When I started reading the Julian Kestrel mysteries earlier this year based on Siege’s review of Whom the Gods Love I knew there were only four novels because the author, Kate Ross, had passed away in 1998 after battling cancer. Now that I have read all four books, I wonder how much Ms. Ross knew about her impending death when this book was published the year before. The Devil in Music is a powerhouse of a novel, and longer by far than any of Ms. Ross’ other works. It also unpacks the riddle of Julian Kestrel so completely that this reader is not saddened by the fact that there are no more stories of his antics.
The Devil in Music finds Kestrel traveling on the Continent with his loyal servant Dipper and his bereaved friend MacGregor. It’s the autumn of 1825 and Julian is looking for both the joys of travel but also to escape some of the fame of his crime solving successes. Hearing of a murder uncovered after 4 and a half years in northern Italy, Julian decides to throw his hat in the ring to help solve the crime. And it is investigated and solved. One of the best compliments I can give Ross is that she does not fall back on deus ex machina answers to her mysteries.
The layers of storytelling employed by Ross and her band of characters (once again receiving their own listing in the front of the book) keep the mysteries unsolved for over 400 pages. I won’t delve into them because I want you to read the book with fresh eyes. Simply know that there are murders to be solved, persons to be found, and secret identities to be uncovered. You can proceed with the Julian Kestrel novels knowing that you will be satisfied, although with characters so rich there can simply not be enough.