Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson

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Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson

Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Madeline Wheatley
Reviewed by Madeline Wheatley
Summary: Instruments of Darkness is a historical murder mystery set in the eighteenth century. The story moves between substantial homes in rural Sussex to London during the Gordon riots of 1780, with flashbacks to America during the War of Independence. The book blends the equivalent of the forensic approach of a modern crime thriller with a period setting.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Headline Review
ISBN: 978-0755348398

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The lively heart of this book is Harriet Westerman. Harriet is a capable woman and manager of her family's estate in Sussex, while her husband (a naval Commodore) is away at sea. Her neighbours at Thornleigh Hall are a titled family in decline: the owner is crippled, his heir is missing, and his second son is an alcoholic. Against this background Harriet finds the body of a dead stranger holding a ring displaying the Thornleigh arms. Meanwhile, in London, a young father is murdered in his music shop. Harriet's actions uncover a link. She turns for help to Gabriel Crowther, an anatomist and reclusive recent arrival in the area. Their enquiries allow the author to paint a wide ranging picture of life in Georgian England, and to tell a rollicking good tale reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier. Robertson uses her knowledge of the period with a light touch: the level of detail advances the plot without overcomplicating the story.

The central characters of Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther are strongly drawn, and if you like this book you will be pleased to hear that Robertson has already written a second story featuring the pair. Gabriel Crowther has shades of every recalcitrant, erratic genius from Sherlock Holmes to Gregory House (sorry, but I kept imaging him as Hugh Laurie playing House but in period dress!). Harriet Westerman is an equally enjoyable creation. Her forthright nature leads her into a range of situations and through the story a number of issues are raised around the responsibilities and restrictions placed on women in this period. Lesser characters are something of a mixed bag, some are convincing while others are rather stereotyped.

The antipapist riots during 1780 provide a convincing background for the London scenes in the book and heighten the sense of fear and pursuit the characters experience. Tension occasionally rises to high melodrama, particularly towards the end of the book where there are scenes worthy of a Gothic romance. But overall this is an engaging page turner and a great first novel in its genre.

Thank you to the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestions:

Deryn Lake's Death in Hellfire - try this for more murder and mayhem in the eighteenth century.

C.J. Sansom's Revelation - try this for a historical series featuring another enigmatic solver of crimes.

Buy Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson at Amazon.com.


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