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Cut to the Quick, by Kate Ross

October 21, 2013

Felony of the Week: Cut to the Quick

Chocolate and peanut butter. Lennon and McCartney. Sometimes the union of two pretty swell things produces something that is swell-er than one might have imagined. So it is with Kate Ross’s delicious “Julian Kestrel” series, which marries a setting in the Regency era (essentially the tail-end of the 18th century through almost the middle of the next) with the structure and conventions of the great Gentleman Sleuth mysteries … which would not in fact be invented until, arguably, the 1920s.

But in fact the Regency period turns out to be a perfect match for the Gentleman Sleuth – so much so that I really wish I could ask (the lamentably late) Kate Ross which came first: Did she decide to write a classic GS-style mystery, and go hunting for an appealing time period? Or was she in love with Regency England and suddenly realize that its lazily drawling dandies, toiling tirelessly to give an impression of effortlessness, were in fact the spiritual grandfathers of Albert Campion, Lord Peter Wimsey, et al.?

Julian Kestrel does differ from Wimsey and Campion and most of their compatriots in one crucial way: Lack of the ready. He’s not broke, exactly, not reduced to selling his cravats, but not really in a position to turn down a little job of detection when it comes his way. Which is too bad, because the job grows steadily more distasteful, and even the setting in a luxurious country manor (where Cut to the Quick takes place) cannot compensate for its tedious denizens. What’s a dandy to do? Toss a quip, check the mirror, and get the job done, all while appearing to be absorbed in a volume of light verse.

Are you a fan of Mr. Campion, Lord Peter, and the rest? Of course you are: You’re a Felony reader. Meet their progenitor, at 25% off.

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