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A comfortable read
on 14 May 2010
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.