The Devil's Feast by M.J. Carter

The Devil's Feast

M.J. Carter

“Superlative . . .  Carter again has crafted an ingenious, fast-moving plot with emotional depth and plausible surprises.”—Publishers Weekly

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Investigative team Blake and Avery find themselves entangled in a case involving political conflicts, personal vendettas, and England’s first celebrity chef.

London, 1842. Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate 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. What he soon discovers is a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club’s handsome façade. At the center is 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 is his mentor and partner in crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death is only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister?

Advance Galley Reviews

M.J. Carter has done an excellent job creating a thoroughly engaging mystery with The Devil's Feast. The characters are interesting and complex, while the mystery was wonderfully paced. The character of Soyer was actually a real person and was very much a head of his times. It was fascinating to read about him in both a real and fictional context. Carter's research was meticulous. This is the third book in the series and even though I hadn't read any of the previous novels, I had no problems jumping right in. I plan to go back and read the first two installments in the series as soon as I can. The Devil's Feast is a well written historical mystery and a highly readable novel.

Yes yes yes!

Please, for the love of all that is holy, can you arrange for .mobi files so those of us who are Kindle readers (I take mine with me EVERYWHERE) don't have to suffer through trying to read this on a backlit screen? I wanted to like this book so much, but the Victorian setting took more concentration than usual, which meant more eye strain and fatigue, which meant that I developed a headache so bad I had to put it down. :( I may keep trying in bits and pieces, but I would much prefer to be able to be immersed in the story (as I'm sure the author would prefer too).

An excellent book that reflects the authors? hard work and intelligence put together in form of an interesting novel.... Recommended to all..

This series is a ton of fun to read. The covers are magnificent, and I was glad I got to read it early. Thanks to First to Read for the copy.

Like some others, I read this book without reading the rest of the series, but I still loved it! It's the best book I've read so far this year. I loved the science elements and mystery. It's clear this is a thoroughly researched book.

I had entered to receive an advanced copy of this book for First to Read, not knowing that it was third in a series. However, I was still able to enjoy this mystery. I thought that the characters were written; I liked Blake more than Avery. While I enjoyed the writing and story, I will say that there were time that the book seemed to drag and become a bit tedious, but I was glad I finished the story. I am planning to seek out the first two book of the series.

This being my first official review here, I would like to express my appreciation for Penguin's First-to-Read program. As an avid reader (as well as a school librarian and former large company bookseller), I have always loved getting my hands on the latest and greatest. That said, on to my review... I enjoy historical fiction and very much value and respect the great lengths authors go to when researching background information for their novels, and this story accomplishes both. Unfortunately, I bid for the ARC of this novel without realizing it was part of a series, so there were times where I was a bit confused because I did not have the requisite background information. However, Carter's writing style helped carry me through and the mystery kept me intrigued. I am a fan of murder mysteries but tend to stay away from mystery books because I am disappointed when I figure out the killer too early in the story. The Devil's Feast definitely kept me on my toes, though, and while I had my suspicions as to the culprit I still was enthralled with the plot (and FYI, I was wrong, ha!).

I would like to thank the Penguin First-to-Read program for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. Disclaimer: I received this book, not knowing at the time that this book was a part of a series. It was the third book in the Avery and Blake mystery series to be precise. I don’t think that my review would give the book justice, at least until I can read the first two volumes. The story centers primarily from the perspective of Captain William Avery (Watson), who is temporarily visiting his partner in crime investigation Jeremiah Black (Sherlock), who is presently locked away in debtor’s prison. Avery soon gets invited to a splendid feast at the Reform Club, a gentlemen’s political club. The event is a grand spectacle created by the brilliant Alexis Soyer, described as “A Napoleon of food.” So great of night, in fact, that one of the diners dies of arsenic poisoning. Captain Avery now finds himself in the scene of the crime and is tasked to solve it. Overall, the mystery was a fun Victorian historical romp. M. J. Carter’s description of the food was downright salivating. One can tell that there was a lot of research that was used to flesh out the fiction. At times this excessive research, however, took one out of the context of the plot. Carter threw in some good red herrings to keep me guessing on who the culprit is. (My problem with reading mysteries is that I usually pick the killer too quick making most of a mystery a slog to get through.) I had some hunches on the culprit, but the plot twisted and turned enough to keep me entertained. Whenever I read a historical mystery with this dynamic, I want to learn more about the Sherlock than Watson. Without Blake, Avery’s insecurities made the case more of a muddle than anything else. I wanted to know more about scarred Blake. (Maybe there is more backstory about the characters that I missed by not reading the first two volumes.) Honestly, the mystery had an average mix of twists and turns, with an extensive collection of characters. It is hard to analysis, however, because I jumped in the middle of a story without the previous context of the first two novels. (I will add The Strangler Vine and The Infidel Stain to my reading list) Beyond my disclaimer, The Devil’s Feast was a very entertaining read nonetheless.

I love M.J. Carter's Blake and Avery novels for her meticulous research into 19th century England (and especially India), for the relationship between our two sleuths, and for the mysteries themselves. In *The Devil's Feast* Avery is pretty much on his own, having been asked by the directors of the Reform Club to look into the death of a guest at a private dinner party hosted and provided by their star chef, Alexis Soyer. Avery has not been accustomed to think beneath the surface for most of his life, so he is once again required to master a steep learning curve without Jeremiah Blake to lead him. MJC has a lot going on here ---- politics (How do the deaths tie into Whig vs. Tory and a visit form the son of an Egyptian Pasha?) and the place of women (the juxtaposition of Avery's wife Helen with the newly upwardly-mobile kitchen help Matty) to name a couple. The writing is good; the mystery is good; the food is spectacular! Many thanks, First To Read, for the opportunity to have a look at this one ahead of time!

I am sorry I can't leave a review of The Devil's Feast since the downloaded file could not be opened. I have read and liked the other books in the series and regret missing the opportunity to read this book.

Not read any of M J Carter's books before. Interesting book and not necessary to get up to speed as to who Avery and Blake are. Way more info about politics of the time than I needed but learned a lot as I read the book. Food descriptions yummy. Overall a good read

I hate that this was my first selection for First to Read. I went in open minded, but I couldn't even make myself finish. The plot and characters are all derivative and the pacing is glacial. This was just not for me at all.

The Devil's Feast allows the reader entry into the secluded world of a male's only club. The luxurious Reform Club is the envy of London's gentleman's clubs, not only for its exquisite decor, but for the mouth watering food served there by celebrated Chef Alexis Soyer. Unexpectedly, Captain Avery receives an invitation to one of Soyer's private dinners held at the club. Unfortunately, he witnesses the agonizing death of a fellow guest. A postmortem determines the cause of death to be arsenic poisoning. The Reform's board implores Avery to determine if the death is merely an accident or perhaps, murder. Also, he must move quickly because in a week the club will host an important banquet that concerns foreign affairs outcomes. Since his partner, Jeremiah Blake is currently indisposed, Avery wonders if he is up to the task. Nonetheless, he agrees to investigate. As infighting, debts and personal grievances hamper the investigation, Blake magically appears, and just in the nick of time, since another poisoning has occurred. Eventually, the two unearth the perpetrator. The Devil's Feast is a delectable addition to the Blake & Avery series by MJ Carter. All aspects of the story are thoroughly detailed, especially Soyer's kitchen and the decadent array of food. Furthermore, Carter has crafted an enjoyable page turner with one misstep; the conclusion ties the story together, but lacks depth.

First off, I want to thank Penguin's First-to-Read for allowing me to read this arc for an honest review. I'll start off with my likes, then my likes, and finally my personal thoughts. What did I like about this novel? 1. I enjoyed the characters, Avery and Blake. 2. I loved the details this author went into for this book. This author describes the scenes quite well. 3. It made me hungry. It should be the opposite considering this is a historical fiction/mystery novel. 4. I enjoyed how outspoken Matty was for that time period. 5. For the most part, it flowed okay for me. What didn't I like about this novel? 1. The author could have excluded Helen and a few other characters. They were completely useless to the story. 2. There were grammatical errors in this novel. "Had had," and a lot of prepositions. There were added words, the author could have left out of the story. 3. I didn't like Helen. 4. With historical fiction, we have to be careful with the time period. 5. I didn't care for Collinson. 6. For the most part, I predicted who the criminal was. What are my personal thoughts? As I stated before, you have to be careful when you are quoting a period of time. History buffs will tend to call you out, for misrepresentation of a certain period of time from the past. I do appreciate the author's honesty at the end of the book. The author acknowledged that the time period wasn't correct. Don't read this book on an empty stomach. It wasn't a great book, but it wasn't a bad read either. You have to figure out the plot and the criminal.

Where Carter excels is in the building up of great characters. Even though Chef Soyer was an historical figure, I had never heard of him -- and yet she created someone quite credible and complex for me. The same is true for many of the characters who populate The Devil's Feast. The plot, while interesting, was not all that suspenseful; it didn't really leave me caring about who actually committed the poisonings. All the same, I enjoyed reading it.

A novel by M.J. Carter London, England, in the year 1842, is a great simmering beast of a city. Riches pour in from the four corners of the world; children are worked like draft animals to serve the fortunate few. The Capitol of the British Empire, on which the Sun, famously, never sets is a place where grandeur and squalor exist in equal measure. Into that teeming mass of wealth and ebullience, abject poverty and misery, Captain William Avery has come from his pastoral home in Devon. His reason? To try to convince his friend, Jeremiah Blake, to bend the knee to Collinson, his patron and employer, and by so doing be released from Marshalsea Debtor’s Prison. All his arguments are in vain, as Blake refuses to work for a man who unjustly had him imprisoned, stating that, “He (Collinson) trades my labor for favors from men I despise. I will not work at his whim.“ Dejected, but resigned to Blake’s outrage, Avery resolves to begin his journey home in the morning. Here Fate takes a hand, and, overnight, the Captain finds himself investigating a suspicious death at the famous, and lavish, Reform Club. Soon one death becomes three, and there are suspects everywhere. Then Blake disappears and the powers that be won‘t put off the upcoming banquet. And a frustrated Avery is no closer to finding who is poisoning the club’s patrons or determining the reason for the murders. “The Devil’s Feast” is filled with historical details that bring Queen Victoria’s London to life. Some are surprising in their modernity and not a few of them, like the description of the stockyards, or the treatment of child laborers, are very cringe worthy. The characters shine, the dialogue is believable, and the descriptions are vivid. As an avid reader of Historical Fiction, I can say that the research and blending of factual with fictional are on par with the best I have read. As far as writing goes, the book is excellent. However, as a story this novel has problems. As a reader I always want the central character of a story to be forceful, bold and heroic. Unfortunately, Captain Avery was more wobbly than anything else; too often going to and fro with little to show for it. Overall, I thought the book too long by a good bit and the pace too slow. Only after Blake joins the chase, and begins to pull rabbits out of his hat does the plot move with purpose. Consider if you will the notes delivered to the Chef, Alexis Soyer, early on: Notes written by an educated person who is fluent in English. Why weren’t the ignorant eliminated as suspects? That certainly would have taken out of consideration the tradesmen, most of the staff and those cooks who did not speak the language. Please, explain why are there events that seem to be tossed into the book just to flavor the pot? For instance, why have Avery arrested? Wasn’t he frustrated enough? Why have his wife show up in London as the story was coming to an end? Why have Collinson come to order Blake to save the day without also lifting the charge of indebtedness? While I admire Ms. Carter’s writing style and ability, absent some serious editing, I cannot recommend this novel to anyone, save her most devoted fans. Many thanks to Penguin Random House's First To Read program for providing me with an advance galley in return for this review.

I am one of those people who need to like the main character to get into a book. If by page 50 I don't care what happens to him/her then I am done. I stopped reading at page 50.

This was a really good read. Somewhat long winded in some details, it was however mostly a great adventure. Captain Avery finds himself at the scene of an arsenic poisoning and quite without his frontman, partner in solving crime, Blake, who indecently is stuck in debters jail, refusing to do the questionable bidding of his patron. But over the course of days, Avery carries on, fumbling his way into clues that will lead him, and then also Blake who has orchestrated an escape to joined Avery, down a mazed path of dead ends, twists and turns, and finally to the culprit. I had a lot of fun staying up past my bedtime with this tale and look forward to reading the first two books in this series.

I received an ARC of 'The Devil's Feast' by M.J Carter from the First to Read program for free in exchange for my review. I have not read any of M.J. Carter's previous works with Jeremiah Blake and William Avery, I enjoy historical fiction, specifically British detective novels, so there was plenty to enjoy in The Devil's Feast. I agree with the other reviewers there are a lot of characters to enjoy within this novel and would add that the development of several is a joy to read. I don't think I have ever read any novel but particularly a mystery where food played such a prominent role. It made for a unique reading experience that I would highly recommend.

It is always pure pleasure to read a Blake & Avery adventure. Ms. Carter puts an amazing amount of research into her stories. Captain Avery is still wonderfully naïve compared to Jem Blake. More of Blake's background is revealed to Avery (and us). The setting of The Devil's Feast is still London but a higher class neighborhood than the previous story. The murders revolve around the Reform Club and its famous kitchen. Men are dying painfully after dining at the club. It seems pretty hit-or-miss as to victims. Or is it? Avery catches this case much to his delight and dismay. Blake is in prison due to a professional squabble with his sometime boss. Avery can't budge him. And he needs help! The kitchen is amazing and the chef uses his various inventions and directs sixty plus people, all while inventing amazing dishes to wow the club members and their guests. This book has lots of interesting characters and suspects. Enjoy!

The Devil’s Feast is the third book in M. J. Carter’s historical mystery series featuring Jeremiah Blake and William Avery. Avery takes center stage when he is asked to investigate a mysterious death at the Reform Club, one that may result in international diplomatic repercussions. He is uncertain he can handle the task without Blake who is unavailable as he’s in debtor prison, a ploy to pressure him into taking a case he does not want to take. This was my first experience with the series and i did not suffer from not reading the first two. When backstory was needed, it was presented without fuss or long explication. Past relationships were made manifest by dialogue and unobtrusive explanations by the narrator, William Avery. Of course, Blake finds a way to be present in the investigation, escaping prison and hiding out as Avery’s manservant. Another death clarifies the question of whether they are investigation an accidental self-poisoning or a murder. It’s definitely murder and it may destroy the Reform Club if it’s not taken care of soon. Worse, since the Reform Club is hosting a banquet for Ibrahim Pasha, the son of Egypt’s ruler, war and peace hang in the balance. I enjoyed The Devil’s Feast and will try to read the rest of the series. Historical mysteries are tricky things. So many authors try to make their characters sympathetic to modern audiences and only make them anachronistic. Carter avoids this trap and I appreciate that. She lets her characters be dismissive of fallen women, even to the point where Avery’s disdain for one prevents him from getting important information that could help solve the case. The chef who is at the center of the story was a real person and he is presented much as he was. The grand banquet for Ibrahim Pasha really happened, though without the poison plot (so far as we know) and Carter even used the real banquets menu. Fair warning, this book will make you hungry. It was fascinating to read about Soyer, the chef. I also enjoyed the encounter with Wakley, the founder of Lancet. Considering that our current administration plans to decimate the Food and Drug Administration and reduce food safety regulations and inspections, it seems particularly timely and pertinent. This book was written before the election, but there were many things that seemed to apply, including the infighting of those on the outside of power, the Whigs and Radicals, whose anger and conflict with each other consumed so much more passion than their conflicts with the Tories, their political opposition. The mystery is fair. The only thing that was misleading was the prologue which suggested a far more maniacal killer, though it’s soon clear that these are murders by a cunning, careful person. One of the best things, though, was when the killer is unmasked and all should be revealed, well…things don’t go as they usually do. You know, when the killer reveals all, carried away by the need to brag about the cunning execution of the murders or by rabid hatred. That did not happen. Finally, a murderer who does what smart people do and keeps quiet, forcing the detectives to do all the work themselves. What a refreshing and unusual turn of events. The Devil’s Feast will be released March 28th. I received an advance e-galley through First to Read.

I love historical fiction, British detective novels, and am a bit of a foodie, so there was plenty of like about The Devil's Feast. It was well-written and kept me turning pages until the end. The detective work, including the descriptions of the available technology of the time, was really interesting to me. The characters were well-developed and complex, and there were plenty of them. I haven't read the two earlier books, so there were some hints of previous history that I was interested in. I guess I'll have to pick up the other books? I loved the descriptions of male Victorian dress and the politics that the book went into, since I know very little about either. It sounds like a room full of Victorian nobles was as colorful as a flower garden? I also loved how a real chef, Alexis Soyer, and his amazing inventions and ideas were showcased. There was enough in-depth description of food to make me hungry, though it sounded way too rich for my tastes! Then there was the detective work of Avery, with the eventual help of Blake, trying to figure out who was poisoning the nobles and why. Being set in England, the class struggled was touched on, with chefs being classed as a servant by some and raised to celebrity status by others. Overall, it was a complex book with a whole lot of historical fact thrown in, and I really enjoyed it. I will definitely recommend it to others.

Food. That delicious sustenance that perpetuates life...unless you're some of the unfortunate victims in The Devil's Feast by M.J. Carter. Captain William Avery is attending to some business in London and catching up with friend and mentor Jeremiah Blake when he finds himself in the middle of a suspicious string of deaths by poisoning being kept quite at a club that's noted for its famous French chef Alexis Soyer. Investigating the deaths, Avery, who is primarily on his own due to Blake's fugitive status, learns of the various political and personal grudges to be found within the kitchen. Each of these grudges provides a potential motive to commit these poisonings, but Avery strives to find out the truth before an important political dinner takes place at the club. Filled with lots of details, which demonstrates the level of research involved in crafting this mystery, the story withheld the culprit's identity until the very last moment, providing plenty of plausible false leads along the way. While there was lots of description given to dishes, clothing, and people's actions, there wasn't a lot in the way of an actual plot until Blake reappears to help move matters along. The inclusion of Thackeray as a character, albeit minor, piqued my interest since I was an English major. I found the fact that The Lancet was mentioned interesting since I work in academic journals publishing and am familiar with the title. Having not read the other books in this series, I didn't feel that I was missing out on too much backstory information; however, there were instances where having ready previous installments might have been helpful in better understanding what was being referenced. Overall, I'd give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars.


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