Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Murder in a Mayfair Kitchen

A Kat Holloway Mystery # 1
Jennifer Ashley
Berkley Books
Jan. 2, 2018

Kat Holloway is a young cook in 1880's London who, through hard work and in much adversity, has built a reputation and is in demand. She has specific requirements about time off, and since her new employer, Lord Rankin, agrees with them, she is starting a new job in his household. Her reason for the time off is unknown to him, and Kat wants to keep it that way. She has a daughter who lives with friends.  Kat is a no-nonsense young woman who takes control of her kitchen on her first day. But when she arises the next morning she discovers one of the kitchen maids bludgeoned to death. Who could have gained access to the house and killed the girl, who seemed flighty, but otherwise inoffensive? Kat needs to find out and enlists the aid of the capable, mysterious, and charming delivery man Daniel McAdam. Daniel is apparently much more than he seems, but he always is on the spot to help Kat, and he has business with Lord Rankin himself. Kat and Daniel must make their way through a stew of blackmail, financial misdeeds, and Irish terrorism to get the answers.

I had read a short story centering on Kat and Daniel, A Soupcon of Poison, quite a while ago and was looking forward to a full-length novel. The characters are fascinating and the period detail excellent, as in Ashley's other historical series, The Captain Lacey Mysteries, written under her pen name, Ashley Gardner. However, the freedom that Kat has to leave work, even to travel overnight on unspecified errands, seemed unbelievable. And I doubt that any cook, no matter how good, could get away with Kat's outspoken ways. I do enjoy the characters and have formed a connection with them. Daniel is a mystery that needs to be solved in future books. I recommend reading A Soupcon of Poison before Death Below Stairs since it lays the ground work for the series and gives insight into the characters.

Thanks to First to Read for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 3.5 Stars

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Land tells the Story

FLAME IN THE DARK (Soulwood #3)
Faith Hunter
Ace Books
December 5, 2017

The Soulwood series is an offshoot of Faith Hunter's urban fantasy Jane Yellowrock series, set in the same world and featuring some of the same characters. The difference between the two heroines is profound, however. Soulwood's Nell Ingram is a hill woman raised in a polygamous fundamentalist cult, God's Cloud of Glory Church. Women of the church are second class citizens, no strangers to terror and abuse. Nell is a young widow who has left the church,  starting over away from her family who remains there. She lives close by on the property that her late husband willed to her. The church does not like that, and previous books have covered the conflict. Nell has an unusual ability; a marked affinity with the land and the plants and animals who live on it. PsyLED, the division of Homeland Security that deals with paranormal crimes got wind of her through Jane Yellowrock and recruited her into their ranks, made up of were-creatures, witches, empaths, and other paranormal creatures. 

Nell is now fully integrated into PsyLED Unit 18 after months of intensive training. The unit is assigned to investigate the attempted murder of a Senator, resulting in multiple deaths and a devastating fire. Since the shooter literally disappeared, it is deemed a paranormal crime. As the bodies pile up and fires continue, Unit 18 can't decide whether it is a turf war between paranormals or something even more nefarious. Nell's ability to "read" the land around the Senator's mansion helps them to discover what they are up against. It is frightening and dangerous to all.

Nell Ingram is a unique character, smart, strong, compassionate, determined and possessed of a power of which even she doesn't know the limits. She has come such a long way from the first Soulwood novel, Blood in the Earth. She will never go back to the church but loves her family and has gained acceptance in their ranks. There is even a romance for her among her colleagues that I was afraid ended in tragedy, but Hunter didn't leave us hanging on that!

I highly recommend both Jane Yellowrock and the Soulwood series. I know that I will be re-reading (or listening to the audiobook) before the next is out. Many thanks to NetGalley and Ace Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 5 Stars

Of Homicide, Pancakes and Crepes

Pancake House Mystery #3
Sarah Fox
Random House Alibi
November 7, 2017

Wildwood Cove is looking forward to a visit from Hollywood. A film crew, with several well-known stars, is filming the remake of a cult horror film. Even Marley McKinney, owner of the Flip Side Pancake House is mildly interested, although she is no horror fan. All the crew loves eating at the pancake house so the lead makeup artist, Christine, invites Marly for an exclusive tour. Upon arriving, Marley finds Christine dead and her trailer in flames. The police rule her death a homicide, and Alyssa Jayde, the lead actress in the film, becomes the prime suspect. Further complications arise when Marley discovers that Alyssa is an old flame of her boyfriend, Brett. Marley sets out to find out who the murderer is but there are many people with motives on the film crew. As she learns more about them, it seems that Marley might be the next victim.

I have enjoyed the two previous books in this cozy series. The small town coastal village atmosphere is evocative, and Marley is a likable character. She has a lot of insecurities stemming from the loss of most of her family in an accident that play into her life, and her attempts to overcome them are brave and believable. Of Spice and Men is an excellent addition to the series.

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 3 Stars