Saturday, November 18, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Devil's Feast by M.J. Carter

I’ve been hooked on the Blake and Avery historical mystery series ever since my book group read The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter. The second novel, The Infidel Stain, was quite different but just as wonderful.

Now, in The Devil’s Feast, the narrator/naive sidekick--Captain William Avery--is forced to play an even larger role since Jeremiah Blake has been thrown into debtors’ prison on a trumped up charge. Avery is not quite the brilliant hard-boiled detective that Blake is, but he’s learning.

After visiting Blake in prison, Avery dines at the Reform Club. The Club not only is renowned for its lavish menus and famous chef, but is also where Matty (a girl who aided the detecting duo in the previous book) has found a job that takes her off the streets. Avery is as anxious to see Matty again as he is to sample the cuisine.

Unfortunately, after a sumptuous feast, one of Avery’s fellow diners is taken ill and dies a gruesome death. The following day, Avery is recruited by members of the Club’s board to investigate. The victim was poisoned.

Within the restaurant and the chef’s circle of acquaintances, Avery finds a whole host of unsatisfactory suspects. He has no idea how to proceed. His reputation for this kind of work is almost wholly the result of his partnership with Blake. Nevertheless, he goes about collecting as much information as he can.

The plot moves along with a slow, steady build, picking up steam when Avery and Blake are reunited once more. The setting revolves around the dining room with its lush descriptions of the gourmet food. The stakes are raised as an upcoming diplomatic dinner with important political implications is threatened by the possibility of another poisoning. Kitchen intrigues and professional rivalries heat up as accusations fly and corruption is unmasked. Sorting it all to find a poisoner before it’s too late is a daunting task.

The partnership between the once-idealistic Avery and chronically cynical Blake is as enjoyable in Book Three as it was in Book One. This book could probably stand alone, but I recommend reading them in order.

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