Saturday 29 October 2016

Reviewed: The Devil's Feast by M.J. Carter

TITLE: The Devil's Feasr
AUTHOR: M.J. Carter

PUBLICATION DATE: October 27, 2016

Amazon - Goodreads

London, 1842. There has been a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London's newest and grandest gentleman's club. A death the club is desperate to hush up.

Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate, and soon discovers a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club's handsome façade-and in particular concerning its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, 'the Napoleon of food', a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity.

But Avery is distracted, for where his mentor and partner-in-crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death was only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister?

The Devil’s Feast is book three in M.J. Carter’s Avery and Blake series. I haven’t read the first two – but I really wish I had! Not because these books can’t be read as standalones, as they can, but because I found the third book in the series to be highly entertaining and engaging, a treat of a book with a compelling mystery and a vivid, intriguing Victorian London setting and timeframe.

Since this was my first introduction to the characters of William Avery and Jeremiah Blake, I was glad to say I loved them. Avery is a little naïve whilst Blake is the more shrewd and suspicious one. Together, they work brilliantly. The dynamics and dialogue between them were vibrant and amusing. At the beginning of the book, Avery is visiting Blake in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison where he has been imprisoned, wrongly. As Blake is then unavailable, it is Avery who attends dinner at a much-talked about place, The Refom Club. Shortly following the dinner, a guest dies. They’ve been poisoned.

The author had me engrossed straight away with an unusual and slightly creepy prologue which piqued my interest and turned reading “just a few pages” into reading half the book in one sitting. There were times when I found the writing veered on the bit too detailed side where I would have liked to have seen a bit more action instead – as the author had already described enough to engage me, although this was simply because I was eager to discover the culprit, not because I found the descriptive pieces uninteresting.

The mystery of who poisoned the guest had me fascinated, and through the author’s descriptive prose, the theme of the novel was never forgotten with foodie references and mouth-watering details aplenty. Someone may have been poisoned but The Devil’s Feast was still a true belly-rumbler of a book! I loved the insight into the chef’s kitchen. There were lies, deceit, jealousy, hate and an atmosphere that made me squirm at the intensity of it all. The author paints a very vibrant picture of the setting and the dynamics between the characters who were all sharply written – each one of them, even the minor characters, had something about them that was interesting and I can honestly say there wasn’t a character I didn’t enjoy reading about.

The Victorian mystery was thrilling to read, cleverly plotted and dark in both its theme and the twists and turns throughout. There appeared to be quite a strong focus on characterisation and the London setting, but this only enhanced the whole reading experience to me as I could really buy into the plot and the various, animated characters had me eager to keep turning the pages. The story of life in the kitchen was a riveting one, with all the in-house politics and principles and all this had me in anticipation of the reveal of the poisoner, intrigued by any possible motive and reward. I enjoyed the author’s delectable style of writing and her development of the characters and the mystery in The Devil’s Feast, and I look forward to catching up on the other books in the Avery and Blake series.

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