My own experience has been that C++ is an excellent choice for the work you're interested in. It's full of pitfalls, but it's also full of excellence.
Start with Stroustrup's "The C++ Programming Language" and move on to Scott Meyers' Effective C++ books. Stroustrup makes picking up the language easy and natural. Meyers helps you around all the pitfalls so you can come up with elegant solutions with a minimum of effort.
Don't dismiss boost. As others have said, it's a bit of a minefield, but it also has a lot of well implemented solutions to common problems.
Qt is fun as well, and I make my daily bread using Qt. But if you're not writing a GUI app, there might be better solutions to a lot of the problems their non-GUI classes are trying to solve.