Review of “Death Below Stairs” (Kat Holloway Mysteries #1) by Jennifer Ashley

Ashley, Jennifer. Death Below Stairs. New York: Berkley, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-0-399-58551-7. $15.00 USD. 

4 stars

Jennifer Ashley once again proves she is a versatile writer with Death Below Stairs, a first (of a sort) into something new for her. And while the book does have its shortcomings, this is a solid book on its own and as a first in series.

However, despite its declaration of being the first book, there was a lot in terms of the relationship between Kat and Daniel I felt I missed out on due to not having read the prequel novella, A Soupçon of Poison. However, as I got to know the characters in this book, I came to love them, even if some of their actions seem a little bit improbable. Despite it not being primarily a romance, I liked the beginnings of a romantic arc between Kat and Daniel, and look forward to where it goes next. I also liked that Ashley examines class differences in a different way than she or any other historical author I have read has done before. As a cook, Kat has relative freedom and mobility if something tragic should happen, but women like Lady Cynthia are dependent on their relatives with no proper way to earn their livelihood.

The mystery element brought together a number of plot threads, like the plight of a maid in a household at the hands of their master, the relationship between longtime servants with the family, and the contentious relationship between the British government Ireland. All of these factors played roles in the case, but even as each plot thread unfurled, I found myself still unaware of who was behind the murder until the end, which I attribute to skillfull use of misdirection.But the ultimate resolution for the culprit, while ultimately a little unfair, felt in keeping with the established arc for their character.

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