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Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer Paperback – Bargain Price, February 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Writing music is murder in novelist and musician Stace�s thriller set in 1920s Great Britain. As the novel opens, the premiere of gifted young composer Charles Jessold�s new opera, Little Musgrave, is upstaged, in the deadliest of ways, when Jessold kills his wife and her lover, then takes his own life. More shocking still: the composer�s brutal crimes are strikingly similar to those portrayed in his new work. Narrated by a respected music critic, Leslie Shepherd, Stace�s latest offering recounts the years leading up to Jessold�s crime, as Shepherd relishes (and occasionally dreads) his role as the composer�s collaborator and friend. What was it that pushed Jessold over the edge? Was he having an affair with Shepherd�s lovely wife, or was the pair�s relationship simply one of artist and muse? Stace (By George, 2007) starts with a bang (literally), but the tale loses some momentum as Shepherd belabors the details of his own life. Still, music-history fans will enjoy Stace�s take on the emergence of modernism in concert venues across prewar Europe. --Allison Block


“A tremendously imaginative novel that’s really several novels in one, for beneath its sparkling surface there are some very murky depths. A wonderfully disquieting read.” —Sarah Waters, author of The Little Stranger

“This is one of the few novels I have read that is truly musical. Wesley Stace is a brilliant and intensely original writer and this is his most unusual book yet.” —Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler’s Wife

“A gripping narrative that twists and turns to the end...By far the most confident musical fiction I have read in years.” —Norman Lebrecht, New Statesman (UK)

“Wesley Stace’s tale of music and murder is a baroque intellectual thriller, wittily erudite and psychologically astute.” —Alex Ross, author of The Rest Is Noise

“We might have predicted that Wesley Stace---a fine novelist and a fine musician---would one day write a novel about music, but could we have predicted that it would be so brilliant? The dialogue sparkles, the prose glimmers, and for once you leave a novel not just haunted by the characters and the story, but humming the tunes.” —Jonathan Coe, author of The Rotters’ Club

“[Stace’s] twisty plot of jealousy and murder unfolds with Nabokovian precision during Britain’s early twentieth-century folk and early music revival.” —Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, Financial Times (UK)

“Recalls one of the greatest and saddest novels of the period, Ford Madox Ford’s The Good Soldier and follows the tradition of great novels of imaginary music.” —Roz Kaveney, The Times Literary Supplement (UK)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 389 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Original edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312680104
  • ASIN: B0057D8ZV6
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,663,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By barry VINE VOICE on January 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
What a find this novel was. I had never heard of author Wesley Stace but now I will read everything he has written. He is an author and musician and here he combines both in an intricately written psychological historical novel. With historical fiction it is important that time and place be real to the extent of being a character in itself. Stace far surpasses that requirement here. This book is written with literary prose that fully respects the written word. His sentences and phrases are works of art and the fact that this happens in a novel where music takes center stage is no mistake. We are fully placed in the early 1900s and then the deeply psychological aspect of the book takes form. All the characters here are fully developed and true creations. Charles Jessold is a young composer who on the night before the premiere of his new opera kills his wife, her lover and then commits suicide. Critic Leslie Shepperd tells the story and he also happens to have cowritten the opera. He tells the story to us from three different perspectives and with each perspective the way the mysteries and answers unfold is ingenious.

Wesley Stace is not a new author but he is new to me. This novel fills me with great admiration of his work. One must read this novel to be able to fully appreciate his gifts as an author. This definitely can only be defined as musical fiction. What a creation. This is a very intelligent piece of work that fully respects the reader. Be prepared to be taken to another place and time and be well taken care of by author Stace. This novel is a very welcome addition to historical fiction and I highly recommend it. Put it at the top of your to read list.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 3, 2011
Format: Paperback
Wesley Stace's ample new novel -- half murder mystery, half music criticism -- opens with a press report on the death of the talented young English composer Charles Jessold in 1923. He appears to have shot himself in his apartment after poisoning his wife and his wife's lover and watching them die. The murder-suicide has not one but two ironic precedents. It reproduces the story of the Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo, who similarly killed his wife with her lover. It is also the subject of an English folk-ballad, "Lord Barnard and Little Musgrave," which Jessold had taken as the subject for his operatic magnum opus, due to premiere the following night. Given the circumstances, the opera was canceled and Jessold's posthumous reputation ruined. It seems clear that he was a man obsessed by the career of Gesualdo, his near-namesake, as he squandered his own talent in alcoholism and excess. The facts are not in dispute; it only remains to trace the sorry path that led to this debacle, and ascertain the composer's possible motives.

This task is left to Leslie Shepherd, a gentleman of independent means who writes musical criticism for a leading London paper. Meeting Jessold at a country-house weekend, he takes it upon himself to promote the young man and guide his early career. It is the period of the English folk-song revival, when composers such as Vaughan-Williams and Holst would go out into the countryside to transcribe ancient versions of the old ballads as sung by aged countrymen, in search of a home-grown nationalism to combat the dominance of German music.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By David Cady VINE VOICE on February 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I cannot remember the last time I was as enthralled with a novel as I've been with "Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer." Superbly written and expertly plotted, author Wesley Stace has blessed us with the kind of book they don't make anymore: a literate, thinking man's mystery. Combining the wit of Oscar Wilde with the execution and skill of Dorothy L. Sayers, it's a brilliant, erudite delight that echoes past classics. The first person narrative moves forward with the steady, relentless suspense of DeMaurier's "Rebecca;" and the milieu draws clear parallels to the homoerotically charged drawing rooms of Wilde's "The Picture of Dorian Gray." Or does it? Like Agatha Christie at her best, Stace is a master of misdirection, devilishly toying with our grasp of just what story he's telling - and whose; I was happily surprised on more than one occasion.

If the world of England's musical literati in the first half of the 20th century means nothing to you (if, for instance, you have no knowledge of or interest in composers like Vaughan Williams or Benjamin Britten), "Charles Jessold..." may seem a tad pretentious and refined in its sensibilities. But if the time and place, as well as the aforementioned authors, get you salivating, I think you'll devour this book with the same relish and pleasure as have I.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By delicateflower152 TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 26, 2011
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In "Charles Gessold, Considered as a Murderer," Wesley Stace has given readers a unique, sometimes troubling novel. Stace's knowledge of composers and the music world is evident throughout the book. It is, however, the major focus in the first quarter of the book and may for some, as it did for me, become rather tedious. However, this sets the scene for some of the most intriguing story-telling in current fiction. Stace creates complex characters; he slowly reveals their personalities, their morals, and their conscience, or lack thereof. Again, while this contributes mightily to the rich texture of the novel, it may also cause less diligent readers to lose interest in the book.

Beginning in 1910, the book, through the words of music critic Leslie Shepherd, tells of the rise and fall of composer Charles Gessold. Shepherd plays an integral part in both Gessold's professional and personal life. In turn, Gessold has a significant impact on Shepherd's professional as well as his personal life. As he narrates their story, Shepherd "considers" "Gessold as a murderer" - he examines whether Gessold is, indeed, a murderer. Society, however, "considers" "Gessold as a murderer" - they have deemed him to be one. These two differing views of Gessold comprise the balance of this unusual story.

Gessold's life, initially, is presented so that one may imagine it somewhat parallels that of Christ. Just as a Messiah was devoutly prayed for by the Hebrews - with respect to English opera - ..."an English opera by an English composer was ... devoutly wished for." Like Christ, Gessold is a young man from a small, rural town; at the age of thirty, he begins to gain recognition.
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