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Top Contributor: Doctor WhoTOP 50 REVIEWERon 9 August 2012
Gabriel Crowther, a reclusive anatomist, is annoyed to be pulled from his bed, to attend the scene of a murder on a country property. In 1780, his work on anatomy is frowned upon and questioned, and he prefers to remain to himself. In London at the same time, Alexander Adams, a keen musician and quiet friend to Owen Graves is about to be murdered. Are the two incidents related? And if so, how? What secrets does Thornleigh Hall hold, where the Earl of Sussex lies in limbo between life and death. What happened to his heir? And what is Hugh, the second son, hiding? Crowther and Harriet Westerman, looking after her husband's estate while he is serving in the Navy for King George III, each have their own reasons for wanting to find out; while wanting to remain in their own private spheres.

Polite society, the common dregs of society, the Gordon Riots (which may be familiar to readers of Dickens' Barnaby Rudge), the backdrop of the American War of Independence; all are skilfully woven into a narrative which tells of secrets, skullduggery, love and attempts at redemption. The writing is witty and fully engaging to the reader; the nuances of Eighteenth Century society are wonderfully captured in drawing room scenes and in scenes in the King's Army; the author has a brilliant talent with the words and with her style of writing.

I look forward with eagerness to the next in the series.
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on 22 May 2017
Essentially a ""Gothick" tale, in keeping with its 18th century setting, Instruments of Darkness offers a pleasingly original approach to the historical detective genre. Consistently entertaining, with some strong characters and clever plotting and distinguished by some genuinely fine writing, especially in the War of Independence sequences in America. The only reason I didn't give 5 stars was a few weaknesses typical of a first book - I didn't feel the character of Harriet, the central figure, completely came off, for instance. However, I will certainly read more of the series and am interested to see how Harriet and Crowther develop.
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on 4 March 2014
As another reviewer has commented, this is the sort of book that normally ticks all my boxes, particularly the historical setting of the anti-Catholic Gordon riots (as someone who wrote a dissertation about anti-Catholicism in late eighteenth century England at uni), but I just couldn't shake the feeling that I could have written just as good a book as an amateur. The storyline and setting is good though the connections are revealed very early on and the style of the writing was a bit nauseating at times - how many times can Harriet bite her lip while concentrating! Also, I couldn't help thinking why didn't she spend more time with her own children rather than dashing about being a busybody. Crowther was slightly more complex, though the theme of a wronged brother was (again) a bit obvious. All in all, it was the sort of book that I finished because it was interesting enough to want to, but I wouldn't re-read it and probably wouldn't bother with any of the other titles in the series.
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VINE VOICEon 11 May 2012
The author sets herself a stiff challenge by running multiple narrative threads in parallel: threads separated in both time and space, but with cross referring characters and plot impact. To her credit she carries it off very well; the jumps never seem artificial and one always knows where one is. The setting and plot are cobbled together from a range of sources (e.g. Barnaby Rudge, Middlemarch, Jane Eyre and presumably others that I didn't spot), but make a reasonably coherent whole. The mystery isn't very mysterious really and the climax basically boils down to the villain saying "it's a fair cop, I done it and you got me bang to rights guv'nor", but the strengths of the book outweigh the weaknesses. I'm not sure though, about Captain Thornleigh - an aristocrat and an officer - firing a musket in battle; doesn't seem very likely to me.
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on 17 October 2011
As stories go...this one keeps you turning the pages. Lady of the Big House finds body and meets up with crazy medical man and village lofties to solve the crime.

The plot was formulaic but it did not stop me enjoying it and wanting to get to the end.

However, it is not 'an extraordinary thriller' or memorable but a reasonable story well-told and if only publishers and agents understood that this is what we want. I suspect I give this 4 stars because I have read three dreadful books before and was delighted to just find a well written story of the old fashioned kind.

However, the writer has some way to go - the pace is slow in places and an editor should have spotted that; the start plods and goes back and forth way too much to engage the reader...that should hav been addressed because I nearly gave up; and the end is uttrely predicatable.

Enjoyed it though....
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on 25 November 2012
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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on 11 May 2012
I love historical detective novels as I get two of the genres I like to read in one book! The description of the towns and city are very evocative and I grew to love the characters (Apart from Miss Trench who I would love to slap, but that is part of Imogen Robertson's art because she has given this petulant supporting character almost as much depth as the main characters!)The plot soon picks up a pace with twists and turns that makes you unable to put the book down and in an era that has not been covered as much by other authors.
So dissapointed to finish it I had to go and buy the next installment...and am looking for the third!
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on 26 June 2010
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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on 27 August 2012
As my title suggests, I'm a fan of these books.... although would probably have had read them in order, :-). This is a murder mystery set in the 18th Century. I feel that the Author, describes characters and situations in enough detail, without repetition or it being too long winded..... I def didn't skip or skim pages. A good read.
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on 13 June 2016
Enjoyed this book very much. Good story with lots of twists and turns in it! I look forward to the next one.
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