Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson
Paperback at £6.99
This was a book which I received in the post from the author herself. Now, of course, I expect she has sent out more than one copy to the owners of book shops and that her main intention has been to improve her chances of selling copies. However, I presume we might have a mutual friend for with it, she had included a hand written letter addressed to, ‘Dear Tony’, hoping that I might enjoy her book. Well, Imogen, I certainly did.
Sir Hugh, second son of the Earl of Sussex, is not long returned from fighting in the American War of Independence, when a body is discovered on his land by his neighbour, the outspoken sea captain’s wife, Harriet Westerman. The reclusive Gabriel Crowther, an anatomist with an eye for detail, is soon dragged along by her into investigating the murder. It is obvious that there is a connection to the Earl for the murdered man has, on his person, a ring showing the Thornleigh arms but it is when a second murder occurs that suspicion falls on Hugh himself. Meanwhile, in a parallel story, the heir to the estate, who has married for love and has disowned his family, is also murdered in his London house. The bodies pile up and Harriet herself is also threatened. The already dizzy pace quickens through the riotous streets of London and more dramatic deaths to a grand finale in the blazing ruin of the great house.
This has a complex and dramatic Dickensian plot, wit borrowed from Austen, a dark love affair out of ‘The Turn of the Screw’ and a Bronte like ending yet it is fresh and inventive throughout. The mystery is a genuine one, the relationship between the outspoken Harriet and the rather dry Crowther is always entertaining and is often very funny. The characters are vividly described and more than one could have been an escapee from Copperfield or Bleak House (the author even uses a character’s name from Nicholas Nickleby) The contrasting settings of country houses and grand manners with the rabble in the streets of London during anti Catholic riots are both perfectly described, the one all manners and wit, the other foolishness and fear. In short, I was happy to receive this book from Impogen, and even happier to read it.
A thoroughly entertaining piece of work with two of the most interesting ‘detectives’ in fiction. I look forward to reading the next in the series, Anatomy of Murder, and we now stock both.
Thank you Imogen!
(There is a third 'Westerman and Crowther' novel, Island of Bones, due in the spring.)
Imogen has her own blog http://imogenrobertson.wordpress.com/