She has a past and secrets to protect. She also has a need to protect the underdog and those who cannot protect themselves – not to mention harboring a soft-spot for a certain, very mysterious man and boy who keeps popping into and out of her life. We learn more about Kat’s secrets and her past as we move through the story and come to understand a lot of how she came to be who she is. I definitely came to admire her for her fortitude in dealing with issues that would have broken a weaker woman. I’ll really be looking forward to learning more about her in future additions to the series.

Daniel McAdam is a complete and total mystery – and you won’t know a whole lot more about him at the end of the book than you did at the beginning. What an enigma he is! Is he noble? Is he common? Is he wealthy? Is he poor? Is he a spy? Is he part of the police? He is a total chameleon. What we do know is that he has a real admiration and a soft spot for Kat Holloway. He also has a son (James) who is on the cusp of manhood and theirs is a complicated relationship. I really like Daniel and can’t wait to see how the relationship between him and Kat will unfold. I love mysteries, but am not a fan of them if they don’t have a large, serious romance as well – so I’ll be looking forward to seeing this one grow.

Our episode begins with Kat heading to the home of Lord and Lady Rankin to be interviewed for the post as their new cook. Kat had left her last post because the family was permanently moving out of London and for personal reasons Kat wanted/needed to remain in the city. Kat’s first day on the job was uneventful and she met and liked the staff with whom she worked. She was especially drawn to her young assistant who wanted to be called Sinead, but everyone insisted on calling Ellen because it was more English sounding. Actually, neither was her name. Kat was overcome when she walked into the larder a couple of days later to discover Sinead’s body – cold and hidden in a dark corner. She felt guilty and blamed herself because just the night before, she had left the young girl folding the table linens rather than helping her – and she had just promised the girl that she’d look out for her.

Kat wants to make sure that the coroner and constables don’t just sluff off the death as an accident or some such. Because she feels guilty, she wants to assure that the death is properly investigated and that the perpetrator is identified and brought to justice. She really wants to find Daniel so he can see the scene before the coroner and constables get there, but that doesn’t happen. He does come into the investigation to help – and to further an investigation of his own. The two might be related.

The investigation takes off and the safety of the queen and England itself could be at stake. They must solve the crime and assure that nothing happens to the queen. Multiple investigations, multiple perpetrators, and many bad guys. Quite a wild ride! LOVED IT ALL!

What did I not like so much? Well …
• I never did really understand if Lord Rankin was actually knowledgeably involved in the plot or if his money-hungry ways sucked him in.
• Not learning about the final outcome for all of the plotters involved – especially ‘Minty’. I wanted him to fall in a bog someplace.
• I really, really wanted to see Lady Cynthia get her HEA. Maybe that will come in the next book or something
• I wanted to see Daniel and Kat receive recognition from the queen (if only in secret). I know we don’t know anything about Daniel, but I’d like to think the Queen knows and recognizes him. He and Kat did a lot! Maybe some of that will come later as well.

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“I requested and received this e-book at no cost to me and volunteered to read it; my review is my honest opinion and given without any influence by the author or publisher.”

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Avid reader/reviewer of historical romance and historical mysteries.

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