So 2011 is over, and I missed my goal of the elusive "Double Cannonball" by five books. Still, 99 books read and reviewed in a year is really pretty impressive. And Cannonball Read IV has already started (more information here) so here's another opportunity for me to beat my personal best. 104 in 2012!
The first book of the new year is the third book in Kate Ross's Julian Kestral series. With each book I get a little sadder, since I know there are only four books...meaning that the series will end soon. That's tough to handle, because these are SO GOOD. They're everything I look for in a mystery novel, and I could read about Julian Kestral for at least twenty more books. (Kate Ross is dead, and Dan Brown plows forward...life is obviously NOT FAIR.)
In this story, 1830s English dandy Julian is contacted by the father of Alexander Falkland, a young man who travelled in Julian's high class social circle. Alexander has been brutally murdered in his own home during a party he was hosting, and the authorities have no idea why or by whom. His father Malcolm Falkland has heard of Julian's past adventures and engages him to help solve the mystery. As Kestral begins to dig, it becomes quickly apparent that nothing about Alexander Falkland (or the people who surrounded him) is as it first seemed. It will take all of Julian's cleverness (as well as help from his loyal manservant Dipper) to come up with the answers.
Once again, Kate Ross has written a story that is both entertaining and believable. The twists in the plot are tough to guess but easy to follow. None of them come out of nowhere, and all the clues can be seen clearly in retrospect. The characters are also wonderful--this book delves a bit into Julian's enigmatic past, and gives a new perspective on his character and motivations. There were also some clever ties to Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice which I didn't necessarily notice at first, but found intriguing once I recognized them.
I would obviously recommend this series, though one definitely needs to read them in order to avoid missing out.