I found this a well written and on the whole enjoyable historical crime novel. I had not read any of the previous novels in this series but I didn't find that detracted from this one; necessary details are very well woven into the story and although it may be better to read the series in order it certainly isn't necessary.
The story is set in the fictional German province of Maulberg in 1784. Imogen Robertson paints a convincing period backdrop and I found the sense of time and place one of the strengths of the book. She has elected to make her characters speak in a slightly more formal version of modern English rather than in the idiom of the time, and again I think this works very well, allowing the dialogue and story to flow while still giving an impression of taking place in the eighteenth century. The characters are generally well-drawn and interesting and I was happy to spend time with Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther.
The plot itself involves a wrongly accused friend in need of salvation, political intrigue, mysterious cabals, poisonings and so on and is quite enjoyable. I did feel that it could have done with some trimming: things began to drag a little after 250 pages, I never felt completely gripped by the story and the sheer number of characters with Germanic names made it a little hard to keep track of, which didn't help.
Nevertheless, it was well written and well plotted and made a largely engaging read. If if you like historical fiction or a decent crime novel I can recommend it.
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