Book Review: Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Finding the Book

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Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley is the first book in a cozy mystery series that is brand new to me.  One of the later books in the series, which has five books currently, was suggested in a book recommendations list I follow from another blog.  I thought this series sounded promising, and since I always start with the first book in a series, I grabbed Death Below Stairs!

And I’m so glad I did!  I enjoy historical fiction, especially historical cozy mysteries, and the bulk of my personal “real book” library is made up of cozy mysteries with a good portion of those being historical.  I’m seriously considering adding this series to my shelves, I enjoyed the first book that much. 

About the Book

Set in spring of 1881, cook Kat Holloway starts a new position at an upper class home in London.  Kat is an excellent cook and runs her kitchen superbly, ingratiating herself to both employers and fellow staff.  She is only at her new station for a day when tragedy strikes the young Irish helper she instantly took under her wing at arriving at the manor.

With the help of her special friend, Daniel, his son, a few friends and acquaintances of equal and higher class, Kat helps to stop an assassination plot of the Queen and solve the murder.

The suspect list is excellent with strong suspects, kind-of-possibly suspects, and true red herrings, and the story line flows well from the opening sentence to the revelation of the murderer.

I gave this book a 5 Star rating on Goodreads because I couldn’t put it down and was drawn into the story from beginning to end.  (Click here to follow me on Goodreads!)

From the Publisher:  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.

What I Love

The Setting  

Give me anything pre-1950 back a 100 years or so, place it anywhere in England, and I will read it.  I have no explanation why I adore this type of setting so much; I just do.  And it has never disappointed me.

The Characters

From the heroine to the supporting guy to the household staff and the manor aristocracy, II found every single character to be thoroughly enjoyable.

The History

What I know from English history and the history of their class system has come entirely from books and a few television shows.  (Love the new PBS show Miss Scarlet and the Duke!)  This story provided another level of education into the social and socioeconomic history of that era, and I found it very interesting.

As a historical mystery, I expected it to be well researched and well written from the historical side, and it absolutely did not disappoint.  It actually exceeded my minimal expectations, and I was completely immersed into the 1880s English working class!

If you enjoy a good cozy mystery, a setting pre-turn of the 20th century, or even just a London atmosphere, this is absolutely a book I highly recommend.  I’m completely hooked and will be getting the other books in this series, including the prequel.

There are five books in this series currently, and you can see them all here on the Amazon series page.  All of the books are available as a Kindle ebook, an audiobook, and a paperback.

While you don’t have to read the prequel prior to starting this series, it is available as a novella (a short novel) and can be found here:  A Soupçon of Poison.

See all the books by Jennifer Ashley and find her website, newsletter and social media to follow here.  She also writes under the name of Ashley Gardner, and I have the Captain Lacey Regency Mystery series on my list to try out.  

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