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The Devil’s Feast
Blake and Avery Mystery – Book III
M J Carter

Fig Tree (Penguin)
27 October 2016/ ISBN

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde


When Captain William Avery accepts an invitation to dine with celebrated chef Alexis Soyer at the Reform Club, he does not expect to witness a death. But a member is dead after eating one of the chef’s fabulous meals and the Captain is called upon to discover whether it was just a case of cholera or something more sinister. With Blake languishing in the Marshalsea for a “debt” (or rather having incurred his powerful employer’s displeasure), Avery is alone and out of his depth. He must uncover the mystery before there are any further deaths, but soon it is clear that this is not going to happen…

This is the third entry in the Blake and Avery series and the second set in Dickens’ London of 1842. Anybody interested in reading about the original celebrity chef and what it was like in a large busy kitchen in those days will be interested, and there is also plenty about the Reform Club and a famous feast. I didn’t guess whodunit and there are red herrings aplenty, as well as the chance to catch up on what the series characters are up to and see how their relationships develop. Matty is working for Soyer now, Blake is in prison (at least initially) and Avery is still unhappily married. There is always something going on, including a lot of detective work as suspects are questioned and leads followed, but this book could have done with either some editing or a major new development halfway through. On the plus side, the characters all spring to vibrant life, especially the flamboyant Soyer, and there is the added interest of many of them being real people. As novels set in the 1840s are less common than those set later in the 19th century, reading about the period is another plus, especially as it is so well described and researched. Not a novel for those seeking lots of action and adventure (unlike the first in the series), but still well worth reading for many reasons.

Reviewed 2017