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The Devil in Music (Julian Kestrel Mysteries #4)

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  1,528 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews
At a mist-shrouded villa on Lake Como, an Italian nobleman is grooming a young English tenor for a career on the glittering operatic stage. Before their sojourn is over, one will die by violence and the other will disappear. Enter Julian Kestrel, Regency dandy and amateur sleuth. Travelling on the Continent with his ex-pickpocket valet, Dipper, Kestrel is irresistibly draw ...more
Hardcover, 447 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Viking Books
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(showing 1-30)
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Joanne Lessner
May 17, 2012 Joanne Lessner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finishing this book was bittersweet. Knowing that it was the last that Ross wrote before she died, I kept it on the shelf for awhile, and then savored it over two weeks. It was a beautifully written, labyrinthinely plotted, and atmospherically evocative novel. There were so many intertwining strands that she won the game by allowing the reader to figure out some, but not all, of the nested mysteries. As a reader, I want to think I'm smart enough to see through the traps, but if I figure out ever ...more
Aug 02, 2007 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who love historical mysteries
Shelves: 19thcentury, mystery
The fourth and final book of the Kestrel series. One of the greatest tragedies of the 90s was the death of Kate Ross. Julian, London dandy with a talent for detecting and the tact to do it amongst the rich, goes to Italy where he solves an old mystery and we learn more about his past before we are cruelly ripped away from that world. I probably love this book the most since it was the first I read, but I did make up for it by rushing out to read the rest of the series.
Feb 05, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I almost abandoned this book a number of times and the only reason I didn’t is because I had loved her other three books so much. I’ve decided to make a checklist of all the literary things I hate that this book included. *Warning I am going to post some very mild spoilers.*

Five things Amy hated in this book:
5. Surprise twists at the end when no clues had been developed earlier in the book
4. Love at first sight between main characters when you are never given any reason to believe that there is
Oct 27, 2013 Jeanette rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best of Kate Ross who never wrote a bad book. What a tragedy that she died so young. What can I say about this 4th and last novel of a superlative series that gives it its full due. Mystery genre in cultural depth! I can only think of a handful of moderns that pull that off. Bel Canto comes to mind. Or some of Louise Penny. But this is 1825 and we are in Northern Italy for the entire on top of it. City-state intrigue, classic manners of three cultures, immense class differences in characteri ...more
Nov 22, 2009 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009booksread
A really great novel as well as a good mystery. It's unfortunate that this was the author's last book, because it shows hoe skilled she was at creating an atmosphere and a large cast of believable characters. All the characters felt like real people with their own motivations and secrets. Of the many secrets in the book, some were truly surprising and others were not. That's my only quibble with the book, that I wish I had been more surprised by some things. But I didn't guess Whodunit, so that' ...more
Apr 27, 2011 Scott rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book – a historical mystery set in Italy in the 1820’s. The author died tragically from cancer at a very young age and the book is highly acclaimed, but it just did very little for me. The story concerns an Italian nobleman in the Lake Como region of Northern Italy who befriends an English singer and tries to promote his training and ultimate career in the opera. A murder occurs though, leaving one dead and the other disappeared. Enter Julian Kestrel, the noted English dand ...more
Blair McDowell
Nov 18, 2013 Blair McDowell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-reviews, favorites
The Devil in Music is number four in a series by Kate Ross featuring dandy, musician and amateur detective Julian Kestrel and his side kick, former pickpocket turned valet, Dipper. We find the pair in Italy on Lake Como in the political turmoil that followed the Napoleonic wars, trying to solve a murder of a nobleman who loved opera and doted on spectacular voices. Is his death related to his most recently discovered singer “Orfeo” who mysteriously disappeared the night of the murder, or could t ...more
Aug 23, 2011 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Murder mysteries are not usually my thing, but I could not put this book down. Set in ninteenth-century Milan, the plot and characters center around the cultural and political antics of the time - namely, the operatic tradition. As I had a somewhat insatiable interest in classical music and opera this year, I found myself delighted to recognize terms and traditions I read throughout the novel. I enjoyed having an historical and cultural context in which to place the characters as well. While I w ...more
Apr 15, 2010 Carolyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The last book in Kate Ross' series on Julian Kestrel as a detective in the early 1800's. Read the others first. Julian becomes involved in a murder that had been hidden for 4 1/2 years. With his valet Dipper, a reformed pickpocket, he resolves a mystery with its beginnings many years before.
As a mysterious English dandy and man on the town, he has little credibility with the Italian police other than his renown solving four previous intricate murders in England. Under threat of being a suspect
May 30, 2007 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my favorite mysteries. Intelligent historical mystery set in Italy. One of Kate Ross' best. Julian Kestrel is a multi-faceted character and I feel that the author had much more planned for him, but she only wrote the 4 books before she died. This is one of those mysteries that you can read several times and spot new and subtle clues on each reading. Although they do have the "let me explain to you all exactly how I solved the crime" scene at the end of the book, for the most part the auth ...more
Idril Celebrindal
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jamie Collins
Julian Kestrel in Italy. He teams up again with the curmudgeonly Dr. MacGregor and Dipper, that lothario of valets, to solve the murder of an Italian marquis. It’s a good read, and there’s some nice material here for opera fans - one of the suspects is a castrato, living in the age when the popularity of those extraordinary performers is in decline.

I think some fans of this series will be enchanted with the ending, but I’m not sure I liked it. It transformed Kestrel’s character, revealing too mu
Really a slog to get through this book. It is a complex mystery with a huge cast of characters and a maze-like plot. The style is reminiscent of a nineteenth century novel like The Moonstone. For me, there were too many twists and turns, false confessions, red herrings and long speeches as characters attempted to explain themselves. I'm not sure I would have gotten through it if I hadn't been reading on long train and plane journeys.
Leah Alvord
Mar 02, 2014 Leah Alvord rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I think my boyfriend is a little tired of the phrase 'this book just got good' due to how often I interrupted Final Fantasy XII with it. Yes, it was worth every raised eyebrow and shake of the head.


In Austrian-Italy of 1821, a notable--and formidable--Italian nobleman, Marchese Lodovico, is found murdered at his villa on the Lake of Como. It is a crime that was to be covered up for four and a half years. Leaving the only suspect, a young English Tenor known only as Orfeo, to disappear in
Nov 18, 2016 Jinjre rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
By all rights, I should really like this series. It has all the things I enjoy - well done historical research (for the most part - I still cringe at some of the verbiage), characters that have grown and fleshed out a good bit since the first book, but...

The plots feel like they've been cobbled together with paper clips and tape to me. There are conversations where I feel like they should have a heading that says "Exposition Here". The flow of the conversation is not natural. And other dialog th
Feb 24, 2017 William rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
One of my least favorite books ever. The first fifty pages of the book should have been condensed down to a brief prolog and then the story could have begun there. Even if that had been done, however, it would still have seemed too drawn out. The setting (Italy vs. England) didn't help, nor did all of the difficult to pronounce / remember names. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series, with the repartee between Julian and Dipper, but Dipper seems to have been relegated to the bac ...more
Christy B
The Devil in Music is the best mystery novel that I have ever read and is the final book in the best mystery series I have ever read!

In 1825 Italy, the news of the murder of the highly prominent Lodovico Malvezzi and the concurring disappearance of his protégé Orfeo has spread like wildfire all through Italy and beyond. The problem with this is, this all happened four years before! In 1821 the death of Malvezzi was declared by natural causes, for fear that his death by murder may cause a politic
Heloise West
Feb 19, 2017 Heloise West rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love this series from start to bittersweet finish.
Jul 15, 2014 sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably the best novel of the Kestrel mysteries, from a writing standpoint. Ross is able to vividly evoke revolutionary Italy without bogging down the narrative with too much historical detail. Her descriptions of opera, Milanese landscape, and political intrigue show a deft touch -- it's clear how much research she did, but the book is never about showing off that research, just using it to immerse the reader more fully into the story.

The Devil in the Music gets off to a bit of a slow start in
Nov 14, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, historical
First of all, I am so sad that I have reached the end of this wonderful series. :(

Moving on, I LOVED this book! It was gripping right from the start and never let up until the end. I literally could not stop reading it yesterday. I'd try. I'd put the book down and go to do something else, but within a matter of moments, I was settled back in and reading.

As before I had no idea who the guilty party was right up until they were unmasked.

However, [huge spoiler under the spoiler tags-read at your o
Text Addict
It took me a long time to finish this, because unlike the earlier three volumes, it dragged. The first 50 or so pages held a lamentable lack of Julian Kestrel, and even once he arrived on the scene there was a lot of conversation and very little progress.

Really, things only took off after Rinaldo Malvezzi arrived on page 266, and then they proceeded most satisfactorily: drama, another murder, investigation, recriminations, tragedy, and threats of premature interment! Not to mention a twist in th
Cathy Sprankle
Northern Italy in 1825 is in a state of political turmoil. Recent hopes of a united Italy were dashed with the fall of Napoleon. Austrian occupation has resumed and one must be very careful about what one says and who one is seen with, for "liberal" thinking and activities are frowned upon. You can even be arrested for eating watermelon in public! Kate Ross spins her tale of music and murder against this romantic and dangerous backdrop, in which her dandy detective Julian Kestrel, his trusted va ...more
The last in a really enjoyable series. I even got a little emotional at the end of this, knowing it was the last. Julian was really starting to be fleshed out as a character and the potential of this series going forward was great. Such a bummer that it ended.

This installment takes place in Austrian ruled Italy. On the same night a very powerful man is murdered and his musical protege, a singer, disappears. The conclusion is inevitable. But of course Julian isn't convinced. As usual with the Kes
Jul 04, 2013 Lucy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm sad Kate Ross isn't around to write more books, I would have loved to hear more about some of the characters.

-post napoleonic northern italy under austrian rule
-carbonari (sp?) Italian independence secret organisation
-intricate mystery plot
-interesting nicely done secondary characters (de la marque, dipper, the doctor, lucia)
-nice love rivalry
-characters feel like people of their era, book is well-grounded

I have to say Julian, for me, is not an extremely colourful, larger-than-l
Oct 21, 2010 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had mixed feelings over this mystery, first off, it was very clever and I did not guess in a million years who Orfeo really was, so it had me there! But, there were some areas of the book that dragged. Julian doesn't even enter the scene until Part II, after the entire first part leading up to the murder of the marchese. I did find myself getting a bit bogged down with all the Italian characters and wondering why this, why that, but by the end it all made sense. About the end, well, I think ab ...more
Fayth Williams
Nov 10, 2015 Fayth Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, favorites
My violin teacher lent me this book. This was the first novel she read in English and she gave high praise to its author.
The absence of clues made the mystery more difficult to solve as a reader. (The music teacher, the only one who knew Orfeo personally and could provide a description of him, WOULD be blind...) The "suspense" doesn't really develop until the end. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the book for its characters and storyline. The variety of gorgeous Italian settings, the imagery of th
Marina Sinelnikova
Nov 06, 2016 Marina Sinelnikova rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
That was slower going than other Julian Kestrel novels - I did not like Lodovico so pretty much was waiting for the 1821 section to end. She usually has more gripping beginnings - but I guess that one part was setup for the final reveals (unexpected but in a way maybe not - I was all "but surely he isn't... I wonder why no one suspects that he could be..."). I liked Lucia, and maestro Donati, and Valeriano and Francesca...
... and I still love how Ross loves to use the classic tropes - twins, se
Mar 10, 2013 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After devouring the three previous Julian Kestrel books in under a week, I took my time with this one. The change in setting-- moving from England in the 1820s to Italy under Austrian rule-- threw me off a bit, and knowing this was Kate Ross's last book made me want to take it slow. But once I hit the halfway mark, the story picked up quickly and I found myself speeding through again. I liked learning more about Kestrel and his past as the book went on-- Ross has had a habit of dropping tantaliz ...more
Claudine Sazelleb
I bought it on Booksale at Gaisano Mall here in Cagayan de Oro City. I love the cover of the book, the story, i really like mystery novels so much and also Julian Krestel! <3 He's such a gentleman and i think i've fallen in love with the main character. The novel also mentions about famous musicians and plays which are Gioachino Antonio Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" and and an opera buff(comic opera) "The Marriage of Figaro" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I love classical music, romantic, ba ...more
Anna Bergmark
This time Julian Kestrel faces a cold case, so you'd better wear a sweater. The writing is just fine; the dialogue, the details, the overall atmosphere... No complaints there, but there's nothing to feel warm or passionate about. The stiff and the suspects are equally unengaging. It takes two thirds of the book and a second murder to get the story moving, but with a final wrap up so complicated and unbelievable that even Agatha Christie would have rolled her eyes at it, the rising temperature ta ...more
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Kate Ross, born Katherine Jean Ross, was an American mystery author who wrote four books set in Regency-era England about dandy Julian Kestrel. The novels in the series are Cut to the Quick (1994), which won the 1994 Gargoyle award for Best Historical Mystery, A Broken Vessel (1995), Whom the Gods Love (1996), and The Devil in Music (1997), which won the 1997 Agatha Award for Best Novel. The Lulla ...more
More about Kate Ross...

Other Books in the Series

Julian Kestrel Mysteries (4 books)
  • Cut to the Quick (Julian Kestrel Mysteries, #1)
  • A Broken Vessel (Julian Kestrel Mysteries, #2)
  • Whom the Gods Love (Julian Kestrel Mysteries, #3)

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Deny it? Only the greatest self-restraint prevents me from laughing it out of countenance.”
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