Above the Bay of Angels

Lake Union: Amazon. Feb. 2020. 348p. ISBN 9781542008266. $24.95. M
Prepare to savor this engaging new novel from the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity Award–winning Bowen (The Tuscan Child). In 1896 London, Isabella Waverly, trapped in servitude despite her aristocratic background, witnesses Helen Barton’s accidental death and acquires a letter promising a job interview at Buckingham Palace. Assuming Helen’s identity and securing the position of undercook in Queen Victoria’s kitchens, Bella unwittingly exposes herself to a life of subterfuge and blackmail. As her cooking skills improve, bringing her to the notice of the queen herself, Bella loves her newfound independence. Asked to join the royal household in Nice, Bella grabs her chance for betterment, unaware blackmail and death will dog her steps. When a royal sickens and dies after eating her cooking, Bella becomes a suspect in a murder investigation. Will she find the killer or die on the gallows?
VERDICT This delightful mystery neatly blends historical details of late Victorian life, from rich foods to royalty, into a story spiced with humor and romance. Bowen’s depiction of Bella as a modern Victorian woman, skillfully navigating class differences while struggling with the choice between a safe life and her ambitions, rings true.
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