Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer
by Wesley Stace
Leslie Shepherd, a music critic nearing the end of his life, reflects on the shocking murder-suicide that rocked London society years before. The ... Show synopsis Leslie Shepherd, a music critic nearing the end of his life, reflects on the shocking murder-suicide that rocked London society years before. The unlikely killer: Charles Jessold, composer, prodigy, and Shepherd's collaborator on the opera that was set to open the following night. The victims: Jessold's wife and her vocal coach, found poisoned in her marriage-bed. At the centre of the scandal is the opera itself, now postponed indefinitely - the tale of a betrayed husband who murders his wife and her lover, before taking his own life. Shepherd's own involvement stretches back to his first encounter with Jessold decades earlier, when he captivated the young musician with a sordid true-crime story of a cuckolded composer whose murderous revenge prefigured Jessold's crime. Throughout the book this marital theme - a husband, a wife and her lover - replays itself in endless variations as Shepherd wrestles with questions of guilt, justice and the responsibility of a muse to those she inspires. Charles Jessold, considered as a murderer brings centre stage ideas of fidelity and the complexities of love in all of its forms. Set amid growing anti-German sentiment, as English composers turned to folk song to create a truly national music, the novel also explores the relationship between critic and artist, in particular the distorting effects of the biographical approach to criticism. Wesley Stace conducts this symphony with a wit reminiscent of Wodehouse. The result is a dazzling, passionate novel that masterfully pairs rich, complex characters with feather-light dialogue in sparkling counterpoint to the seriousness of the book's themes.