Author: Jennifer Ashley
Series: Kat Holloway Mysteries
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Format: Kindle ARC
No. of Pages: 304
Date of Publication: August 2. 2022
My Rating: 5 Stars
In Victorian-era London, amateur sleuth and cook Kat Holloway must solve a murder to claim an inheritance she didn’t know she had in a riveting new historical mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Death at the Crystal Palace.
A stranger who appears on Kat's doorstep turns out to be one Charlotte Bristow, legal wife of Joe Bristow, the man Kat once believed herself married to—who she thought died at sea twelve years ago. Kat is jolted by Charlotte’s claims that not only was Joe murdered, but he had amassed a small fortune before he died. Charlotte makes the cook an offer she cannot refuse—if Kat can discover the identity of Joe's murderer, Charlotte will give her a share of the fortune Joe left behind.
With the help of Daniel McAdam, her attractive and charismatic confidante, Kat plunges into her own past to investigate. When it becomes apparent that the case of Joe’s death goes far deeper than simple, opportunistic theft, Kat and Daniel's relationship is put to the test, and Kat herself comes under scrutiny as her connection to Joe is uncovered. She must race to catch the real killer before she loses her job and possibly her life.
In this engaging installment in the Kat Holloway Mysteries, Kat’s relationship with Daniel McAdam has hit a rock bottom. In part, approached by a woman named Charlotte Bristow, the widow of Joe Bristow, plays into the strain of their relationship. This enjoyable story pairs our amateur sleuth Kat with Daniel McAdam, all while their slow-burning romances is woven into the pages of the series.
Why does Charlotte‘s appearance have an effect on Kat? Well, Charlotte is not the only widow of Joe. In fact, Kat is also Joe’s widow. How can that be? Was he married to both of them at the same time? And of course Kat needs to know what Charlotte expects of her now.
Missing Daniel deeply after the two had a falling out, Kat finds herself distracted by what Charlotte wants. Joe is said to have a fortune that he acquired and it would be helpful to both Charlotte and Kat. This could actually benefit her, considering this fortune Joe apparently had at the time of his death. So she starts investigating Joe’s death of a dozen years ago, and finds that she must enlist Daniel’s help yet again.
In this sixth book of the series, we have come to see that Kat is a very talented cook who has taken on some wonderful jobs in some beautiful environments. This book has less focus is on her cooking, and more on her past relationship with Joe, as well as how this in any way impacts her present and possible future relationship with Daniel. Meanwhile, Kat continues to spend as much time as she can with her young daughter Grace, who is happily living with another family and Kat loves that stability that Grace has. The two share a fond, loving relationship.
It proves impossible for Kat and Daniel to be away from one another, especially when Daniel‘s expertise as an undercover agent with Scotland Yard comes into play, but he is also a man of many faces. He might be able to get answers that Kat cannot.
What a delightful story and series as a whole. Jennifer Ashley has created this wonderful series set in the Victorian era, with people who work together, sometimes eschewing class distinction, to the better good of solving crimes, and in some cases murder.
This book can be read as a standalone novel, Readers will not have any problem following this engaging story. However, for the sake of continuity, especially as Kat and Daniel’s relationship blooms, reading the series from the beginning would definitely be a wonderful experience for any lover of cozy mystery with a touch of romance and danger.
Many thanks to Berkley Books and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.
Please enjoy the following excerpt:
THE SECRET OF BOW LANE – Excerpt
Murdered him?" I repeated the words in amazement. "For a powerful lot of money? What are you talking about? Joe died at sea. So said the solicitor who came to me after his death." To explain I was not truly Joe's wife and that none of his things belonged to me.
"Joe did die. But not from his ship going down, like they told me, and like they told you."
I made myself release the railing and move closer to her. The rumbling of wheels on cobblestones would ensure we weren't overheard, but I did not want to shout this business on the street.
"How do you know?" I demanded. "Anyone can feed you a rigmarole."
Charlotte was about the same height as me. She stared straight at me, her chin at a stubborn tilt.
"A friend of Joe's has visited me now and then over the years. He's always said something weren't right with Joe's death."
Charlotte spoke the words as though reciting a speech, jaw stiff, hands clenched. She had a haunted look about her, I thought, as though she was unhappy but determined not to reveal any misery to the world.
"What friend?" I asked.
"I'm getting to that. Joe had a man who worked for him, apparently. Fellow doted on Joe, would do anything for him, so this other friend says. After Joe died, the man disappeared, and so did the cash Joe's friend knows Joe had. The solicitors searched for everything Joe had left, but there never was much. I got what they found, as was my right as the widow."
Unlike me, who deserved nothing, the flash in her eyes said.
A bailiff and constable had accompanied the solicitor when he'd come to search my house for any goods Joe might have left behind, intent on carrying off whatever they could to give to Charlotte and her son. That was the day I'd learned about my husband's true wife.
"He never had any money when he was with me," I said.
"No, he went through it fast enough." Charlotte's expression told me she hated to agree with me. "But that was his pocket money. Seems that Joe had much more, stashed away, entrusted to someone, maybe, for the day he quit sailing and retired. This devoted assistant of his stole it—he must have done—and I think he killed Joe while he was at it." Charlotte's bosom, in its drab brown cotton, rose with determination. "If you help me find the money, I'll give you a portion of it."
I digested the story but did not give much credit to it. "I asked you before: Why on earth come to me? Why would you tell me these things and then offer me compensation for my assistance?"
Charlotte's scowl became fierce. "I've heard things, haven't I? On the street, like. I went to Bow Lane and asked about you, and everyone there told me that you were now a snooty cook in a grand house in Mayfair, and that you've helped the police find out a thing or two. I decided you'd be the one person who'd be interested in what happened to Joe's money. Working in a house like this ain't the same as living in it, is it?" Charlotte cast Number 43 Mount Street a disparaging glance.
"You went to Bow Lane?" A chill touched my heart. No one in my old street knew I'd been tricked into a bigamous marriage-they only knew I'd lost my husband and gone to work to support my child.
"That's where the bailiffs said you came from." Charlotte's stare held no remorse. "So that's where I went."
"You had no business doing so." My lips were stiff. "No business coming here."
Charlotte cocked her head. "You going to help me, or not? There's plenty in it for ya. Joe, they say, stashed away a good bit before he fell off his perch. Was pushed off, I think, by that rat."
So many emotions chased through me that I wondered how I could remain standing at all.
"Your husband never had money in his life," I said sharply. "Even if he had acquired some, it would have slipped through his fingers or been poured down his throat before long. I want nothing to do with him, or the few coins he might have found by the wayside. And I want nothing to do with you."
My jaw so rigid I feared it might break, I turned on my heel and made for the stairs to the kitchen.
"You're a frosty bitch, ain't ya?" Charlotte called to me. "Joe only wanted you on your back. But he came home to me."
I refused to listen any longer. I marched down the stairs, pretending dignity, but my heart pounded and bile roiled in my stomach.
Charlotte called me another unflattering name, then stomped away, her boots crunching on loose stones in the street, her footsteps fading into the rumbling of wheels.
I retained the proud lift of my head until I reached the bottom step, out of sight of the road. There, my legs gave way, and I collapsed to the stairs, my arms pressed tightly over my stomach as I gasped desperately for breath.
Excerpted from The Secret of Bow Lane by Jennifer Ashley Copyright © 2022 by Jennifer Ashley. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Please enjoy my YouTube video review, including mini reviews of the first five books in the series -
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jennifer Ashley is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Below Stairs Mysteries, the Shifters Unbound paranormal romances, and the Mackenzies historical romances. She also writes as USA Today bestselling mystery author Ashley Gardner.
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