From the New York Times bestselling author of Scandal Above Stairs
Kat Holloway steps out from beneath the stairs and into international intrigue, where murder and stolen treasure lurk among the upper echelons of Victorian London.
In return for a random act of kindness, scholar Li Bai Chang presents young cook Kat Holloway with a rare and precious gift—a box of tea. Kat thinks no more of her unusual visitor until two days later when the kitchen erupts with the news that Lady Cynthia's next-door neighbor has been murdered.
Known about London as an "Old China Hand," the victim claimed to be an expert in the language and customs of China, acting as intermediary for merchants and government officials. But Sir Jacob's dealings were not what they seemed, and when the authorities accuse Mr. Li of the crime, Kat and Daniel find themselves embroiled in a world of deadly secrets that reach from the gilded homes of Mayfair to the beautiful wonder of Kew Gardens.
A chance encounter on a London street introduces Kat Holloway, the cook in the Mayfair mansion of the unconventional Lady Cynthia Shires, to Mr. Li, "a polite, well-spoken gentleman" from China, in bestseller Ashley's intriguing third Victorian mystery (after 2018's Scandal Above Stairs). One evening soon afterward, Lady Cynthia's wealthy neighbor, Sir Jacob Harkness, who has spent time in the Orient, returns home from a visit to Kew Gardens and is stabbed to death in his bedroom that same night. The police arrest Mr. Li, who recently helped Sir Jacob in his garden. Kat and Lady Cynthia's efforts to exonerate Mr. Li lead them to the hangers-on and sycophants gathered around the bewildered widow. There may be a link to the victim's trip to Kew Gardens and his subsequent murder. Ashley does a fine job portraying urban life among the well-to-do and those who serve them, though the rich characterization and abundance of domestic detail sometimes threaten to overwhelm the unusual and well-thought-out plot. Anne Perry fans will find a lot to like.