Fourth in a series...,
This review is from: Circle of Shadows (Crowther & Westerman 4) (Paperback)
British author Imogen Robertson novel, "Circle of Shadows", is the fourth in her series of historical mysteries set in the 1780's. I have not read her first three; I picked up this one in a local bookstore because it seemed interesting. And it was. The only problem I had in joining a series book four books into it is figuring out who was who and what was what, but I figured out enough to enjoy the book.
I've never read a novel set in the Holy Roman Empire, which, of course, by the 1780's was neither "Holy", "Roman", nor an "Empire". It was complicated puzzle made up of Austria, Hungary, Italian colonies, and a whole passel of independent German kingdoms and duchies, most the size of Rhode Island - or even smaller. These "kingdoms" exist today, in the form of hereditary kings and dukes who are claimants to these no-longer-existing thrones. Robertson has set her story in a fictitious duchy called "Maulberg", where a royal wedding is about to take place and some inconvenient deaths are accompanying the festivities.
Robertson's main characters are Mrs Harriet Westerman, a British widow, and Gabriel Crowther, a reclusive anatomist who is a friend in England. They have evidently worked together to solve some crimes. As a first-time reader, I'm honestly not sure how close they are to a romantic relationship, but they do seem to solve crimes together. They have journeyed together to Maulberg to help Harriet's sister and her husband, who had been honeymooning on the Continent. The husband has been accused of perpetrating one of the murders and Westerman and Crowder think they help solve the murder and get him out of prison.
Okay, Imogen Robertson has written a very complicated novel. In addition to the grisly murders, there are plots-a-plenty in the duchy and some are tied in to the Masons. Some plots are to overthrow the reigning duke and others involve contacting the afterlife for fame and profit. There's also a lot about poisons; poisons figure into the plots and get 'em going. The characters are all well-drawn (a castrato is particularly interesting) and the plot - while complicated - is enjoyable. My only question is one another first-time reader might ask: "should you read the first three books in the series before tackling this one." My answer would be, yes, I think you probably should. I enjoyed "Circle of Shadows" but might have gotten more out of it if I had read the previous three books.