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Product Details

  • Audio CD
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781452630465
  • ISBN-13: 978-1452630465
  • ASIN: 1452630461
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 2.3 x 16.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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By L. J. Roberts TOP 100 REVIEWER on May 31 2010
Format: Hardcover
First Sentence: Gabriel Crowther opened his eyes.

Harriet Westerman, wife of a navy commander, has given up sailing with her husband to raise their family and provide a home for her sister at Caverly Park in West Sussex. When she finds the body of a man whose throat has been slit, she summons help from anatomist Gabriel Crowther. The victim has a ring bearing the crest of neighboring Thornleigh Hall. Was the man Alexander Thornleigh, the missing heir to the Earl of Sussex?

London music shop owner Alexander Adams is murdered. Before dying, he tells his daughter to find a box hidden under the counter. Was Alexander the missing heir and how can his children be removed from the city in spite of a killer and the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots?

Wonderful characters make this book a treat to read. Jane Austin fans will quickly associate Harriet Westerman with Mrs. Croft, the captain's wife from 'Pursuasion.' She has traveled, seen war, is outspoken and not to be put off. Her younger sister, Rachel Trench, is 'Jane Eyre,' in her attraction to the war-wounded Hugh Thornleigh, younger brother of the missing Alexander and the Mr. Rochester of our story. Gabriel Crowther is a scientist, and something of a recluse until being pulled into the investigation by Harriet and his own curious mind.

There are a lot of characters, including some real historical figures. It was occasionally is difficult to keep track of who is whom. However, they each played their part and added to the overall Gothic feel of the story.

Ms. Robertson convincingly transported me to Georgian England in sight, sound, dialogue appropriate to the period and historical fact. I had not known of the Gordon Riots until now.
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By Len TOP 100 REVIEWER on April 23 2011
Format: Paperback
Set in London and locals in the 1780s with flashback to the American Civil War, 'Instruments of Darkness' is a murder mystery about class structure, justice, family loyalties and rebellion. Wealth and privilege have made the Earl of Thornleigh a greedy, licentious man who believes he can live above the law. His victims include his wife and children. One is killed and the others long to live an existence separate from their father. Alexander, the eldest, runs away to London where he marries a beautiful woman unfit for his station. Cut off from his family and wealth, he supports his wife and two children with the proceeds generated from his musical passion and the music store that he owns. Hugh, the brother, goes off to Boston as a Captain to fight the rebels in the American Revolution of 1775. The lives of both sons are interrupted by the ambitions of two plebeians born outside the opportunities of nobility and forced into unethical actions in order to pursue the wealth and privileges of those with whom they can only marry or serve. Set against the injustices of the class structure of the time, the protagonists are heroic and the antagonists both evil and sympathetic. Excellent writing and an economic use of description move the plot swiftly and fluently, so that the reading becomes compulsive especially in the last third of the story. A very enjoyable read.
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Format: Paperback
In June 1780, the corpse of a man is found near the grounds of Mrs Harriet Westerman's estate of Caveley in Sussex. In his pocket is a ring bearing the crest of nearby Thornleigh Hall. Who is this man, and what is his connection to Thornleigh Hall? Mrs Westerman seeks the assistance of Gabriel Crowther, a reclusive neighbour, who has trained as an anatomist, to examine the body. When Gabriel Crowther concludes that the man has been murdered, Mrs Westerman calls the local Squire to arrange an inquest.

On the same day, in London, the missing Alexander (now known as Alexander Adams) is stabbed to death in his music shop during the infamous Gordon Riots. His two children are left orphaned. Was his murder a random act, or was it pre calculated?

`This is how it begins.'

Thornleigh Hall: the seat of the Earl of Sussex has its own secrets. The current Earl is in poor health; his eldest son and heir Alexander has been missing for some years, and his younger son Hugh has been scarred, both physically and emotionally, by his experiences as a British officer during the American War of Independence. The Earl's second wife, a former dancer, and Hugh's steward, an obnoxious man named Claver Wicksteed are also resident at Thornleigh Hall.

There are other murders as well, before Mrs Westerman and Mr Crowther unravel the mystery. The story switches between the countryside of Sussex, a besieged London and the American battlefields as the three different strands are slowly brought together. Gabriel Crowther and Harriet Westerman are an impressive investigative duo, and I hope Ms Robertson includes them in further novels. I found this an enjoyable historical mystery, and although it took me a while to get into the rhythm of the story and to follow the various sub-plots, it all made sense at the end.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 64 reviews
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Georgian England with a touch of Gothic May 31 2010
By L. J. Roberts - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
First Sentence: Gabriel Crowther opened his eyes.

Harriet Westerman, wife of a navy commander, has given up sailing with her husband to raise their family and provide a home for her sister at Caverly Park in West Sussex. When she finds the body of a man whose throat has been slit, she summons help from anatomist Gabriel Crowther. The victim has a ring bearing the crest of neighboring Thornleigh Hall. Was the man Alexander Thornleigh, the missing heir to the Earl of Sussex?

London music shop owner Alexander Adams is murdered. Before dying, he tells his daughter to find a box hidden under the counter. Was Alexander the missing heir and how can his children be removed from the city in spite of a killer and the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots?

Wonderful characters make this book a treat to read. Jane Austin fans will quickly associate Harriet Westerman with Mrs. Croft, the captain's wife from "Pursuasion." She has traveled, seen war, is outspoken and not to be put off. Her younger sister, Rachel Trench, is "Jane Eyre," in her attraction to the war-wounded Hugh Thornleigh, younger brother of the missing Alexander and the Mr. Rochester of our story. Gabriel Crowther is a scientist, and something of a recluse until being pulled into the investigation by Harriet and his own curious mind.

There are a lot of characters, including some real historical figures. It was occasionally is difficult to keep track of who is whom. However, they each played their part and added to the overall Gothic feel of the story.

Ms. Robertson convincingly transported me to Georgian England in sight, sound, dialogue appropriate to the period and historical fact. I had not known of the Gordon Riots until now. She also included a perspective of the American Revolution from the viewpoint of a British soldier.

There is a lovely, Gothic feel to this book, but it was not perfect. Happily, in spite of identifying the villains fairly soon, the motive remained a secret until the end. Although story did feel over-long, I was completely involved and never found myself skipping through it.

The book was engrossing and suspenseful, with interesting historical information. The different threads of the plot were brought together well in a slightly overly dramatic fashion.

The most important question is whether I would read another book by this author. The answer is a definite "yes," and it's already on order.

INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS (His Mys-Gabriel Crowther/Harriet Westerman-England-1780) - G+
Robertson, Imogen - 1st in series
Headline, ©2009, UK Hardcover - ISBN: 9780755348398
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
"We must suspect everything, and believe nothing...." Feb. 17 2011
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Imogen Robertson's "Instruments of Darkness" is set in the village of Hartswood, West Sussex, at a time when the colonies were waging war against England. The male protagonist, the brusque Gabriel Crowther, is a recluse whose vocation is the study of anatomy. One day, a local woman, Mrs. Harriet Westerman of Caveley Park, has her maid give Crowther the following note: "I have found a body on my land. His throat has been cut."

The scene shifts to Tichfield Street near Soho Square in London. Residing there are a music store proprietor, Alexander Adams, and his two children, nine-year old Susan and six-year old Jonathan. Alexander is a widower who has broken off contact with his birth family for reasons that will later become clear. He ruefully states "that the past must be looked at squarely or it will chase you down," but he fails to follow this sound advice. Adams has the support of close friends, including a writer, Owen Graves, and Mr. and Mrs. Chase, whose single daughter, Verity, has caught Graves's eye.

How do all these characters fit together? Readers will need to be patient while the author presents us with puzzling scenarios that initially make little sense. Although Crowther and Harriet are not romantically involved (she is happily married to a commodore, James, who is at sea), the two collaborate in trying to learn the identity of the dead man as well as his killer. Harriet suspects that there is a connection between the murder and the well-to-do inhabitants of Thornleigh Hall. She insists, "There is something wrong in that house. Something wounded and rotten. I am sure of it." Living there are the ailing Lord Thornleigh, Earl of Sussex; his low-class, pretty young wife; Captain Hugh Thornleigh, who fought against the colonists and came back maimed both in body and spirit; and Hugh's steward, the obnoxious Claver Wicksteed.

"Instruments of Darkness" is reminiscent of Anne Perry's books, in that it examines the moral rot that can destory some titled and wealthy families from within. The mystery is not difficult to solve once the clues are laid out, but the villains prove to be so utterly evil that they cease to be realistic. Robertson goes back and forth in time and shifts settings frequently, which can be dizzying. In addition, Crowther and Harriet make for a strange pair. He is reticent; she is voluble. He is a man of science and reflection. She is a woman of action. For their own reasons, they go out of their way to learn the truth, with a bit of help from Harriet's eighteen-year-old sister. The conclusion is melodramatic, and the body count rises alarmingly before the dust finally settles.

To her credit, the author depicts her time period and settings nicely; the dialogue and prose style are pleasantly fluent. She shows how the redcoats underestimated the American farmers who took up arms against them. In addition, she explores the ways in which the skeletons in someone's closet can emerge without warning. The characters of Susan, her father, and Graves, are particularly appealing, and their story is poignant. Finally, Robertson shows how imperfect the criminal justice system was in those days. If Crowther and Harriet had not intervened, no one would have learned who the guilty parties were. Although this is not a top-tier novel--it is a bit too long and has too many subplots, including one about the bitter conflict between Protestants and Catholics--"Instruments of Darkness" will be of interest to readers who enjoy forensics and historical fiction with gothic overtones.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Excellent period-piece murder mystery March 13 2010
By Steve Benner - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The name of Imogen Robertson is probably best known to those who scrutinise the credits of the UK children's TV and radio shows she directs, or else to those who follow the contemporary poetry scene to which she contributes as both poet and poetry reviewer. "Instruments of Darkness" is her first novel -- a period murder mystery set in the late eighteenth century, at a time when the American Revolutionary War was at its height and had escalated to a global conflict. The book does not dwell on the events of that conflict, however, which feature more in backdrop, but instead concentrates on domestic events in London at the beginning of June 1780, when the capital was the scene of a short but bloody and violent anti-Catholic uprising, known as the Gordon Riots, events which will be familiar to anyone who has read Charles Dickens' "Barnaby Rudge". Interwoven with these historical events in London is a connected tail of a series of mysterious murders in or around the seat of the Earl of Sussex, Thornleigh Hall, which, it quickly becomes apparent, is itself home to a good few other mysteries.

Imogen Robertson weaves a lively and engaging tale, handling the story and its events well at many levels, evoking the customs, habits and foibles of the period with a deftness that is delightful and easy to read. The plot is nicely involved but never overly complex, while the solution to the mystery itself is neither obscure nor yet totally clear until the very end. One or two passages do tend towards melodrama, especially the work's climax, but somehow this all seems in perfect keeping with the work, which is all very Charlotte Brontë at times!

All of the main characters are wonderfully developed and the rapport that develops between them is every bit as excellently handled as the plot. All I all, I don't think I've enjoyed a murder mystery as much as this since the "Brother Cadfael" series of Ellis Peters. I do hope Imogen Robertson doesn't leave it here.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Engrossing but uneven Feb. 13 2012
By Deborah Lyons - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
First for the good news. I started reading and could not stop until
I finished, despite it being many hours past my bedtime. The relationship
between the two main characters is compelling, and the scenes with the children
in London are believable and touching.

Now for the less good news. The writing is mostly serviceable, but occasionally
goes off the rails. A reference to Caravaggio in a scene description is jarring
and inappropriate. The main character has seen the "Parthenon in Rome," which is
a neat trick. (She must mean the Pantheon.) Worst of all is an episode in which
a man who is meant to be a sympathetic character offers his dog, whom he obviously
cares for, to be used to test a poison. The dog's death is not graphic, but it
seems completely unnecessary. Weren't there any rats or mice around? This is
important in a book which otherwise stages a battle between good and evil in
a pretty unsubtle way.

I also agree with other reviewers who find the ending unbelievable and melodramatic.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
With a couple of anachronisms May 3 2011
By Maureen Ogle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I'm a fan of mysteries, but not usually of historical fiction. But this was a well-written page-turner. Loved it. First-rate characters (and lots of them) and a nicely complex plot. My only complaints were a few howlers of innaccuracy (I'm a historian so I tend to notice stuff like that). (Just in case the author is reading her reviews....)

In the late 18th century, no one would ask for a glass of water. No one would WANT water, which was not safe to drink and regarded with suspicion. When Harriet when into her fake faint, most likely would have assumed (rather than asked for) that her host would give her brandy. And no one would have been drinking from a glass. No one. A pewter mug for the wealthy; a tin one for the not-so-wealthy. Nor would anyone have offered lemonade. Lemons? Nyet. Not in a country house in England just, oh, here are some lemons. Nope. Too expensive, rare, and unusual. Nor would "lemonade" have been on offer. A fruit toddy of some sort, perhaps, likely made with apples or some other local fruit.

There were a few other howlers that I can't recall at the moment. But never mind those. This is a terrific read. Can't wait for her next book.

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