Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Kat Holloway #2
Publication Date: 7/3/18
This is the perfect follow-up to Death Below Stairs. The mystery is multi-faceted, we meet a new character, we learn more about the continuing characters and we feel as if we are in Victorian London in 1880. The descriptions of life both above and below stairs just make you feel as if you are right there in the kitchen with Kat making those lovely meals. You feel the heat of the stove, smell the lovely odors of the dishes Kat is preparing, and feel the tension of the timing and delivery of those meals. The writing is flawless, the plot well planned and executed and the characters are interesting, fully developed and totally three dimensional.
The main new character is Tess, Kat’s new kitchen assistant. You’d think Tess and Kat would be totally incompatible because they seem to be polar opposites – oil and water. Tess is free-spirited, undisciplined, improper, and she’s also a former ‘tea leaf’ (thief). I absolutely loved Tess’s exuberance and flinging her arms around the prim and proper Kat and giving her a huge hug. Tess is intelligent and learns quickly and she appreciates the opportunity to learn and grow. She is also totally loyal. I loved her and she quickly became one of my favorite characters. We also learn of but don’t actually meet, Tess’s brother. It will be interesting to see if he plays much of a role in future books.
We learn a bit more about the past of the enigmatic Daniel McAdam – just enough to whet our appetites to learn more in future books. We have some small hints of who his employer MIGHT be, but don’t learn anything of real substance there. I really like Daniel and wonder what changes, if any, he’ll make in his employment and lifestyle since his son was injured and his feelings for Kat seem to be growing.
Lady Cynthia reappears in this book as does Elgin Thanos. Talk about opposites attracting. I love these two characters and truly hope to see a meaningful relationship develop there. We’ll have to wait and see what develops there.
The story begins with a disaster in the kitchen. The whole roast pig, the crowning glory of the meal Kat had created for this dinner party, lay on the floor amid cracked pottery. Bits of vegetables and sauces rolling everywhere. Anyone else would have run from the kitchen in tears, but not the capable, intrepid Kat Holloway. She immediately rearranges the courses and prepares additional dishes. Not what she would have preferred, but a perfectly acceptable meal. Then, after that long and stressful day, Lady Cynthia wants to speak with her. Goodness – can’t it wait? Well, it turns out that it can’t.
Lady Cynthia’s friend, Clemmie (we met her and two other friends in the last book), is in a terrible pickle. Three of her husband’s very valuable paintings have been stolen from their home – and her husband is blaming her. There is no evidence of any break-ins and nothing else is missing. Clemmie is a gambler and loses frequently, so she constantly owes large amounts of money. Her husband had recently refused to cover those losses any longer, so he accuses her of stealing the paintings to pay off her gambling debts. She didn’t do it. So, Lady Cynthia asks Mrs. Holloway to help her friend.
As soon as Kat meets with Clemmie and hears the entire story, she is sure she knows what happened – who and how, but not why. The why of it unwinds slowly and surely throughout the book to reveal quite a big snarl.
In the meantime, Davis, the butler, mentions to Kat that he has seen Daniel McAdam working in a pawnshop. Surely not! During her next day-out to visit her daughter, Kat decides to return home by way of the pawn shop – just to see if it really was Daniel. It was! During the visit, she learns that Daniel is investigating the disappearance of antiquities from the British Museum and some of those involved are very dangerous thugs.
Over the course of time, Kat and Daniel learn that their investigations are intertwined – like the strands of a rope. These people are very dangerous and Daniel doesn’t want Kat involved, but, of course, she’s going to do what she can to defend Clemmie and to help Daniel where she can.
There are multiple murders, attempted murders and a tragic accident before all is solved. The villain might surprise you, but it might not. The wrap-up is lovely with all of the injured being cared for and . . . maybe there is something developing there.
I’m really enjoying this series and particularly Kat and Daniel. I can only wonder what our author has in store for them. How will their lives change if they marry? Kat is a live-in domestic, so how can she continue her employment should she marry and live with Daniel? How would that change her relationship with Lady Cynthia? We surely don’t want to lose her! I wonder if Daniel isn’t employed by Whitehall – if he is, how will that affect a marriage with Kat? Would she help him with cases? Will they both finally get their children to live with them? So many questions, so very much to look forward to in this delightful, well-written series!
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