The Devil in Music (Julian Kestrel Mystery)

The Devil in Music (Julian Kestrel Mystery) - Kate Ross The Devil in Music is the fourth (and last) mystery featuring Julian Kestrel. I discovered the books nearly a year ago and devoured the first three. I put off reading this last one because I knew it was the last I would ever have. Ross, the author, died the year after it was published. She was young, still in her early forties. I finally decided to read it because my best friend asked to borrow it -- I have a strange hang-up about loaning books out before I've read them. The book was a lovely end to the quartet. Ross leaves the reader with a feeling of knowing Julian, which is likely the best compliment I can pay Ross in regards to her characterization. Sometimes I do wonder whether she may have intended The Devil in Music to be the last Julian Kestrel novel. It seems to wrap up an area of his life and send him off in a new direction. Much as I would love to follow him, it's not entirely necessary.One of Ross' best skills is that she can tease the reader. In the first section of this novel, we are introduced to a young man who is known only by the nickname Orfeo. The main action of the book takes place four and a half years later and involves the search for this mysterious young man's real identity. Ross is magnificent in playing the reader throughout the book. I had a strong suspicion as to Orfeo's identity through most of the book, but Ross kept throwing sand in my face, so I was never able to become quite sure. In fact, we are privy to Orfeo's point-of-view without knowing it. (Another writer who does this marvellously is Elizabeth George, who places us in the murderer's point-of-view without either cheating or giving away the killer's identity.)Ross also creates, in vivid detail, the atmosphere of Italy and its people. By placing a few Englishmen in the midst of Italians, Ross brings out the characteristics of both societies. She also brings to life the world of opera musicians and singers, but in such a way that laymen like me do not feel left behind. She does this through carefully chosen images and characterizations, enough explanation and description to make things clear, but not enough to bore -- a thing easier said than done.This review also appears at Boxes of Paper.