Title: Instruments of Darkness
Author: Imogen Robertson
Release Date: February 17, 2011
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5
It’s 1780 and Harriet Westerman has discovered a body on her husband’s property. Since her husband is away, she sends for Gabriel Crowther, an anatomist who has kept a reclusive lifestyle, hoping that he will agree to help find the murderer. When it’s discovered that the dead man has a ring with the crest of Thornleigh Hall, the house of the Earl of Sussex, it connects that wealthy and twisted family to this puzzling murder.
Instruments of Darkness has two major storylines running through it. The first is the primary one, described in the summary above – a man is found murdered, and the ring in his pocket, leading Harriet and Gabriel to the seat of the Earl of Sussex, Thornleigh Hall, to find the answers behind the murder. But there is also another murder, one in London, and it’s difficult to tell how that distant story is related to the main plotline of the novel. As more is explained as the novel unfolds, though, it’s clear how masterfully Robertson has weaved her story together. It’s a great storytelling device and keeps the reader hooked.
The characters of Harriet and Gabriel are delightfully appealing in Instruments in Darkness. Harriet is an independent minded woman, ahead of her time, while Gabriel is smart and resourceful, but prefers to keep to himself. They make a great team, and give this novel some great personality. There are a lot of characters in this book, and they can be difficult to keep track of at times, but Harriet and Gabriel are at its center.
Instruments of Darkness also has a lovely gothic feel. While it becomes clear early on who the perpetrator of the murder is, it takes the rest of the book for the motive to come to light. I appreciated this unique twist, and while the novel felt overly long at times, the plot never failed to satisfy.
I enjoyed Instruments of Darkness and would love to revisit with Harriet and Gabriel in a future book. Even if Robertson chooses not to continue with these characters, though, I would gladly read whatever she writes next. This novel is a great choice for those who enjoy historical mysteries, especially those with a gothic essence.