Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Kate Ross”

faintingviolet’s #CBR4 review #48: The Devil in Music by Kate Ross

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.


faintingviolet’s #CBR4 review #44: Whom the Gods Love by Kate Ross

I find myself sitting to type of this review minutes after completing the reading of Whom the Gods Love by merit of the fact that in the wake of Hurricane Sandy there is little else for me to do. Perhaps it is the reality of the damage done to my home state, the weeks of recovery in front of all of us, the lack of internet and phones, or the amount of deaths in this Julian Kestrel novel that leave me feeling vaguely melancholy. It could also be the realization that there is only one more book by Kate Ross for me to consume.


Whom the Gods Love is filled with literary allusions and death. The book picks up a small while after the activities of A Broken Vessel finding Julian and Dipper back into the normal pattern of life. That is, until Julian is approached by Sir Malcolm Falkland, father of the deceased Alexander Falkland. Sir Malcolm is distraught, the Bow Street Runners have run into a dead-end and the Quality won’t fully participate in the investigation. Sir Malcolm approaches our amateur sleuth to piece together the mystery of who would kill such a popular young man.


Julian takes on the challenge, if only to occupy his time and give Sir Malcolm peace of mind, but it quickly becomes clear that there is much more below the surface than Sir Malcolm or any of Alexander’s acquaintances could have known. Ms. Ross utilizes a character list in the beginning of this book, partly because there are so many characters to keep track of, and partly I think as a nod to Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice which gets referenced once again. While this book had a slow start I’ve decided to give it a three star rating because it’s full of historical insights and kept me guessing about the mystery at hand.

This review is cross-posted.

faintingviolet’s #CBR4 review #40: A Broken Vessel by Kate Ross

The Cannonball has given me many things this year (Ready Player One, The Fault in Our Stars, Dreamers of the Day) but I think introducing me to the character of Julian Kestrel and his mysteries is perhaps my favorite. I know that I haven’t rated the first book, Cut to the Quick, or this one, A Broken Vessel, with as many stars as the previous three but I simply adore the characters Kate Ross created in a way that I did not feel in the other Cannonball finds.   I love the characters of Julian, Dipper, and Dr. MacGregor enough that I can overlook my displeasure at spending so much time with Dipper’s sister, Sally.

Sally Stokes is a prostitute and thief who pickpockets her johns. We soon find out she is also Dipper’s younger sister who he has not seen in years. Much of A Broken Vessel is spent with Sally as the reader views the events through Sally’s eyes. Sally’s adventure starts in London’s Haymarket district, where she picks up three men in turn and nicknames them Bristles, Blue Eyes, and Blinkers. From each Sally steals a handkerchief – and from one she mistakenly steals a letter which contains an urgent plea for help.  It isn’t until she runs into her brother after being roughed up by Blinkers that Sally discovers the letter, and who better to help her unravel the mystery of the girl in need of help than one Julian Kestrel.

Julian, Dipper, and Sally (with an assist by Dr. MacGregor) come up with a plan to discover the identity of the girl in question and find out that she has died. Julian is convinced it was murder, and upon getting the backing of a magistrate, sets about to prove it. Enter Sally, who as a lady – and one of ill repute – she is particularly suited to investigate the circumstances of the girl’s death in a reform house. Julian and Dipper do their own sleuthing, turning up a human trafficking circuit and ultimately the person responsible for the murder.

This one was not perfect, mainly because while I acknowledge that Kate Ross gets the slang and other language right, it felt like it got in the way of the storytelling. Much of the language is dead to the American reader and at times it felt like I spent more times deducing what Sally was saying than what it meant for the story overall. Still a worthy read and I have Whom The Gods Love lined up to read in the next few weeks. I will be sad to end the Kestrel mysteries, and I know that I won’t be able to hold off finishing the fourth later this year.


faintingviolet’s #CBR4 review #36: Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross

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  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.

Siege’s #CBR4 #1: Whom the Gods Love by Kate Ross

In which Siege begins a new year of Cannonball Reading with a clever, well-written, and totally engaging period mystery.

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