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REVIEW: The Devil in Music by Kate Ross

Dear Readers,

The Devil in MusicThis was Ross’s last book before her untimely, early death and it’s one of her best. It really is too bad that the mystery world lost her and her creations, Julian Kestrel and his manservant, Dipper.

1821: Austrian controlled Italy seethes with revolt which threatens to break out in Lombardy as it has in other parts of the country. But the music mad Marchese de Malvezzi is only concerned with his new protege-an unknown Englishman with a tenor voice to make the angels smile. Wanting to heighten the mystery around him, Malvezzi keeps his identity a secret and the few who see him know him only as Orfeo.

When the Marchese is murdered, local authorities ruthlessly suppress the fact for fear that local revolutionaries will see the death of an important opponent as a signal to rise up. When the truth is revealed 4 years later, the family is outraged, Milanese society is shocked and Julian Kestrel see a case he can’t bear to refuse.

As usual, there are any number of suspects who had or could have had reason to want the Marchese dead. And when the murder is that old, the clues are that hard to find and so many of the suspects have reasons not to reveal their real identities, unraveling the mystery will take all of Kestrel’s formidable skills at deduction.

Ross’s writing style is smooth and her knowledge of the period, of Italian history and of opera are fantastic. I never got pulled out of the story because of any mistakes. Where the book wound up falling to a lower grade for me was in the ending. There were just too many amazing coincidences, last minute details thrown in that hadn’t been mentioned before and deus ex machina-istic things for me to love it. I figured out one of the major mysteries, didn’t figure out the murderer and pretty much guessed correctly on a few other things. Another problem was the ending scene between Orfeo and another of the suspects out in a boat on the lake when lots of things are revealed in a very artificial manner. It felt tacked on and the dialogue was very affected.

I did like the descriptions of time and place and could easily picture myself on the scene. The references to various operas and music were nice to read. I love Kestrel who has a sense of honor that a gentleman of the period would have and which too many regency heroes lack. Overall, I’d give it a B and mourn the loss of this author.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

9 Comments

  1. Megan Frampton
    May 07, 2006 @ 07:53:17

    I’ve been saving this one for awhile since it was her last–I love Julian Kestrel, and anytime people want to read in the Regency period, but aren’t interested in reading romance, I recommend her. Thanks for the review!

  2. Jayne
    May 07, 2006 @ 08:19:18

    I still pull out the book just to drool over the cover. I know I go on-and-on-and-on about covers but there are so few really lovely ones in our genre.

  3. Keishon
    May 07, 2006 @ 08:44:02

    I have her books but just haven’t read them yet. Partly because I’d hate to start something that I know won’t ever be completed. It is sad that she died so young, too.

  4. Jayne
    May 07, 2006 @ 09:47:05

    Yeah, Julian has Issues in his past and it seemed like Ross was about to finally start revealing them after hinting for 4 books. That was a bummer. But she did an excellent job of fitting her era into the book and her book into the era.

  5. Jorrie Spencer
    May 07, 2006 @ 09:50:16

    I keep hearing good things about Kate Ross and I’d like a non-romance look at the Regency period. I’ll have to look for the first book. Sad about her early death, though.

  6. Jayne
    May 07, 2006 @ 09:58:58

    There are several mystery series set in the Regency but so many feature real people or well known fictional characters as the detectives. For some reason, that just sets me off. Why do authors do this? Can’t they come up with their own characters? I can accept real historical personages as background characters to add verisimilitude to a book but don’t make Beau Brummel into a detective.

  7. Maili
    May 07, 2006 @ 10:12:45

    I love, love Kate Ross’s books [I didn’t know she had third book out until Megan F. told me last year], and I was really gutted when I learnt that she passed away. Her books are outwith this world. Her ability to create a ‘Holy smoke! That’s jolly clever!’ mystery is … well, a bit average, but her ability to create such an atmosphere is superb. I think the best thing about her books is she can easily wrap a world of her creation around your head to the point where you truly believe you are in that world. I love her storytelling. OK, I will shut up.

  8. Jorrie Spencer
    May 07, 2006 @ 13:41:39

    Or Jane Austen into a detective… I can’t really go there.

    I’ve ordered the first book from the library, but I’m also going to find it a little hard thinking that she died so young and she wanted to write more in the series.

  9. raine
    May 07, 2006 @ 19:20:12

    I’d been looking at a historical or two, but now not sure…
    The cover IS gorgeous, isn’t it?

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