Published by Berkley on August 4, 2020
Genres: Historical Mystery
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Also in this series: A Soupçon of Poison, Death Below Stairs, Death at the Crystal Palace
A new upstairs, downstairs Victorian murder mystery in the Kat Holloway series from the New York Times bestselling author of Death in Kew Gardens.
When young cook Kat Holloway learns that the children of London's Foundling Hospital are mysteriously disappearing and one of their nurses has been murdered, she can't turn away. She enlists the help of her charming and enigmatic confidant Daniel McAdam, who has ties to Scotland Yard, and Errol Fielding, a disreputable man from Daniel's troubled past, to bring the killer to justice. Their investigation takes them from the grandeur of Mayfair to the slums of the East End, during which Kat learns more about Daniel and his circumstances than she ever could have imagined.
Murder and missing orphans in London’s East End
Kat and Daniel investigate the disappearance of several orphan children and a young nursemaid in Murder in the East End. I expected slighly more complexity from this mystery than the eventual solution offered, but I found it absorbing nonetheless… and I was delighted by the ongoing friendships and attractions between the recurring characters. We learn quite a bit more about Daniel’s past and his mysterious employer, but far from everything. The book introduces two new (and probably recurring) characters: Errold Fielding, a shady character from Daniel’s past who is now a vicar, and Miss Townsend, a gifted artist and dear friend (and lover) of Lady Cynthia’s best friend, Bobbi. The relationships between Kat and Daniel, and between Cynthia and Mr. Thanos, continue to develop…slowly.
Previous books have been set primarily in the upstairs/downstairs world of the Victorian upper and upper-middle classes and their servants, but Murder in the East End takes us squarely into the poorer sections of London. We get a clear look at some of the dangers poor children faced, particularly if they had no parents or other protectors, and of the Foundling Hospital that cared for (or warehoused) some of the luckier orphans. We also get an unexpected reminder of the precariousness of nineteenth-century working-class life; Kat’s employment situation is good, but all domestic workers’ positions rested on the whims of their employers. All in all, the book is a sobering reminder of the darker side of Victorian life.
Despite the grimmer tone, I really enjoyed this installment in the Kat Holloway series. As soon as I finished it, I dove right into the next book, Death at the Crystal Palace (published 7/06/2021). And I’m planning to give the first few volumes to at least one person for Christmas.
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