Charles Jessold, Considered as A Murderer

Charles Jessold, Considered as A Murderer

Book - 2011
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One of The Wall Street Journal' s Best fiction books of 2011

England, 1923. A gentleman critic named Leslie Shepherd tells the macabre story of a gifted young composer, Charles Jessold. On the eve of his revolutionary new opera's premiere, Jessold murders his wife and her lover, and then commits suicide in a scenario that strangely echoes the plot of his opera---which Shepherd has helped to write. The opera will never be performed.

Shepherd first shares his police testimony, then recalls his relationship with Jessold in his role as critic, biographer, and friend. And with each retelling of the story, significant new details cast light on the identity of the real victim in Jessold's tragedy.

This ambitiously intricate novel is set against a turbulent moment in music history, when atonal sounds first reverberated through the concert halls of Europe, just as the continent readied itself for war. What if Jessold's opera was not only a betrayal of Shepherd, but of England as well?

Wesley Stace has crafted a dazzling story of counter-melodies and counter-narratives that will keep you guessing to the end.

Publisher: New York : Picador, 2011.
Edition: First U.S. edition.
ISBN: 9780312680107
Characteristics: 389 pages ; 21 cm


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debwalker Mar 12, 2011

NPR Review by Michael H. Miller, March 10, 2011:
"Jessold is a young, excitable composer in the years leading up to World War I. We are introduced to him by way of a news article about his death: "COMPOSER KILLS WIFE, ANOTHER, COMMITS SUICIDE." Stace spends 400 pages opening up a single quotation from that article — "The musical critic of this newspaper, a sometime collaborator of the composer, Leslie Shepherd, blamed Jessold's alcoholism and obsessive nature, declaring the murders an unnecessary tragedy, one that would inevitably tarnish the composer's legacy." The matter of Jessold's legacy is at the heart of the novel's construction: two separate books within a book, each written by Shepherd, a music critic and the composer's collaborator on his final masterpiece, Little Musgrave, which was performed for the first and last time — a dress rehearsal — the final night of Jessold's life."

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