Stevie Carroll's Reviews > A Soupçon of Poison

A Soupçon of Poison by Jennifer Ashley
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really liked it
bookshelves: reviewed-elsewhere

Previously reviewed on The Good, The Bad, and The Unread:

Three novels into Jennifer Ashley’s Below Stairs mystery series, I finally got around to reading the novella that started it all. Most of the familiar characters are there – no Lady Cynthia or her friends, sadly – and the situation Kat Holloway finds herself in at the start is by no means unfamiliar either. She’s taken up a new position that will allow her the unusual number of days off that she requires, but has to contend with awkward demands from her employer and fellow staff members alike in return.

This time around Kat is working for Sir Lionel Leigh-Bradbury, who demands seemingly impossible-to-prepare meals and then complains about them, and alongside a butler, who is well-practised at appropriating his employer’s alcohol while not above blackmailing anyone he thinks he might have power over regarding their secrets. When Sir Lionel’s demands for his meals become ever more elaborate, Kat is able to turn to her friend Daniel McAdam, and it’s Daniel, along with his son James, who once again comes to her rescue when Sir Lionel is stabbed and his friends fall ill after eating one of Kat’s meals, leading to Kat’s imprisonment under suspicion of murder.

Kat and Daniel set out to find the real culprit, which isn’t easy given the number of people who had means, opportunity or motive, but not necessarily all three, for one or both crimes. As part of their investigation, they recreate the meal served on the fateful night, giving readers a chance to see Kat in action at her regular job and to learn a little of how Victorian food was prepared, as well as how it tasted. We also get to see just how easily Victorians could obtain poisons, as documented in a number of popular history series on TV over here, and to follow Kat as she carries out her investigations in a number of districts, which are home to different strata of Victorian society.

The solution to the mystery was not as satisfactory as that of some of the later stories, but it was good to see Kat and Daniel in the very early days of their friendship, and watching them in action – together and separately – is always a delight.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 12, 2019 – Finished Reading
September 13, 2019 – Shelved
September 14, 2019 – Shelved as: reviewed-elsewhere

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