A late regency era mystery featuring a pink of the ton amateur sleuth named Julian Kestrel. Julian is somewhat unwittingly dragged into the secretive and scandalous inner turmoil of the outwardly respectable Fontclair family when he finds a murdered girl in his bed while staying at their country house. As he investigates trying to clear his and his valet’s names of the crime he discovers he has a talent and a somewhat reluctant fascination with investigating crime. This is the first in a series of 4 books featuring Julian.
This is a truly wonderful debut mystery. The characters are all well drawn and Julian Kestrel is incredibly likeable – clever, debonair, charming, a little enigmatic, dogged, and curious. He is works well as a character and a detective. The way Kate Ross installs him in the role as amateur detective is smooth and believable. The story is great with lots of juicy reveals and a satisfyingly surprising solution.
In short, if you like mysteries and books set in regency era England you will almost certainly love this book. It’s well written, with engaging characters and a nicely convoluted mystery.
One tangential side note. As a fan of Dorothy Dunnett I was immediately intrigued by the precocious and practical young Philippa who declares that when she comes of age she will seek out and marry Mr. Kestrel. I choose to think this is a tribute to DD by Kate Ross. Sadly, I doubt I will be proven right or wrong about this (I’ve not finished the series yet) because of the very sad death of Kate Ross after publishing the 4th book. So I’ll just continue to believe it is true and that Philippa would have appeared again in a later book. Julian actually reminds me a bit of Lymond (if Lymond were a regency era dandy) – good at appearing indolent and useless, never ruffled, rarely revealing an exceedingly clever brain and wit as well as a talent for music and a profound interest and caring for his fellow man. Yup, I’m convinced, Kate Ross was a big DD fan:0)