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