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Monday, July 22, 2019

Review - Death in Kew Gardens

I haven't read the two prior novels in this series, but that didn't hinder my enjoyment of this book at all.  But, now that I have read this one, I want to read the prior books to see how Kat and Daniel meet.  I was enticed to read this because of the below-stairs aspect  where a servant is the amateur sleuth.  Find out more below.

Author: Jennifer Ashley

Copyright: June 2019 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series: 3rd in Below Stairs Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Characters: Kat Holloway, a Cook for Lord Rankin (a Barron) in his London home he rarely visits.

Setting: 1881, Victorian London

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

From the book cover:  "In return for a random act of kindness, scholar Li Bai Chang presents young cook Kat Holloway with a rare and precious gift—a box of tea. Kat thinks no more of her unusual visitor until two days later when the kitchen erupts with the news that Lady Cynthia's next-door neighbor has been murdered.

Known about London as an "Old China Hand," the victim claimed to be an expert in the language and customs of China, acting as intermediary for merchants and government officials. But Sir Jacob's dealings were not what they seemed, and when the authorities accuse Mr. Li of the crime, Kat and Daniel find themselves embroiled in a world of deadly secrets that reach from the gilded homes of Mayfair to the beautiful wonder of Kew Gardens."

Kat Holloway is a cook in a wealthy home, so she is unique in investigating without soirees and elaborate dances with expensive gowns. She relies on her fellow working class associates to gather information.  she also has a child that she supports who lives with a couple caring for her.  She is mature and cautious with romance.  Daniel McAdam, who has a sixteen year old son, is a mystery who seems to be able to influence the police and acquire jobs in the investigation center to be on the inside.  He has made it clear he likes Kat and in this story he pushes to see if she might regard him affectionately too. I am waiting for Kat to figure out his secrets!

Lady Cynthia, sister-in-law to the Barron, is the lady of the house whose taste for dressing in men's trousers and such is tolerated because of her wealth.  She loves getting into the investigation herself.  Mr. Thanos is a brilliant mathematician who has feelings for Lady Cynthia and perhaps she for him, but he is socially awkward and theirs is a slow moving romance too. Tess, Kat's assistant and protegee, is a great character and I will enjoy watching her grow with the series.  Mr. Davis the butler reminds me so much of Downton Abbey.  He is another I will enjoy watching grow with the series.

Victorian England with its fascination with botany and China are highlighted in this book, which hasn't been covered much in other books so that was a pleasant set up for the mystery.  The Kew Gardens are a delightful setting for murder and greed among such natural beauty.  

The basic plot is that Kat won't let Li Bai Chang be the easy scapegoat for murder because of prejudice and grows from there with a tale of greed.  There are a few subplots including a new housekeeper who is a tyrant...and maybe even a drunk.  Kat and Daniel's growing relationship and the interaction between Cynthia and Mr. Thanos all keep the story interesting when not focused on the investigation. 

The killer confrontation has some exciting moments in the Kew Gardens which were well done.  The wrap up was a satisfying end and leaves you missing the characters and wanting the next book.

It is a slow burn of a tale, with quite a lot of character building and English setting plus the below stairs issues.  With this book the journey is as enjoyable as the mystery.  I appreciated the character of Li Bai Chang and the depiction of how Chinese were treated, it was handled very well indeed.  The subtle romances between the two couples taking time feels natural for the time period.

Rating: Excellent - Loved it, it had a good grip on me! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list 


Here is a short video about the modern Kew Gardens in London that will give you a taste of the setting for some of the action and climax in the book:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioG_Vfh0Kxw


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2 comments:

sherry fundin said...

wow. loved the video and it makes me want to visit. i love photography and thanks to digital, i would probably shoot a thousand shots.
sherry @ fundinmental

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