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Death Below Stairs (A Below Stairs Mystery #1) by Jennifer Ashley: A Book Review

Death Below Stairs (A Below Stairs Mystery #1)
Author: Jennifer Ashley
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery and Suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Pages: 335
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis: 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.

     My Review: Kat Holloway has been hired to be a cook for the noble family of Lord Rankin. When she arrives, she finds a hostile working environment. The other servants in the household are cold to her, and Lord Rankin makes it clear that he wants her dismissed. However, she forms an unlikely friendship with Lord Rankin’s eccentric sister-in-law. When her assistant dies in her kitchen, Kat joins Daniel McAdam, who appears to be a delivery man but is not what he seems, to investigate her murder. The two soon learn that the murder may lead to a bigger conspiracy that plots to assassinate England’s ruler, Queen Victoria.

     Even though Death Below Stairs is the first mystery in the Below Stairs series, it read like a sequel. Going into this book, I did not get a sense of Kat Holloway’s character as a whole. There was very little information regarding Kat before we are introduced to her. There were some details about her halfway through the book. However, her backstory was only sprinkled throughout the book so that I came across feeling like I did not know her. I did like her as a character. She seems very practical and loves to investigate mysteries. Even though Kat was a mysterious character, her partner Daniel seems even more perplexing. I still do know anything about him except that he may have a secretive job.

    Overall, Death Below Stairs works best as a sequel rather than an introductory novel. I would have enjoyed the story more had there been more build-up between the characters. Instead, I felt that there was a missing novel in the series. Also, there were some answers to questions that were never explained. The mystery was very predictable. Despite these flaws, it was a fast-paced and fun novel. The setting of Victorian England felt very authentic, and it is clear that she did her research. I am looking forward to reading the sequel because I would love to know more about these characters. Death Below Stairs is not only perfect for fans of Downton Abbey, but also for fans of A Curious Beginning, A Lady in the Smoke, and The Anatomist’s Wife.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


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