Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Envy is Poisonous

THE DEVIL'S FEAST (Avery and Blake #3)
M. J. Carter
Penguin Books
March 28, 2017

It is 1842 and Captain William Avery has traveled from his home in Devon to try to reason with Jeremiah Blake. Blake is languishing in Marshalsea Debtor's Prison on a trumped up charge because of his stubborn refusal to take on an investigation for Her Majesty's Government in the person of Sir Theo Collinson. Blake and Collinson loathe each other, but Collinson finds Blake useful and wants him bent to his will. Captain Avery is unsuccessful in persuading Blake and decides to visit Matty Horner, a girl he rescued from the streets in a previous book. Matty is working in the kitchen of the Reform Club, whose famous chef, Alexis Soyer, is a friend of Blake. He is invited to a dinner given by Soyer for some friends and other chefs, a lavish affair resulting in the horrible death by poisoning of one of the guests. The Club is desperate to keep the death quiet and approach Avery to investigate. There is to be a huge banquet for an Egyptian potentate at the Club which must go on and as more men die after eating at the Club it becomes clear that the poisonings come from Soyer's kitchen. Even Matty comes under suspicion. We meet the poisoner in the opening pages of the book and he is a true monster...but who is he and how can he be stopped?

The Avery and Blake Mysteries have become an eagerly awaited series for me. Blake is as stubborn, irascible, slovenly and brilliant as ever. Avery is the very picture of country gentry, a Tory "born and bred", a little dim and priggish, but a true friend to Blake. The wealth of historical detail and political intrigue might be a little off-putting to some, but I enjoy it greatly. The description of Soyer's dinner goes on for pages and is stomach churning in its excess. Especially when one considers the dire poverty and hunger of much of London at the time. Alexis Soyer and the coroner, William Wakley are real historical figures whose personalities appear to be captured exactly here by Carter. Both men were progressive thinkers and deserve to be better remembered than they are. 

While I do somewhat miss the "ripping yarn" feeling of the first Avery and Blake, The Strangler Vine, The Devil's Feast does not disappoint. I highly recommend the series for historical mystery fans and history geeks in general. I received a digital advance copy from Penguin Books and NetGalley. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 5 Stars

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