Monday, August 10, 2020

Murder in the East End, by Jennifer Ashley

Berkley, ISBN 9780593099377, August 2020

In Victorian London, children from the Foundling Hospital are disappearing, and a nurse at the hospital has also vanished. Kat Holloway, cook in the aristocratic Bywater household, learns of this when her rather enigmatic friend, Daniel McAdam, sends for her to meet his foster brother, Errol Fielding. He's a vicar, now, and a very junior member of the board of governors of the Foundling Hospital. He asked Daniel for help, and Daniel decided that they needed Kat's help.

Kat, Daniel McAdam, and Fielding all have their secrets, and Daniel, for good reason, doesn't really trust his foster brother. Yet the children are missing, and Nurse Betts is soon found murdered. It's clear, also, that whatever other motives he has, Fielding had real feelings for Nurse Betts, and wants her killer found.

This is an intricate story with interesting and complex characters. We continue to learn more about both the major figures and the continuing supporting characters, in a Victorian mystery that is, unlike many, set among the working classes and those among the upper classes who don't quite fit into their assigned roles.
Lady Cynthia, for instance, Mrs. Bywater's niece, resists wearing women's clothing, or cooperating with her aunt's determination to marry her off, while being interested in a perfectly respectable young man who is not of appropriate social standing. She's also maintaining a friendship with Lady Roberta, and her new love, Miss Townsend. This was more common in Victorian London than we might typically assume, and more famous examples (of higher birth and consequently more protected against potential legal consequences) exist.

It's a sometimes gritty look at the lower classes and the fringes of society, with a good mystery and good characters. Recommended.

I receive a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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