Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson

1 August, 2013

Instruments of Darkness

The first in a series of historical mysteries by Imogen Robertson, Instruments of Darkness is set in 1780 with the action split between London and the Sussex countryside.

When Harriet Westerman stumbles upon a dead man during one of her morning walks, she turns to the reclusive newcomer Gabriel Crowther for help knowing he was a science man. Crowther, although displeased at having to interact with his neighbours at first, soon realises that Harriet is no ordinary matriarch but one with a fine, inquiring mind who soon disarms his lonely existence and offers him a fragile, yet equal, friendship. Together they set out to find out who murdered this man and why he was carrying a valuable ring belonging to nearby Thornleigh Hall, the seat of the Earl of Essex? Was the murdered man the missing heir? And what exactly is going on in Thornleigh Hall where the Earl lies bedridden, his second son is drinking his life away while his beautiful, common step-mother looks on? And who exactly is the sinister retainer who virtually runs the estate? As Harriet and Crowther dig deeper, they discover dark secrets stretching back years that no one is willing to discuss which have contributed to the degeneration of a once great family.

Instruments of Darkness has a dark mystery at its core which ranges from the deceptively simple Sussex countryside to London, seething with political and religious agitators, and to revolution in the New World. This is tempered with the unorthodox partnership between a reclusive intellectual with a hidden past and a wife and mother who feels caged in her big, country house. Harriet is an interesting character. Happily married with two small children, nevertheless she is bored and chafing at the bit at having to stay at home while her husband is away sailing the seas. Once she used to sail with her husband, doing things that most ladies weren’t supposed to, but she’s had to settle down to look after her family including her younger sister Rachel. I liked the way in which Robertson doesn’t glamorise Harriet’s situation. She’s practical, intellectual and loves her husband and in Crowther, she has found a friend who accepts that she is more than just a wife and mother and who treats her as an equal mind. This doesn’t mean that she can do whatever she wants; she is still constrained by the social rules of her day which can threaten to ruin her if she steps out of line.

I enjoyed this atmospheric mystery and don’t mind getting to know more of Harriet and Crowther. Especially Crowther. What is it about reclusive intellectuals with a tragic past that is so enticing on paper?

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5 Responses to “Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson”

  1. Violet Says:

    This sounds enticing. I’m a bit partial to the Georgian era, which I find infinitely more interesting than the days of Victorian Empire building. I shall have to give it a whirl.

  2. vicki (skiourophile / bibliolathas) Says:

    I like this series quite a lot, and really must read the latest which I see on your sidebar.

  3. Bee Says:

    Sakura, this book sounds intriguing. I am going to get myself a copy. 🙂

  4. TracyK Says:

    This sounds very interesting. My husband has this book… and I cannot remember if he has read it or not. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it, as I will be reading it also.


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