Death at the Crystal Palace
Kat Holloway Mystery #5
By Jennifer Ashley
Brought to you by Reviewer Daniele
Intrepid cook Kat Holloway puts aside her apron to delve into Victorian London’s high society and catch a killer in this thrilling new mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Murder in the East End.
While attending an exhibition at the Crystal Palace, young cook Kat Holloway is approached by a woman in distress. Lady Covington is a wealthy widow convinced that her entire family is trying to kill her. Kat feels compelled to help, and she escorts the lady home to discover whether she is delusional or in true danger.
It is quickly apparent that the threat is all too real, and Kat promises aid. Her charming confidant Daniel McAdam is busy infiltrating a plot against the Crown, and she worries he will not have time to lend his sleuthing expertise. This might be for the best, as Kat fears her growing emotional entanglement with Daniel can only lead to disaster. But soon, Kat faces a more serious threat when her involvement in both investigations plunges her into peril. (Goodreads)
Death at the Crystal Palace, the fifth mystery featuring plucky cook Kat Holloway, is an excellent addition to an outstanding mystery series. With two investigations to solve and a slew of delightful characters, it does not disappoint.
Kat is visiting the Crystal Palace with her daughter and friends when Lady Covington seeks her out, asking for her help because she thinks she is being poisoned. The railway magnate widow’s story is compelling, and Kat agrees to pay her a visit. What she finds is a house full of dysfunction – children and step-children, even household staff, all with the potential to be a murderer. Lady Cynthia volunteers to be Lady Covington’s houseguest so that she may spy for Kat. In addition to helping Kat, this distances Cynthia from her parents who have recently arrived in London with plans to ferry Cynthia back to their country home and marry her off. Despite what intentions her parents claim, Cynthia cannot help but think her father has some swindle in the works. Daniel, too, is busy with his own assignment looking into treasonous aristocracy who may be financing Ireland’s violent quest for Home Rule. He tries to keep Kat out of it all but eventually needs her help.
Kat is so clever and has good instincts that allow her to navigate both above and below-the-stairs. She wears many hats as cook, mother, friend, investigator, and love interest. Some of my favorite scenes occur in the kitchen with her fellow house staff and late evenings alone with Daniel, but her adventure into the world of the upper class is inspired – funny, tender, and stressful. Daniel continues to be somewhat of an enigma transitioning from working class everyman to gentleman with ease. I wonder which persona is closer to his true self. I gobble up every morsel of information he gives up about himself. Kat and Daniel’s romance endures here at a slow burn…at times an excruciatingly slow burn, but I adore them together. Lady Cynthia and scholar Elgin continue to dance around each other, but their chemistry is surely a sign of a blossoming romance. I enjoy all of the relationships of the characters, but my favorite is Kat’s deepening friendship with Lady Cynthia. Two ladies could not be more different from one another, but their interactions feel genuine.
There is a lot going on within these pages, and author Jennifer Ashley weaves the various mysteries together with a deft hand. The mysteries are engaging and kept me guessing. There were clues pointing to the poisoner, but I did not connect all of the dots before Kat did. Daniel’s investigation leads to quite a dangerous resolution, and its final twist is superb.
The Kat Holloway series is magnificent historical mystery fiction, and Death at the Crystal Palace is not to be missed. Highly recommended.