Death in Kew Gardens
by Jennifer Ashley
#3 Kat Holloway
Formats available: Hardback, Electronic, Audio
Pub Date: 6.4.19
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
E-ARC was provided by publisher via Net Galley. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Scandal Above Stairs
Kat Holloway steps out from beneath the stairs and into international intrigue, where murder and stolen treasure lurk among the upper echelons of Victorian London.
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. https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/557640/death-in-kew-gardens-by-jennifer-ashley/
After the danger of the last case, Victorian cook, Kat Holloway, didn’t complain about a hot summer in the city helping the butler make up for the lack of housekeeper, but the promise of the cooler fall temps and a murder next door involving a new Chinese acquaintance livens things up nicely.
Death in Kew Gardens is the third in the historical cozy mysteries set in the Victorian period. There is a continuation story of Kat and her friends that makes it best taken in order even if there is a new mystery offered up in each book.
I do enjoy stories with an upstairs-downstairs element to them and I was taken with this series from the beginning because of the unlikeliness of a cook playing amateur sleuth. It has been fun to learn more with each book about the world of the serving class below stairs particularly the realm of Kat’s kitchen. There’s some unlikely modernity to the books and Kat’s character, but it can be chalked up to eccentricity on the part of her employer and I can buy into the possibility of an independent, self-educated cook with a penchant for mysteries.
Kat has taken up with jack of all trades, Daniel McAdams, as her mystery solving partner and he does have expertise that aids them and has an ‘in’ with the authorities that gives them a leg up on their fact finding expeditions and behind the scenes access on their cases. Daniel is much more than he seems and an intriguing mystery to Kat in his own right. Each book has her drawing a little closer to opening her heart again and trusting Daniel not to be a tosser like her dead fake husband who tricked her.
In this latest, Kat encounters a Chinese man who soon after is accused of murdering Sir Jacob next door maybe for all the Chinese treasures he’s brought back in his dealings in the Far East. Li Bai Chang is a scholar and man of principal, she believes and she engages herself on his behalf. Meanwhile, she is learning about the dicey removal of goods from China and how the British played a role in impoverishing many Chinese when they started planting their own China tea in India thus flooding the market. The connection with the Asian plants section at Kew Gardens is made and now the hunt is on for a killer.
Meanwhile, Kat and Davis need to find a way to get rid of the impossible woman Cynthia’s aunt hired as housekeeper particularly when the woman steals from almost everyone even the people above stairs, skulks about and does no work, drinks herself into stupors, and threatens people to keep quiet because she nosed out their secrets.
I always learn something new from these, in this case it was about growing tea and its value in that time period, which is why I enjoy the historical element and I felt the mystery itself was engaging enough. I didn’t guess the villain, but I wasn’t trying that hard either. I confess I was more taken up with Kat’s domestic troubles, Cynthia’s antics, and the descriptions of British-Chinese relations and how the British exporting affected China.
I found this one entertaining and enjoyed it, but also felt it needed a little zip. Much of the exciting stuff happened offstage though, there was a suspenseful climax scene. I recommend these to those who enjoy cozy mysteries in historical settings.