Monday, December 30, 2019

Death in Kew Gardens

Title:  Death in Kew Gardens
Series:  A Below Stairs Mystery Book 3
Author:  Jennifer Ashley
Publication Information:  Berkley. 2019. 304 pages.
ISBN:  039958790X / 978-0399587900

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The Chinese gentleman ran from between the carriages that packed the length of Mount Street and straight into my path."

Favorite Quote:  "If we'd been born monkeys or some such animal, there would be no difference between us at all. We'd share a space on a branch without thinking a think about it."

Death in Kew Gardens is the third in the series of Below Stairs Mysteries featuring Kat Holloway. While it is not absolutely necessary to have read the books in order, it is beneficial in this case. Many of the characters from the other books feature in this book. Although the mystery is new, most of the secondary plot lines continue from the previous books.

These books are a little bit of an upstairs downstairs story as Kat is a cook in a wealthy household. She is the hired help but also friend to at least one of the family - Lady Cynthia carries on with her independent ways. This book adds a multicultural element into this very British setting. The mystery centers around Chinese tea, trade between the two regions, and a Chinese gentleman who becomes a murder suspect. Given the time and place of the setting, this is significant.

It is good to know that Kat Holloway's character stays true to form. She continues to speak her mind, take no nonsense, and stand up for what she believes in. In this book, that issue becomes racial prejudice. The Chinese gentleman is the "other". He is the different one. Thus, his actions are automatically deemed more suspect. Fortunately, Kat stands up to that prejudice and for someone she befriends. She makes judgments based on fact not prejudice.

The theme of prejudice spills over into Kat's personal story as well. The household has a new housekeeper who clearly looks down upon Kat, who is only the "cook." She makes it clear that Kat should stay in her place, and that is clearly below the housekeeper's. In a different way, Kat's fear of prejudice and judgment makes her keep her daughter a secret from most of the world. The secret is revealed to Lady Cynthia in this book. She, too, stays true to form and offers acceptance and understanding not judgment.

The mystery and the progress of the book has the same look and feel as the first two books. That, of course, is the charm and the challenge of a series. How to grow the characters and create a unique story and yet keep the recognizable look of the series. That theme of understanding and acceptance to me becomes the lasting message of this book more so than the mystery itself. This is what makes it unique from the first two.

If you are interested in the author's other work, note that she writes under three names. As Jennifer Ashley, she writes historical, paranormal, and contemporary romance. As Ashley Gardner, she authors mysteries. Allyson James is the name for the paranormal romance and urban fantasy books. Worth exploring!

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment