Death Below Stairs

Written by Jennifer Ashley
Review by Bryan Dumas

Kat Holloway, a well-respected cook in Victorian England, lands a job in the stuffy house of Lord and Lady Rankin. All too quickly, Kat finds herself embroiled in the murder of a house servant and the intrigue surrounding it. Added to the fact that the mysterious Daniel McAdams is loitering around the house, it becomes clear to Kat that there is more going on in the Rankin household than meets the eye. Together with Daniel, his eccentric math genius friend Thanos, and Lady Cynthia—Lady Rankin’s sister, equally eccentric in that she loves to dress in men’s clothing—Kat sets out to uncover those responsible for the murder. However, they find themselves in a deeper plot involving Fenians and the Queen herself.

I have many issues with this book. First, let me say that the Victorian setting, dialog, and characters are well-written. However, many aspects of the plot just don’t seem to mesh or matter at all—the death of the house girl could have been omitted completely, and the resolution to her death just falls flat. There are many instances where it is made clear that Kat and Daniel have a past—a deep, tangled history—but it is never explained. It turns out that that information is found in a prequel novella. The plot revolving around the Fenians and Queen is tightly written, tense and mystery-worthy, but even in its resolution, there are many subplots left unresolved. And, ultimately, I couldn’t help but wonder at how a cook in Victorian England had so much free time on her hands to allow her to run around London and the South of England.

If you are willing to set aside a critical eye and a need for historical accuracy, Death Below Stairs is a cozy mystery with fun characters.