Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross

Book Description from Goodreads:
To the ranks of great sleuths of ages past, add a new candidate - Julian Kestrel - a detective as historically authentic as Brother Cadfael and as dashing as Lord Peter Wimsey. Kestrel is the reigning dandy of London in the 1820s, famous for his elegant clothes and his unflappable sangfroid. One night he rescues a young aristocrat named Hugh Fontclair from a gambling house, and in gratitude Hugh invites him to be best man at his wedding. But when Kestrel goes to stay with the Fontclairs at their sumptuous country house, he is caught in the crossfire of the bride's and groom's warring families. Soon, discord erupts into murder. In a world without fingerprinting, chemical analysis, or even police, murder poses a baffling challenge. Undaunted, Kestrel sets out to solve the crime. With the help of his Cockney manservant, Dipper a (mostly) reformed pickpocket, Kestrel delves beneath the Fontclairs' respectable surface. What he finds is a trail of crime, deception, and forbidden lust that leads him at last to the killer. The combination of a new author, a charming new sleuth, and a strikingly original setting adds up to a smashing mystery that moves with force and intelligence - and expert suspense - from beginning to end

This was a brilliantly written historical mystery, one of the best I've read.  I am eager to read more in the series starring Julian Kestrel, Regency man about town who finds himself an unlikely sleuth.  Part of what made this mystery so special was the author's writing.  True to the period, she captured the style of early nineteenth century England to a tee.  Much of it reminds me of a Georgette Heyer regency.  Julian could easily have stepped out of the pages of Heyer.

Julian Kestrel has charm, manners and a knack for dressing to impress.  What he doesn't have is an impeccable pedigree and a large pocketbook.  Still, he is welcome in most of London's drawing rooms.  Julian finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation while staying at a country house party.  Hugh Fontclair, a brand new acquaintance, has invited Julian to come stay with him at his family's country estate.  While there, the dead body of an unknown, lovely young woman shows up in Julian's bed!  No one knows who she is and an investigation begins by Hugh's father, Sir Robert, who is the local magistrate.  Since Julian's valet becomes the prime suspect in the murder, Julian takes it upon himself to clear his valet's name and get to the bottom of who really killed the mystery woman.

While investigating the murder, all sorts of other things surface and we learn much about the Fontclair's secrets and their history that has them tied up in knots!  The plot deepens and just when you're certain who commit the murder - another clue is revealed that makes you rethink everything all over again!  It was a finely interwoven and well thought out mystery and I enjoyed every word of it.  The plot moves fast, and the dialogue is sharp and to the point.  No unnecessary filler to bog it down.  A quick read that kept my attention all the way to the end.  I'm deliberately leaving tons out of the storyline so as not to reveal any surprises, but the book description above is a fine summary in of itself.  I also really liked the various side stories and characters that are going on in addition to the mystery itself.  The burgeoning romance between Maud and Hugh caught my fancy and I liked the way we were able to get Hugh's viewpoint on his surprising and growing attraction to his fiancee, Maud.  Forced to marry her to save his family's name, falling in love is the last thing Hugh expected - much less jealousy! Julian handled himself well in a sticky situation there as well.  Trust me, if you are an historical mystery lover - you will love and appreciate this novel!  For a short book, there is a lot packed into it! 

Much of what I loved about Cut to the Quick and made it special was the author's use of the language and the way it brought her characters to life. The cant of Julian's valet and his former underworld connections sounded utterly authentic and was fun to boot!  The lingo of some of the young men about town who are front and center in the plot line of the murder mystery was also right on and conveyed their youthful lifestyle. Their style of clothing and attire were described faultlessly as well. I had no problem imagining everything! The furnishings were well detailed too - important in a mystery, yet not to the point where I felt the author was showing off her research skills.  Everything was simply well done!  I could cry that the author, Kate Ross, died of cancer in 1998. Such a loss, for she had a great talent and a flair for writing.

You're probably wondering - is Julian a romantic hero type?  I'm not quite sure.  He's no alpha or big and bulky warrior type at all.  He's slim, but not effeminate or foppish.  Nice enough looking, but no heart-throb.  I'll need to read further on in the series to find out.  From what I hear, the next book is even better than the first!  I can't wait!



Joanne said...

Excellent review -- her books are a bit difficult to sum up because there is so much depth and multiple layers....wasn't it a sharp mystery? A Broken Vessel is darker and seedier (which I LOVE) and the cant is superb!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Joanne, yes it really was written well. All throughout I kept thinking that I knew who the culprit was and I was wrong, wrong, wrong! LOL! I admit, I'm not the best at mystery solving. I finished it lounging around the next morning at the Marquis before check-out.

Christy said...

I love these books. I'm always happy to see new people discovering them!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Christy, I'm glad I discovered them! I'm eager to read the St. Cyr books too - have you read them?

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