Review: Cut to the Quick, Kate Ross

The beginning: Inexplicably invited to an acquaintance’s family home for two weeks, Julian Kestrel finds himself caught in an angry, awkward mess of family feuding. The situation only gets worse from there, as Julian comes back to his room one day to find a dead girl lying on his bed.

The end (skip this section if you don’t want the spoilers): Ah, there’s a last-minute tacked-on secret to be revealed. Glorious. I love it when an author does that. You thought you were done with all the mysteries, but no, there is another one to be had! Barbara Vine does this in A Dark-Adapted Eye, and it’s a device of which I’m very fond. But, to cut to the chase: Beautiful cousin Isabelle dunnit, in a jealous rage over the man she loves! Where would mystery writers be without jealous rages?

The whole: It has been a long time since I read a pure mystery novel. I’ve read novels with mysteries in them, but truly I can’t remember the last time I read one where there was a murder and a locked door and a country house and everyone is hiding something. Kate Ross tosses around clues and red herrings all over the place, and it’s fun sniffing out which is which. (I figured out how the girl got into the room at the same time Julian did, hurrah for me, but I still had no idea who did the deed.)

Although I enjoyed the book as a whole, it didn’t have any remarkable features: It was a by-the-numbers locked door mystery, with your suspicion allowed to fall on one character and then on another in a sort of dilettantish way, and no huge shock when the guilty party was ultimately exposed. If someone were to ask me what the average of all locked-door mysteries set in Britain was, I would give them this book. It’s exactly what you would expect, down to the young lovers who end up crying “darling!” at each other in the last chapter.

Kate Ross fans, if I felt this way about Cut to the Quick, should I carry on reading the other three (I think?) Julian Kestrel mysteries? Will I grow fonder of him as a character if I persist? Right now I am neutral-to-faintly-positive on him.

This chick would totally not share her dolls with her orphaned cousin.

Cover report: I wanted to do a cover report, but I was having a hard time figuring out which covers originated where. Lacking any certainty on that point, and being far too lazy to keep researching, I decided to just present you with this one cover that came up in all my searches and is awful. That is what I picture Jane Eyre’s mean girl cousins looking like.

12 thoughts on “Review: Cut to the Quick, Kate Ross

  1. I had a phase were I overdid it with mysteries (mainly Christie) do you think this would be a good one to relight the mystery fire, so to speak?

    It sounds interesting, but not ground breaking (although I find if I enjoy the twist it makes up for a less than stellar plot.

  2. I loved these mysteries, but it has been a long time since I’ve read them. I remember being so disappointed when I realized Ross had died.

    I think I read The Devil in Music first. I had a definite positive vibe for Julian Kestrel, so I read the other three books in whatever order I found them in the library. :)

  3. The first two in the series are decent but unmemorable mysteries. The third and fourth (Whom The God’s Love and The Devil in Music) are much stronger. I really loved The Devil in Music (Italy! Music!), and got really angry at one particular trigger-y plot point in Whom The Gods Love. None of the mysteries themselves are particularly revolutionary (I giggled at the prevalence of one particular plot device), but they’re pretty well written and well, I have a huge soft spot for the last book.

  4. I really love Kate Ross because: 1) I like books set in England during the Regency Era, 2) I like mysteries and 3) I think hers are the best that combine those two things but I’d be super excited if someone disagreed and had another series to recommend. I like but didn’t love book two. I felt books three and four were the strongest. I was very sad on many levels to hear that Kate Ross had died at a young age.

  5. I haven’t read a mystery in a decade, I think. I don’t seem to pick them up anymore. I am however reading a thriller/mystery right now, but some day I want to read a good old mystery book.

  6. I’ve never heard of this author, although I am very familiar with a mood of mine in which mysteries of a cozy sort are all that will do. So maybe I’ll check the author out. But dear lord, that is one hideous cover.

  7. I agree with whimsyful about the last two being much better than the first two, though there are some great bits in ‘A Broken Vessel’, because Sally is just fantastic. I’ve previously reviewed ‘Whom The Gods Love’ on my blog, so you might like to read that and see if it appeals.

    ‘The Devil in Music’ is definitely her best (quite Italy! Music! Spying!), and if Ross had lived longer I’m sure she’d have written other great stuff.

  8. I read this series back in high school, I think. I have the fourth one still to read but haven’t bothered to do so yet. I remember thinking the series would be far more interesting if it was told from the POV of Kestrel’s valet rather than Kestrel himself…

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