Other Books in Series
This is book number 3 in the A Blake and Avery Novel series.
The Devil’s Feast by M.J. Carter continues the series featuring Jeremy Blake (a brilliant Sherlockian type character) and Captain William Avery. Matty (a bright streetwise girl) from The Infidel Strain also returns, she adds to the stories and makes a great continuing character. One of the aspects I enjoy about this series is the way Carter blends real incidents, facts, and people from history into her story. In the 1840’s there were all sorts of questionable practices related to food; people ingested tonics with dangerous ingredients for pep, food colors also contained potentially deadly substances, and all kinds of less than nutritional fillers were used. Foodies will love her depiction of Alexis Soyer, a famous French chef, at the heart of this mystery. The banquet held for Ibrahim Pasha at the Reform Club is a real event snatched out of the annals of history. Soyer makes for a wonderful character, he was one of the earliest celebrity chefs, flamboyant and gifted. His talents did not rest entirely on his meals, he was also a gifted inventor and deeply interested in helping the poor.
This time Carter keeps Jeremy Blake out of the action for the initial portions of the book (a bit like sidelining Sherlock Holmes) dumping Captain Avery right into solving a mystery involving deaths by poison at the Reform Club table before the big banquet can be held. The deaths could be isolated incidents, with no relation to the Reform Club, or they could herald the beginning of a more sinister plot. Many powerful people are involved in arranging the upcoming banquet, indeed it will have repercussions for the British empire. Poor Captain Avery is charmingly aware of being over his head and in need of help. He turns to Matty, whose station has improved from street urchin to kitchen maid at the Reform Club due to Jeremy Blake’s influence. This puts Matty into a strained position, she is thrilled to be learning in the famous Soyer’s kitchen, earning respect for her hard work, and enjoying such luxuries as sheets on a real bed, shoes, and plenty to eat. Giving kitchen gossip to Captain Avery serves her allegiance to him for his past kindness, but it also seems like betraying her fellows in the kitchen and risking a position she hopes to keep. As the date for the banquet approaches, and the stakes get even higher, Jeremy Blake arrives and things kick into high gear.
I have enjoyed all of M.J. Carter’s series, starting with The Strangler Vine set in India. In reading The Devil’s Feast, skip the prologue. It is gruesome, while M.J. Carter’s stories do not generally dwell on the gruesome, they are more intellectually stimulating, full of intrigue, and populated by well developed interesting characters. The prologue adds nothing this time to the reading enjoyment and might put you off of a fine story with a fascinating look at one of the maestros of the culinary art.
— Deon Stonehouse
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?
About the Author
M.J. Carter is the author of the Blake and Avery novels, including The Devil's Feast, The Infidel Stain, and The Strangler Vine. A former journalist, she is also the author of two acclaimed works of nonfiction, Anthony Blunt: His Lives and George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I. She is married with two sons and lives in London.
Praise for The Devil’s Feast
“Beautifully researched and historically mesmerizing, The Devil's Feast will keep history buffs and gourmands equally fascinated. An excellent entry in a great series.”—Shelf Awareness (starred review)
“Superlative...Carter again has crafted an ingenious, fast-moving plot with emotional depth and plausible surprises.”—Publishers Weekly
Praise for the Blake and Avery novels by M. J. Carter
“Dazzling...It is all such fun and so richly detailed that one is drawn down London’s crooked lanes and rookeries without a backwards glance....Carter does a remarkable job making London come alive in all its dreadful glory. Yes, there is an intricate puzzle to solve and two engaging sleuths to lead us to its surprising denouement, but the real strength of the novel is Carter’s deeper inquiry into historical questions that resonate to this day. At its heart, The Infidel Stain reckons with the gulf between the classes, between the well-intentioned and the struggling, the haves and have-nots.”—The Washington Post
“Rich with nuance...a ripping good story that keeps the pages turning.”—Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Enthralling...The Strangler Vine is more than just a picturesque quest through exotic lands. Carter makes a subtle critique of how fact and fiction, myth and history intertwine.”—The Washington Post
“Thoroughly researched...entertaining...This tale of two ill-yoked companions involved in conspiracy and betrayal is a welcome addition to the surprisingly thin body of novels about the great and at times appalling imperial adventure.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Wonderful reading, I just couldn’t put it down.”—Nancy Pearl
“[A] yarn reminiscent of adventures by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”—The New York Post
“Fun, well-crafted historical fiction.”—Christian Science Monitor
“[A] cracking-good old-style adventure yarn. There is mystery, murder, highway robbery, a sinister religious cult, a tiger hunt and danger and intrigue everywhere....Carter, adept with a delightful turn of phrase, paints a vivid picture of mid-19th-century India...Highly recommended.”—The Free Lance-Star
“The Strangler Vine is a splendid novel with an enthralling story, a wonderfully drawn atmosphere, and an exotic mystery that captivated me.”—Bernard Cornwell