Death at the Crystal Palace, by Jennifer Ashley

July 12, 2021 Book Reviews 7 ★★★★½

Death at the Crystal Palace, by Jennifer AshleyDeath at the Crystal Palace by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Kat Holloway #5
Published by Berkley on July 6, 2021
Genres: Historical Mystery
Pages: 336
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: the publisher
Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Bookshop | Audible
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Also in this series: A Soupçon of Poison, Death Below Stairs, Murder in the East End, The Secret of Bow Lane
Also by this author: A Soupçon of Poison, Death Below Stairs, Murder in the East End, The Secret of Bow Lane

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.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

Poison, bombs, and strained family relationships

Death at the Crystal Palace offers up two separate mysteries for the intrepid and perceptive Kat Holloway. Lady Covington approaches Kat at the Crystal Palace. She believes she is being poisoned by someone in her household, and asks Kat to discover by whom—and why. Kat’s friend Daniel McAdam is on assignment for his mysterious superior, looking into the financial backers of Irish extremists, and Kat gets caught up in this investigation as well. Meanwhile, Lady Cynthia’s mother and charming rogue of a father have arrived in London and are pressuring her to marry. It looks like Kat has her work cut out for her: uncover the poisoner, assist Daniel, and remain a supportive friend to Lady Cynthia without overstepping the boundaries of class and position. It’s a good thing Kat’s young assistant, Tess, is now able to take over some of the cooking!

I’m honestly not sure which I enjoy more about this series: the ongoing relationships between the recurring characters, which continue to develop and become more entwined, or the mysteries posed and solved in each individual book. I think it’s the mix of both that keeps me coming back for more. The mystery of who is poisoning Lady Covington kept me guessing until nearly the end. I love the simmering feelings between Kat and Daniel, Kat’s relationship with the unconventional Lady Cynthia and her friends, and the attraction between Cynthia and Daniel’s charmingly awkward friend Thanos. The fabulous food in these books doesn’t hurt, either! I positively salivated over the descriptions of Kat’s lemon cake, and will have to track down a similar recipe in real life. Her Antiguan custards sound equally delicious.

I do wonder how long Ms. Ashley will spin out the romantic relationship between Kat and Daniel. It is deepening and growing, but only by the tiniest increments in each book. At this point, the unresolved nature of their true feelings for one another has become a key facet of the books, which serves to keep the characters interesting and complex and entices readers to stick with the series. However, if a writer leaves a romantic relationship “hanging” for too long, at some point the relationship and the series itself can begin to stagnate; the tensions become not a source of character development but merely a device. So far, Ms. Ashley has handled the delicate balance of Kat and Daniel’s relationship very well. I am trusting her to allow it to continue to develop, and not leave their growing feelings in a kind of limbo for too long.

Recommended: for fans of historical mystery with just a hint of romance. (But start at the beginning of the series, as these books are much better read in order.)


Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • COYER Seasons 2021: Spring

7 Responses to “Death at the Crystal Palace, by Jennifer Ashley”

  1. Katherine

    This one sounds so good! I do wonder about the relationship part as well. There’s a fine line between realistic developing of a relationship and drawing it out too long and I’m hoping Ashley deals with it well. So far I definitely trust her because I’ve loved each book in the series. I’m going to use an audible credit on this one. I listened to the last book and really loved the audio version.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I’m trusting her too, for the same reason. I haven’t tried the audiobooks yet; I was in a hurry to get through the series because I had the ARC of this one!

  2. Nicole @ BookWyrm Knits

    Okay… I’m going to have to start this series just so I can get to this book. 😉 I know someone that we jokingly call The Lady Covington, so that name caught my eye right away.

    How cozy vs. gritty would you say this series is? I’ve seen historicals that fall on both sides, and it’s something that I prefer to know going in.
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I’d say somewhere in the middle, slightly toward the cozy side (but not the light, fluffy type of cozy.) The series doesn’t revel in violence by any means, but there is the occasional altercation and/or dead body. The fourth book doesn’t shy away from the dangers faced by women and unprotected children in the seedier parts of London, but it doesn’t go into detail, either. If you’ve read any Rhys Bowen, the tone of the Kat Holloway/Death Below Stairs series is more serious, like Bowen’s Molly Murphy mysteries, and not nearly as light as the Royal Spyness mysteries.