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CR3 #86: Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross

It's a real shame that Kate Ross passed away after writing only four Julian Kestrel mysteries. Her hero is an 1820s-era English dandy, possessed of a keen fashion sense and an even keener set of wits. He's a fascinating and well-drawn character, and I could probably read about fifty more books about him quite happily. Unfortunately, it looks like I'll have to settle for four.

In this novel Kestrel finds himself at a country home inhabited by the Fontclairs, a high-class and very proud family. Having provided a much-needed service to young Hugh Fontclair, Julian is invited to be a groomsman in Hugh's wedding. It turns out that things are murkier than expected--the wedding is based on secrets and blackmail, the families are at each others' throats, and then a beautiful dead woman turns up in Kestrel's bed. His valet Dipper (a former pickpocket) is suspected, and this (aside from the fact that the girl was apparently murdered in his bedroom) drives him to involve himself in solving the mystery.

The plot is quite twisty, and this is helped by the book's shifting perspectives. Although the main POV is Julian's, nearly everyone else in the story gets a chance to express his or her own opinions and thoughts, from Sir Robert Fontclair, the head of the family, down to the housemaids and Hugh's eleven-year-old sister Phillipa. I am pleased to say that I didn't figure out "who done it" until the very end, but when the solution was presented, it fit neatly with all the evidence previously shown. The story was intriguing, and the characters were all interesting. Julian especially was likable and entertaining without being too good to be true. His personality was quite charming, which makes it easy to see why he is so popular with all the other characters.

I really enjoyed this book, and as I said I can't wait to get the rest of the series. Great for anyone who enjoys smart period mysteries.

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