Friday, 6 November 2015

Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson

There’s nothing like a good historical mystery series to get your teeth into and Imogen Robertson makes a terrific beginning with her Westerman and Crowther series debut: Instruments of Darkness. The story opens when Harriet Westerman, the wife of a naval Commander, discovers a murder victim on her estate. She should notify the squire and leave all the inquiries to the authorities. 

But Harriet isn’t like that. Instead she bangs on the door of Gabriel Crowther who, with his nocturnal habits and a reputation for body snatching, is tucked up in bed and reluctant to see visitors. A note to the maid whets his curiosity and soon he and Harriet are peering at the corpse. Harriet wonders if it might be the long lost son of the Earl of Sussex, a nasty piece of work now bedridden. He’d fallen out with his heir, Alexander Thornleigh, years before and the body possesses a ring bearing the Thornleigh crest.

The setting switches between the mystery in Sussex and a music shop in London. Here a widower and his children are bothered by a missing ring and a suspicious stranger, while outside anti-Catholic riots bring London to a standstill. It isn't long before the two stories collide as the plot races towards a thrilling finish and the rising body count suggests a merciless killer .

Robertson has recreated the atmosphere and social mores of 1780 and there are enough twists and subplots to make for an absorbing historical read. I particularly liked the two main characters: Harriet, while missing her beloved husband off defending the realm, is intelligent and doesn’t take no for an answer. Crowther, a dark horse with a mysterious past, adds the CSI element with a touch of Sherlock Holmes.

Instruments of Darkness is the first of five novels featuring this duo and I’ll be looking in again to see what dark and devious crimes throw them together again.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Instruments of Darkness

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