A cook and a man of mystery investigate theft and murder in Victorian London.
Ashley (Death Below Stairs, 2018, etc.) introduces cook Kat Holloway just as the roast pig, the crowning glory of the dinner being served to her employers, Lady Cynthia and her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Bywater, lands on the floor. Ever resourceful, Kat quickly substitutes a fowl dish and saves the day. Shorthanded because of the Bywaters’ parsimony, Kat takes on Tess Parsons, a kitchen maid recommended by her friend Daniel McAdam, who not long ago assisted her in solving a murder. Handsome and charming, Daniel is certainly more than the jack-of-all-trades he appears to be. Despite their mutual attraction, Kat worries that she hasn’t learned much about his past or even his present, though she suspects he works with the police. His current job in a pawnshop that receives stolen goods makes him well-placed to address a problem brought to Kat by Lady Cynthia, a daring young woman who often goes about dressed as a man. Lady Cynthia’s friend Lady Clementina Godfrey has been accused by her husband of selling some of his paintings to pay her debts. When Kat visits their home, however, she’s sure that Sir Evan Godfrey has secretly sold his paintings for money to feed his passion for ancient artifacts, some of which are passing through Daniel’s pawnshop. When a number of guests are taken ill and one dies at a dinner party hosted by the Godfreys, Kat and Tess save the cook from being arrested—not only because they’re helping her, but because Tess tasted every dish without suffering any ill effects. Now all they have to do is find a killer and the thieves who have been stealing antiquities.
A complex and often downright messy mystery is redeemed by plenty of Victorian details, quirky characters, and romance.