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Cut to the Quick (Julian Kestrel Mysteries #1)

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  2,800 ratings  ·  239 reviews

Add the unflappable Julian Kestrel to the ranks of great sleuths of ages past. He's the very model of a proper Beau Brummell--except for his unusual willingness to plunge headlong into murder investigations. And an investigation's hard to avoid when, luring an elegant weekend at a friend's c
Paperback, 337 pages
Published April 1st 1994 by Penguin Crime (first published January 1st 1993)
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The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Alienist by Caleb CarrThe Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz ZafónMistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Best Historical Mystery
77th out of 1,132 books — 3,082 voters
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Favorite Historical Mystery Series
117th out of 723 books — 786 voters

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Community Reviews

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Implausible but entertaining Regency mystery of the traditional English sort: house parties, family secrets, engagements, silly servants, bumbling local authorities, ridiculous webs of lies, lots of descriptions of clothing, many cups of tea.

It's obvious that Ross is steeped in both the mystery and Regency romance traditions. Her lovers misunderstand one another, her local gentry are haughty, and her detective is smarter than anyone else around. Julian Kestrel is almost too much of a good thing
A few months after Julian Kestral, a fashionable lounger, helps Hugh Fontclair out of a scrape, he's invited to be best man at Hugh's wedding. Kestral is surprised--he's only met Hugh that once--but intrigued. He travels to the Fontclair estate, hoping for a restful vacation in the country, only to find that the family members are all at each others' throats. Then someone is found murdered. First because he's curious, then because he's worried for his manservant, Kestral insists on investigating ...more
Originally read in 2/2003 - Re-read and re-reviewed 2/2010

First Sentence: Mark Craddock paced slowly, deliberately, back and forth behind the desk in his study.

Regency dandy and detective Julian Kestrel rescues young Hugh Fontclair from embarrassment at a gambling hell and, in turn, is asked to serve as best man for Hugh’s forced marriage to Maud Craddock. Kestral, along with is man Dipper, travels to the Fontclair country home for a weekend with both families. The last thing he expected was to
These excellent Regency historical mysteries get even better as they go along. The sleuth, Julian Kestrel, is a dandy with a mysterious past, and there are many memorable supporting characters: Dipper, Kestrel's manservant and former pickpocket; Sally, Dipper's sister (whom I wanted to see more of after her initial appearance in A Broken Vessel); MacGregor, the crusty Scottish doctor; and young Philippa Fontclair (and I wonder if her name is meant as a homage to Dorothy Dunnett's Philippa Somerv ...more
Khanh (Clowns, Nightmares, and Bunnies)
Do you know what it is to love someone unworthy? When you can't respect the person you love, you can't respect yourself.

This is a good start to a Regency mystery series featuring Julian Kestrel. It is well-written, the plot is reasonable and moves in a believable pace and direction. Without modern detective tools, the people involved in solving the mystery use mainly deduction, reason, and observation to solve the case.

The characters were mostly well-written, none were so outlandish as to be unb
The debut of Julian Kestrel and a very neatly done mystery. One of the great things about Kate Ross' writing is that while she creates a character with a number of extraordinary talents, she reveals the extent of them slowly of the course of the four books that she wrote so the reader is not overwhelmed by too much uniqueness. I always liked that Julian had enough personality quirks to be fascinating without being so overdone that his perfection was annoying. I also appreciated the little detail ...more
"You're cynical. I thought you would be. Can you sneer?"
"With terrifying effect."

Hugh Fontclair finds himself drunk and seriously out of his depth at a gaming hell where he is taken by his feckless cousin to celebrate his engagement. He is rescued by a gentleman of the dandy set named Julian Kestrel and is sent home safe and sound. Thankful, Hugh invites Julian to his family home, a gorgeous mansion & estate that dates back to Elizabethan times, for a house party to celebrate his nuptials.

I had stumbled across Kate Ross’s most recent novel Whom the Gods Love. Her detective is Julian Kestrel, a rake who, with the help of Dipper, a reformed pickpocket, solves crimes that leave the Bow Street Runners (Scotland Yard’s predecessors) baffled. Naturally, I wanted to read the earlier Kestrel novels and I’m pleased to report that Ross’s first novel, Cut to the Quick lived up to my expectations. Julian has been invited to be best man at the wedding of Hugh Fontclair. He soon realizes som ...more
I give up. After procrastinating for almost a week, I'm still no nearer articulating my reaction to this book. Instead, I keep recalling Northwest Smith's reaction to transcendental beauty in C. L. Moore's "Black Thirst" — a mind-disorienting sense of vertigo.

Cut to the Quick is a Regency murder mystery in the tradition of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction adhering, consciously or unconsciously, to Knox's Rules or Van Dine's Commandments. No twists, no plot holes, no omniscient narrator sleigh
An excellent mystery set in the Regency period. Although I figured out who the killer was early on, there were enough red herrings thrown in that I was doubting myself. I enjoyed reading about Julian Kestrel and his ex-pick pocket valet, Dipper and look forward to revisiting them in the next three books.
Shala Howell
Good story, but I found the writing/dialogue to be ponderous. Am going to check out another one, because Ross came highly recommended, and it's possible that this is a first novel sort of problem that will shake out.
The mystery was plotted well and had a satisfying finish, though some of the clues jumped out at me. The investigation was also very, very talky, and I tend to prefer a faster pace.

Julian Kestrel was an interesting lead, though I think the idea of him was a little better than his execution. Other characters speak as if he's this fashion-obsessed dandy, but he doesn't act that way apart from the occasional throwaway quip. I think I'd have enjoyed him more if he'd truly been a frivolous gentleman
A nice murder mystery set in England in the 1820’s. The sleuth, Julian, is immensely likable, and I really wanted the book to be more about him. We learn that he’s a Regency dandy, and we’re given a few facts about him, but he jumps into detective mode before we get a good idea of what his life is like.

The book is strongly focused on the mystery, and it’s carefully, almost too deliberately crafted. Early on, for instance, some casual asides stand out rather obviously as clues. It’s enjoyable, ne
I enjoyed this book immensely. It was perhaps not in the same sphere as Anne Perry's Thomas Pitt and perhaps a little below the Sebastian St. Cyr novels but I still enjoyed it. The book was a little choppy and the author still seemed to be finding her voice however there were some passages that truly shined. Including all of the ones with Phillipa in them. I think in the next couple books Julian will start to separate himself from the pack. His character seemed a little bland. Perhaps he will be ...more
I loved this book. Loved. It.

This is one of the few mystery books I've read in which I had absolutely no idea who the guilty party was. Just when I thought I had a handle on what was going on, the author very deftly threw in a monkey wrench that forced me to rethink my suspicions. It was fantastic!

Julian Kestrel is an intriguing character, one who presents himself as the prototypical dandy, but is so much more than that under the surface. Cannot wait to read the next book in the series.

MB (What she read)
Pretty sure I must have read this a long time ago. Upon reading, a lot seemed familar.

Odd Observation:

You know, from reading Georgette Heyer, I picture "Dandies" as being overly decorated and obsessed with fad and fashion to the point of effemininity--someone of whom manly men make fun. (Which, I assume, is not what Kate Ross was referencing?)

As per descriptions, Kestrel seems much more likely to be what Heyer calls a "Corinthian", a fashionable man-about-town, in the manner of Beau Brummel. Res
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julian Kestrel, a regency era dandy, becomes a sleuth when a dead girl's body is found in his bed. He is visiting a country estate to participate in an upcoming wedding. This book is full of intriging characters and I am looking forward to reading another book by the author.
While reading this book, I wondered if Kate Ross had a checklist of some sort to make sure she hit every cliche and expectation of a book set in this era: Lords and Ladies? Check! Country house party? Check! Unrequited love? Check! Check! Devilishly handsome protagonist with snappy fashion sense and an unending supply of cash? Check! Devilishly handsome protagonist's quirky sidekick? Check! Regardless of the boiler plate plot line, I really enjoyed the crime, Julian Kestrel's involvement in solv ...more
Laura Christensen

Okay, so the first chapter or so felt uncannily like reading a Georgette Heyer Regency. Kate Ross used a lot of the same wording and slang to describe things. However, once that was passed the book took on a life of its own, no longer relying on Heyerisms--and what a life. o.o I don't think I've ever read a murder mystery that left me suspicious and suspecting by turns absolutely every single suspect. There were even some twists and turns that didn't have to do with the murder that floored
An absorbing country house mystery, set in the early 1800s and featuring a dilettante-turned-detective. Even though the ending was bittersweet, I loved the plot's twists and turns.
Cathy Sprankle
Fans of Jane Austen and "Downton Abbey" will enjoy this manor-house murder mystery set in 1820s England. Julian Kestral, a London dandy, is invited to the country house of a new acquaintance, where he soon finds himself not only in the middle of a murder investigation but surrounded by people who all seem to have something to hide. Ross has filled this book with engaging and well-developed characters who interact with dialogue that is sometimes snappy and sometimes heartfelt but always believabl ...more
Anna Richland
My favorite, and the first, of the Julian Kestrel series. I love Regency romances, and this is a wonderful change-up for any Regency reader. Same setting, same characters that we all expect from the period, but a perspective shift to mystery through a dandy's eyes. The male point-of-view and focus on the rituals of male life in the Regency was a wonderful change and sent me back to romances quite refreshed.

No, Julian Kestrel isn't a secret agent in disguise. He's just a dandy with more in his h
I was surprised that I liked this book as much as I did. Normally, historical fiction is not my cup of tea - pun intended, since many cups of tea are drunk in this book.

Julian, our protagonist, finds himself enmeshed in a murder mystery. The cast of possible villains is large. I liked the writing, the plot was twisty enough without becoming totally bizarre, most of the characters were well developed (except for one who stayed a simp for too long and then rather implausibly found her spine at the
Julian Kestrel is wonderful. What can I say more?
"“If everyone who died with unpunished sins on his conscience came back as a ghost, the living would be crowded out of every home in England.”
“You’re cynical. I thought you would be. Can you sneer?”
“With terrifying effect.”
“Oh, do it, please! I want to see it!”
“I’m afraid you’re much too young to withstand it. I should be accused of stunting your growth— perhaps even sending you into a decline.”
“I wouldn’t go into a decline. I’m robust. My governess says so."

I love this book and this series
This murder mystery set in early 19th century England is full of typical English characters (Lord Fontclair, the master of the estate, Bellegarde; his military-decorated brother, the beautiful orphaned niece and the bitchy sister-in-law among many more. In steps Julian Kestrel--not a blue blood, very little resources but a trendy dresser and style setter that is everyone's party invitee. Kestrel happens to save Lord Fontclair's son Hugh from an embarrassing and costly situation and becomes the i ...more
An excellent whodunnit that contains some of my favorite mystery tropes (English country house setting, the locked room conundrum). A few small flaws with the writing, particularly the way Ross shifts POV (sometimes mid-scene, argh) seemingly arbitrarily -- I feel that mysteries are best when told from one point of view, or when the author very consciously offers up a bunch of unreliable narrators (cf. Wilkie Collins) as a way of making the style of the narrative suit the content. Including a fe ...more
Julian Kestrel is a Regency dandy with a mysterious past, fine intellect, and empathetic heart. Hugh Fontclair is being forced into marriage with Maud Craddock, but invites Julian as best man after meeting the young man once and in gratitude for saving him from a gaming hell.

At Bellegarde, everyone is harboring one large secret, and smaller secrets of their own. (view spoiler)
Really brilliant Regency mystery. It reads like a cross between Jane Austen and Agatha Christie, which was perfect to me. The mystery was long and rather convoluted and I enjoyed it very much; this is one of those books, the ones that make me stay up unreasonably late because I just have to know who did it, and how, and why. I did guess some things, but not the murderer, because I fixated on the wrong person early on. Still, the solution was very satisfactory because it made sense to me (minus a ...more
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Julian Kestrel - will there be a book #5? 4 27 Jan 19, 2014 01:21AM  
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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)
  • A Broken Vessel (Julian Kestrel Mysteries, #2)
  • Whom the Gods Love (Julian Kestrel Mysteries, #3)
  • The Devil in Music (Julian Kestrel Mysteries, #4)
Whom the Gods Love (Julian Kestrel Mysteries, #3) A Broken Vessel (Julian Kestrel Mysteries, #2) The Devil in Music (Julian Kestrel Mysteries, #4) Crime Through Time (Crime Through Time, #1) Past Poisons: An Ellis Peters Memorial Anthology of Historical Crime

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