This is a beautifully written and elegantly structured novel, unfolding in three storylines Two take place in the novel s present day, one following the lives of Alexander Adams the missing heir of Thornleigh and his children, and the other the activites of Mrs Westerman and Mr Crowther as they struggle to solve a rash of seemingly connected murders The third storyline unfolds in flashbacks, as it takes place years before in Massachusetts and follows Hugh Thornfield, a Captain in the British Army during the early days of the American Revolution.The structure of the novel is quite elegant, for as Mrs Westerman and Mr Crowther make slow progress in unraveling the murder mystery, we are alternately presented with the daily happenings in the London lives of Alexander Adams, his children and friends As the connections between the murders, Thornleigh Hall and Alexander become apparent, the rapid shift of perspective speeds up as well, heightening the tension and turning this from a really good book into a page turner The sparser flashbacks to Hugh Thornleigh s experiences in America during the Revolutionary War lend insight into his character and present day relationships.The novel is also chock full of fascinating chunks of history The lives of the people in London are in additional danger from the rioting and attacks going on as anti Catholic sentiment reaches its violent boiling point Mr Crowther s profession as an anatomist is really interesting as well, because it is only in recent years that the general population considers anatomists men of science rather than ghoulish creatures There are many intriguing details about Crowther s specimens, how they are preserved, the process of dissection, and the early building blocks of forensic science Harriet Westerman is a delight as the mystery solving amateur sleuth She spent the early years of her marriage on a ship with her husband, and still yearns for the freeedom and adventure of life at sea She is rather bored with her life in the country, managing her husband s estate, and minding her manners, much like a bird in a gilded cage She is practical, intelligent, brave and flawed I loved her.Throughout the novel the ever present weight of class consciousness is pressing down on every action, every conversation, from the blatant rejection of the class system in the American flashbacks, to the London riots and the daily activities of every character in the book It was fascinating to watch how Harriet Westerman and Crowther navigated the dangerous seas of country and class politics and expectations, while attempting to solve a murder.Absolutely beautifully written I m off to the library tomorrow to find the next in this series While Commodore Westerman was away at sea, his wife discovered a body on their land With one part common sense and a second part curiosity, she approached the solitary Mr Gabriel Crowther for assistance in identifying the unknown man Crowther was a mid fifties single gentleman who preferred his own company to others He delved in science and preferred clinical anatomical research With the honest Mrs Westerman, he found his spirit and intellect well matched and a friendship of sorts developed Harriet was the mother of a little boy and a baby girl but she had a thirst for learning She was limited in ways because of her gender but still had some freedom because she was in charge of the estate while her husband was away Crowther assumed she was in her early thirties Harriet s eighteen year old sister the thoughtful Miss Rachel Trench lived with the family, too Instruments of Darkness was what Rachel named Crowther s knives he used in his examinations What started as an innocent search for a killer morphed into a period thriller that included locating a will, a signet ring and concealed letters No one was immune from a tragic death The author used two timelines 1775 and 1780 that affected the narrative s pacing The story moved between three distinct plots At times, it was bothersome and slowed my reading It worked for and against my enjoyment of the mystery Though I can only award Instruments of Darkness three stars, I liked Crowther, Harriet and Rachel I am also hoping to see other secondary characters in future stories Because of this, I will read the next one. Daphne Du Maurier Meets CSI In This Exhilarating Debut Thornleigh Hall, Seat Of The Earl Of Sussex, Dominates Its Surroundings Its Heir Is Missing, And The Once Vigorous Family Is Reduced To A Cripple, His Whore And His Alcoholic Second Son, But Its Power Endures Impulsive Harriet Westerman Has Felt The Hall S Menace Long Before She Happens Upon A Dead Man Bearing The Thornleigh Arms The Grim Discovery Cries Out For Justice, And She Persuades Reclusive Anatomist Gabriel Crowther To Her Cause, Much Against His Better Judgement He Knows A Dark Path Lies Before Those Who Stray From Society S Expectations That Same Day, Alexander Adams Is Killed In A London Music Shop, Leaving His Young Children Orphaned His Death Will Lead Back To Sussex, And An Explosive Secret That Has Already Destroyed One Family And Threatens Many Others 2.5 stars.What worked for me The mystery was good It was intricate enough that all the twists weren t immediately obvious, although the main ideas were Harriet and Crowther were engaging detectives I liked their personalities, which is always a good thing in a detective story The subplots worked for me I can follow skipping around in time, if it s done well, and this was I even liked the children, which I normally do not particularly enjoy in an adult murder mystery The villains were well done I liked that there was a rationale behind their actions, instead of just well, they were evil What did NOT The Georgian setting What Georgian setting With the exception of the mentions of the Gordon riots and the American Revolution, I would not have guessed at the time period used for the setting It could honestly have been any historical time period Harriet and Gabriel s partnership I am pretty sure that in ANY historical era, a married or not woman spending so much time with another man especially unmarried who was not family would be a pretty big no no I WANTED to like them together, but I couldn t get behind it A few anachronisms in the writing that were pretty glaring Mostly the writing was unobtrusively historical or at least neutral, but I don t know about pro eg., I know a pro when I see one or kid a kid like me So, Lord Thornhill could view spoiler kill a girl IN ENGLAND and get away with it, because it was his word against a servant s If that s the case, how come Hugh killed a man in America, where bad behavior was less checked, and then got in trouble for it It would have been his word against Wicksteed s, and so theoretically Hugh s word would have been accepted Ooookay hide spoiler I love an intricate plot, and, without sounding debauched Multiple murders Throw in murders committed over than one generation Yes, that will do it I m giving this book 4.5 stars, despite some minor missteps, for sucking me in, for wanting by this author, and from the characters, Crowther mysterious gentleman anatomist and his side kick Westerman Commodore s no nonsense, handsome, wife with their on page chemistry did I just coin a term Probably not , and for readability Additional thumbs up for than one villain, all with varying degrees of sympathetic stories Minor missteps women in this book are decidedly too modern, too bold, for the late 18th century Georgian of my knowledge it felt as though perhaps it should have been set in the late 19th century. This book would have gotten 5 stars from me if not for the revelation of WhoDunnit Let this be a lesson to authors The first 5 6ths of the book were wonderful A nicely intricate mystery set in the English countryside and London involving missing heirs, blackmail, and so on And a great time frame 1780 Not Regency I really enjoyed our investigators and the apparent bad guy was appropriately slimy But the revelations at the end during the climactic confrontation had me going WTF Where did that come from Here s hoping the next one has all the kinks ironed out. First Sentence Gabriel Crowther opened his eyes Harriet Westerman, wife of a navy commander, has given up sailing with her husband to raise their family and provide a home for her sister at Caverly Park in West Sussex When she finds the body of a man whose throat has been slit, she summons help from anatomist Gabriel Crowther The victim has a ring bearing the crest of neighboring Thornleigh Hall Was the man Alexander Thornleigh, the missing heir to the Earl of Sussex London music shop owner Alexander Adams is murdered Before dying, he tells his daughter to find a box hidden under the counter Was Alexander the missing heir and how can his children be removed from the city in spite of a killer and the anti Catholic Gordon Riots Wonderful characters make this book a treat to read Jane Austin fans will quickly associate Harriet Westerman with Mrs Croft, the captain s wife from Pursuasion She has traveled, seen war, is outspoken and not to be put off Her younger sister, Rachel Trench, is Jane Eyre, in her attraction to the war wounded Hugh Thornleigh, younger brother of the missing Alexander and the Mr Rochester of our story Gabriel Crowther is a scientist, and something of a recluse until being pulled into the investigation by Harriet and his own curious mind There are a lot of characters, including some real historical figures It was occasionally is difficult to keep track of who is whom However, they each played their part and added to the overall Gothic feel of the story Ms Robertson convincingly transported me to Georgian England in sight, sound, dialogue appropriate to the period and historical fact I had not known of the Gordon Riots until now She also included a perspective of the American Revolution from the viewpoint of a British soldier There is a lovely, Gothic feel to this book, but it was not perfect Happily, in spite of identifying the villains fairly soon, the motive remained a secret until the end Although story did feel over long, I was completely involved and never found myself skipping through it The book was engrossing and suspenseful, with interesting historical information The different threads of the plot were brought together well in a slightly overly dramatic fashion The most important question is whether I would read another book by this author The answer is a definite yes, and it s already on order.INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS His Mys Gabriel Crowther Harriet Westerman England 1780 G Robertson, Imogen 1st in seriesHeadline, 2009, UK Hardcover ISBN 9780755348398 image error I will openly admit I knew nothing of this book before I saw it and bought it and certainly not the number of sequels that have come off the back of it It was a case of cover and title catching my eye and then reading the cover piquing my curiosity The book itself reads like a period drama in fact I see there are references to Jane Austin in its comparisons and yet at its heart is a murder mystery in fact several with twists and turns and intrigue that you can imagine Now it may have been me being over whelmed with the language and attitude of the characters I did say it was period but I really didnt see the true villain of the piece be exposed until late in to the book, something that surprised even me and kept me reading long after really I would normally had patience for.So yes I did enjoy the book the story was gripping but I will admit at times it was hard work but eventually it was worth it This was a very enjoyable debut novel from a clearly talented new author, one which introduces a great new detective duo in Gabriel Crowther and Harriet Westerman.Set in England in the year 1780, the novel begins with the forward thinking and feisty Westerman securing the help of the reclusive anatomist Crowther after discovering a murder victim on her lands She suspects that someone at the neighbouring Thornleigh Hall estate has something to do with the murder and she also believes that things go on at Thornleigh Hall that have to be kept secret On the same day, a man named Alexander Adams is murdered in his music shop in London Are the two cases linked So begins a convoluted, gothic murder mystery a sort of Sherlock Holmes CSI mash up involving several different plot strands with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing right up until the end.This is a very character driven story and the leading duo of Crowther and Westerman are two of the most interesting new characters that I have read about in a long time Harriet Westerman is clearly a woman ahead of her time She is forward thinking, impulsive, determined and doesn t suffer fools gladly Despite being a woman of high social standing, she is also very down to earth and is not afraid to use her quick, and sometimes sarcastic wit Gabriel Crowther is the complete opposite of Westerman He is a recluse who would much rather keep his own company and absorb himself in his work as an anatomist than spend time with any of his neighbours However, it is clear that he does have a past and Robertson keeps us hooked by throwing in little snippets of information throughout the book, although by the end he is still something of an enigma I suspect that will be revealed about him in the subsequent books involving these two characters Westerman and Crowther work extremely well together and their separate character traits complement each other really well Watching their relationship develop is one of the most intriguing parts of the whole novel and also provides the frequently dark storyline with an element of much needed humour.The 18th century setting is extremely well researched and is brought vividly to life by Robertson Through her descriptions, you can see, hear and smell all the aspects of 18th century life and really picture yourself as being right there in the middle of it all.Now for the negatives The plot is made up of three separate strands which weave together as the story unfolds I found initially that it was slightly confusing in keeping track of who was who and in which sub plot they were involved in, although this did become clearer as time went on I also personally felt that the third sub plot involving one of the heirs to Thornleigh Hall s experiences in the American Revolution War of Independence dragged on a bit at times It was interesting and harrowing to read about but it could have been cut down a little bit in my opinion I also found it quite easy to guess who the murderer was but their motives remained a mystery until the end so this did not affect my overall enjoyment that much at all.Overall, this was a well written historical mystery with sone exceptionally likeable characters and enough intrigue and suspense to keep you turning the pages It was not perfect but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I am looking forward to reading Robertson s other books that also feature Crowther and Westerman I highly recommend this book so settle down and enjoy. Tension builds from the moment Mrs Westerman, genteel proprietress of Caveley Park, forces her acquaintance on reclusive anatomist Gabriel Crowther, wealthy man of secrets and possessor of many strange and distasteful objects, in search of his help in dealing with the death of a stranger in her copse.It doesn t let up It ratchets up every time Mrs Westerman or Mr Crowther are on stage There are flashbacks to Mrs Westerman s neighbor, Lord Hugh Thornleigh, in combat during the American conflictthese aren t immediately obviously relevant to the story, and I think I d ve recommended the author introduce them differently than her editor did, but have patienceand introduce us to Claver Wicksteed, then an Army procurement officer and now steward of Thornleigh, the seat of the Earls of Sussex Then we meet the Countess of Sussex, and our central cast is complete.The body count rises, as it must in a mystery, and the characters begin to see that they re engaged in a grisly gavotte around one central puzzle How low can a human being sink, regardless of high birth, and how can justice seem so far from just Like all good mystery writers, Robertson takes us round the houses by changing the angle of view several times She s very good at this What seems awful becomes right and good what seems reliably good stinks like old fish before she s done with us Fear not The wise and the just are rewarded Just that they re also made to get dirty in the process.There are first novel issues with the book, of course, like the Parthenon being described as a round building in Rome PANTHEON and the persistent misunderstanding of how one addresses Earls, Countesses, and their offspring Earls are Lord Name of earldom , their wives Lady Name of earldom unless that countess is the daughter of a fellow earl or higher, in which case she s ALWAYS Lady Firstname no matter who she s married to, sons and heirs of earls are Viscounts and addressed as Lord Name of viscounty even when very young, younger sons are Lord Family name and daughters of earls are Lady Firstname all their lives, etc etc Most of this is the editor s fault The author should be able to rely on him or her to catch these sorts of factual oopsies.Still and allthe pleasures of reading this book are many, and evil chortle you ll all have to wait until at least 2011 to find out cause the book ain t available here yet I borrowed mine from our own Suzanne Chatterbox, so there nyah But it s recommended Really and truly Too good to miss.
Imogen Robertson grew up in Darlington, studied Russian and German at Cambridge and now lives in London She directed for film, TV and radio before becoming a full time author and won the Telegraph s First thousand words of a novel competition in 2007 with the opening of Instruments of Darkness, her first novel Her other novels also featuring the detective duo of Harriet Westerman and Gabriel C
- Kindle Edition
- 300 pages
- Instruments of Darkness
- Imogen Robertson
- 20 July 2019 Imogen Robertson