Reviews by L. J. Roberts

KATE ROSS – Cut to the Quick. Viking, hardcover, 1993. Penguin, paperback, 1994.

Genre:   Historical mystery. Leading character:  Julian Kestrel (1st in series). Setting:   England/Regency era, 1824.

KATE ROSS Julian Kestrel

First Sentence:   Mark Craddock paced slowly, deliberately, back and forth behind the desk in his study.

   After Regency dandy and detective Julian Kestral rescues young Hugh Fontclair from embarrassment at a gambling hall, he is, in turn, asked to serve as best man for Hugh’s forced marriage to Maud Craddock.

    Kestral, along with his man Dipper, travels to the Fontclair country home for a weekend with both families. The last thing he expected was to find the body of an unknown murdered woman in his bed or having to provide Dipper innocent of the act.

    For those of us who love period mysteries, Ross is one of the best. She captures the period with exquisite detail from dress, manners, speech. Her characters are wonderfully drawn portraying all levels of society.

    Kestrel is the character at center stage. He is the personification of the Regency dandy, exhibiting droll cynicism and detachment. Upon meeting Hugh’s young sisters, he comments:   “I rather like making friends with women before they’re old enough to be dangerous.”

    However, under the veneer is a consideration for others, an admiration for goodness, awareness of people’s natures and a determination for justice. Although there are quite a number of characters in the story, each is so well drawn as never become confused.

    The plot is very strong. It’s not a locked-room mystery as the key is on the hall table. It is very much a case of who is the victim, how did she get there and what was her relationship to the people in the house. It’s a step-by-step investigation with plenty of twists and turns along the way. Best of all, I certainly did not predict the killer.

    While sadly, Kate Ross only published four books before her death in 1998, this, as are all of her books, is very well worth reading, and reading again.

Rating:   Very Good Plus.

    The Julian Kestrel series —

Cut to the Quick (1993)
A Broken Vessel (1994)

KATE ROSS Julian Kestrel

Whom the Gods Love (1995)
The Devil in Music (1997)

KATE ROSS Julian Kestrel