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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson
This is a very enjoyable first novel by Imogen Robertson. Set in the late 1700's the story centres on some mysterious deaths that involve the estate and heirs to the Earl of Essex.
Investigating the various problems is Gabriel Crowther, a reclusive early pathologist with a hidden past. He is aided and abetted by his feisty neighbour Mrs Harriet Westerman - she...
Published on 20 May 2010 by M.M

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very middling
I can't agree with the Daily Telegraph about wanting to read every word, great page-turner etc etc! This kind of story is usually right up my street, but I found this disappointing. It had all the ingredients, but somehow failed to deliver. That said, there were some passages and flashes of excellent writing that give me hope for further books by this author. As a debut...
Published on 28 Sep 2012 by The Librarian


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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson, 20 May 2010
By 
M.M - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Instruments of Darkness (Paperback)
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This is a very enjoyable first novel by Imogen Robertson. Set in the late 1700's the story centres on some mysterious deaths that involve the estate and heirs to the Earl of Essex.
Investigating the various problems is Gabriel Crowther, a reclusive early pathologist with a hidden past. He is aided and abetted by his feisty neighbour Mrs Harriet Westerman - she finds the first body.
Harriet is married to a captain who is away at sea. She normally is with him but now has to stay on land to look after their children and their estate. She has a background of nursing so is able to assist Crowther without having an episode of `the vapours'. She is also capable and independent.
The story moves around between them, a family devastated by a seemingly inexplicable murder and the son of the Earl of Essex going back in time a few years to his part in the American War of Independence.
To begin with you wish the story would stick to Harriet and Crowther as they form an interesting pair but as the story develops you find yourself just as keen to know what is happening to the others. Robertson is very good at conveying the horror felt by the Hugh Thornleigh facing the `enemy' fire in America. You cannot help but feel how awful it must have been. She is equally good at giving a sense of desperation and fear to the part of the story set in London at the time of the Gordon Riots.
Harriet and Crowther's relationship - an older man and a younger married woman - is also well set out and the strong bond that grows steadily between them is very believable.
I enjoyed this book and will certainly look out for this author in the future
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars CSI High Wickham, 21 May 2010
By 
Angel Jem "Angel Jem" (Liverpool, Merseyside United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Instruments of Darkness (Paperback)
This is a detective novel set in a time before the police, with a 'natural scientist' and the lady of a big house collaborating to find out who has been killing people in the neighbourhood. It's a new twist on an old favourite, a bit like Silent Witness meet Jane Austen. It isn't a comedy novel; it seriously is a mid 18th century murder mystery.
The eldest son of Thornleigh Hall, Adam, is murdered in London, where he has spent the past 20 years in self-imposed exile. His children and friends are caught up in the riots against the Catholics and their identity is secret to everyone, including themselves. His younger brother, Hugh, hideously scarred in the war in America, is sliding towards Lordship as their father slides away from life, but people start to die in mysterious circumstances, including his father's nurse, Miss Beck. She has secret letters from Adam, and so the hunt begins to find the children of the eldest son before they, too die. And who is behind this devilish plot? That would be telling.
The real heroes of the book are Mr Crowther, himself possessed of a dark secret and Harriet, the naval wife who forces him to help her to investigate the deaths. Given that there are no forensic possibilities, they use a remarkable set of deductions and assumptions to help them. Skin under fingernails, scar patterns, fibre; they use as much as they could reasonably expect to in the 1700's to good effect.
It's a detective story; well plotted and I'd love to say slightly formulaic, except that the setting adds enough interesting details to make you enjoy it. The characters are adequate to their roles, and my only real criticism would be that it jumps between London and the country every couple of pages meaning that neither arena has enough time to bed down properly before it's all change again. It's the equivalent of the shaky camera work in The Wire; you know it's supposed to make it more exciting but after a while it just gets annoying. Having said that, it is an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to friends who enjoyed crime novels like Body of Evidence (A Dr. Kay Scarpetta mystery) and felt like a twist in their usual fare.... or perhaps for die-hard The Convenient Marriage Heyer fans. It's interesting; I'd read the next book, if there is one.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Georgian England with a touch of Gothic, 31 May 2010
By 
L. J. Roberts (Oakland, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
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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 series
Headline, ©2009, UK Hardcover - ISBN: 9780755348398
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A window into Georgian mystery, 1 Aug 2010
By 
Mr. M. L. Hawes "Mitchmusic" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Instruments of Darkness (Paperback)
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Without giving too much away, this is a classic murder mystery novel set in the 18th century.

Imagine a world without phorensics, without computer databases of DNA and with the overriding feeling pervading that the ruling classes can say or do what they like to create the best situation for themselves, including murder.

When a body is discovered in the grounds of Claverly Hall, the mystery begins as the lonely but curious sets out to investigate the murder and its dark connections with Gabriel Crowther a dark and relatively unknown figure who lives in the area.

The story itself starts of fairly slowly, which is it's main, shortcoming, but the story telling is very descriptive and creates the sense of atmosphere which matches the dark nature of the times.

Any historical novel gets a good mark in my book if it teaches the reader about the period with the added bonus of adding a good story too. The telling of the anti papal riots in London adds an interesting additional element, but thankfully at its core the story maintains just enough momentum to keep those pages turning.

An excellent first novel and definitely an author I'd look out for again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very middling, 28 Sep 2012
This review is from: Instruments of Darkness (Paperback)
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I can't agree with the Daily Telegraph about wanting to read every word, great page-turner etc etc! This kind of story is usually right up my street, but I found this disappointing. It had all the ingredients, but somehow failed to deliver. That said, there were some passages and flashes of excellent writing that give me hope for further books by this author. As a debut novel, it has promise.

I won't describe the plot, as many reviewers have already done this, suffice to say that it's a gothic murder-mystery, set in the 18th century, with some good deduction/detection stuff as the heroine and her anatomist colleague unravel the crime. However, I must have started it a dozen times, then put it down, picked it up again and had to start again because I'd forgotten what had happened!

It's so-so - not a bad airport book, and has some good ideas, just not very gripping. I also agree with another reveiwer who said it was very "feminine", and would not engage a male reader.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical detective work, 10 Aug 2010
By 
Dr. Paul Ell (NI, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Instruments of Darkness (Paperback)
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This historical novel follows multiple players through multiple sub-plots drawing everything together at the end. It is well written and the characters are well cast with Crowther and Westerman at its core. At its heart the book, like CJ Sansom's novels, is a detective story set in the past although it'd not quite up to Sansom's standards. This would be too much to hope for.

I found the book a pleasant read and would seek out further work by the author.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Instruments of Darkness, 26 Jun 2010
By 
TRENDYWENDY (GREATER LONDON UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Instruments of Darkness (Paperback)
I am afraid I found this book very mediocre. It was given a very good review by 'The Guardian' and I had great expections but I was very let down. I have read thousands of thrillers but this particular book I am afraid did not hold my attention at all and I did not feel that the plot was original. However in its favour it was itelligently written and for a debut novel was not all bad. I will re-read it in time and perhaps see it in a different light.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A comfortable read, 14 May 2010
This review is from: Instruments of Darkness (Paperback)
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One is told never to judge a book by its cover, but in the case of Imogen Robertson's Instruments of Darkness the temptation to contradict that injunction is great. What you see is what you get - eighteenth century estate gates, florid type script, romantically dark. Instruments of Darkness is not a literary masterpiece, but a thoroughly enjoyable read for all that.

It is a tale of murders and intrigue in the 1700s, told through two concurrent narratives and flashbacks to earlier times during the American War of Independence. It is a tale where the characters are somewhat archetypically good or bad, and a plot to which you can satisfyingly guess the outcomes before they occur - it feels as though you are figuring out the mystery alongside the main protagonists which is not at all an unpleasant reading experience. Gabriel Crowther and Harriet Westerman (I was intrigued by the choice of this uncommon name which happens to be one of my own family names) are well drawn and likeable characters who pursue the perpetrator of a number of grisly murders taking place within their community, as well as unearthing earlier, connected, heinous deeds.

The action takes place during the time of the Gordon Riots, and Robertson has researched the period thoroughly. Her descriptive powers make the reading of this story all the more pleasurable and, strangely enough, I really enjoyed her predilection for similes: "The door burst open. Lady Thornleigh stood on the threshold. It was as if a phoenix had torn off the front off a dovecote". Imogen Robertson also trusts her readers sufficiently to leave much unsaid which would otherwise be tiresome. Instruments of Darkness is a comfortable and entertaining read.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars hard to get into but I don't know why, 17 April 2010
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love reading "marsy" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Instruments of Darkness (Paperback)
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This is a well written book and it is my favourite genre but I just found it very hard to keep turning the pages. I don't really understand why that is either as technically the writing is perfect, characterisation strong as is the plot. Perhaps the plot was too slow moving though and there were too many descriptions. It felt like hard work to finish it and it took me a while to do so. The reviews on the back claim it is a page-turner but that wasn't the case for me. However, I can't fault the writing or the story actually; perhaps just a bit too slow for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, 25 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Instruments of Darkness (Paperback)
Elegant flowing prose for an intriguig story. Beautiful, composed and interesting characters. Well developed plot. Robertson manages to take us on a journey through the past with the gentlest of touches. I really enjoyed this first novel and imemdiately ordered the following ones which did not disappoint me. Her descriptions easily enable us to actually see the characters in their full physical and psychological forms which sometimes is a rare achievement. I wholeheartedly suggest lovers of this genre (Pyke mysteries, Cragg and Fidelis, Alexander Seaton etc)should read this lovely book because they will thoroughly enjoy it.
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Instruments of Darkness
Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson (Paperback - 1 April 2010)
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