I’m gullible when it comes to mysteries. Every red herring will throw me off the scent. Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross brings a new set of mysteries and a new amateur sleuth from the Regency period into my life to continue confusing me for a few books. The sleuth in question is Julian Kestrel, the reigning dandy of London in the 1820s, famous for his elegant clothes and his imperturbable composure.
Cut to the Quick was Ross’s first novel, but you’d be hard pressed to guess so. The only authorial problem I had with the novel was the very beginning. The book opens with a Mr. Craddock congratulating himself on tricking Mr. Hugh Fontclair into having to propose marriage to his daughter. The engagement happens and in the next chapter Hugh is sowing his wild oats at a gambling establishment and we are introduced to Julian Kestrel who rescues him from public embarrassment. In the third chapter we are with Julian as he receives a surprise invite some weeks later to be Hugh’s best man and house guest. It’s all very choppy and with so many of the characters introduced in quick succession it made it difficult to keep track of everyone.
When Kestrel goes to stay with the Fontclairs at their country house, he is caught in the crossfire of the warring families, as the Craddocks are already arrived. Once settled into the dynamic and expecting Julian Kestrel to discover what blackmail is forcing the Fontclairs to agree to the wedding a dead body shows up. Kestrel sets out to solve the crime, since the body was found in his bed. The strength of this book is the twining of the two mysteries, which was compelling and well-plotted. As for Julian Kestrel, he’s fairly good company although I prefer his manservant and the local doctor. It should be said that all the supporting characters, more than ten, are well developed. Overall an enjoyable and quick read. I’ve already requested the next Julian Kestrel novel, A Broken Vessel, from my library system.