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.
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.