Instruments of Darkness, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (8 ratings)


'Makes you want to read every word...serpentine and satisfying' TelegraphThornleigh Hall, seat of the Earl of Sussex, dominates its surroundings.

Its heir is missing, and the once vigorous family is reduced to a cripple, his whore and his alcoholic second son, but its power endures.

Impulsive Harriet Westerman has felt the Hall's menace long before she happens upon a dead man bearing the Thornleigh arms.

The grim discovery cries out for justice, and she persuades reclusive anatomist Gabriel Crowther to her cause, much against his better judgement; he knows a dark path lies before those who stray from society's expectations.

That same day, Alexander Adams is killed in a London music shop, leaving his young children orphaned.

His death will lead back to Sussex, and an explosive secret that has already destroyed one family and threatens many others.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical mysteries
  • ISBN: 9780755348411

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Showing 1 - 5 of 8 reviews.

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Review by

Set in rural England and the Americas @ 1740 it brings together two main characters, Harriet and Crowther who try to uncover the murderer of a stranger to there town. A good solid historical thriller with great characters and well written.

Review by

Tension builds from the moment Mrs Westerman, genteel proprietress of Caveley Park, forces her acquaintance on reclusive anatomist Gabriel Crowther, wealthy man of secrets and possessor of many strange and distasteful objects, in search of his help in dealing with the death of a stranger in her copse.It doesn't let up. It ratchets up every time Mrs Westerman or Mr Crowther are on stage. There are flashbacks to Mrs Westerman's neighbor, Lord Hugh Thornleigh, in combat during the American conflict...these aren't immediately obviously relevant to the story, and I think I'd've recommended the author introduce them differently than her editor did, but have patience...and introduce us to Claver Wicksteed, then an Army procurement officer and now steward of Thornleigh, the seat of the Earls of Sussex. Then we meet the Countess of Sussex, and our central cast is complete.The body count rises, as it must in a mystery, and the characters begin to see that they're engaged in a grisly gavotte around one central puzzle: How low can a human being sink, regardless of high birth, and how can justice seem so far from just?Like all good mystery writers, Robertson takes us round the houses by changing the angle of view several times. She's very good at this. What seems awful becomes right and good; what seems reliably good stinks like old fish before she's done with us. Fear not: The wise and the just are rewarded! Just that they're also made to get dirty in the process.There are first-novel issues with the book, of course, like the Parthenon being described as a round building in Rome (PANTHEON!) and the persistent misunderstanding of how one addresses Earls, Countesses, and their offspring (Earls are "Lord {Name of earldom}", their wives "Lady {Name of earldom} unless that countess is the daughter of a fellow earl or higher, in which case she's ALWAYS "Lady {Firstname}" no matter who she's married to, sons and heirs of earls are Viscounts and addressed as "Lord {Name of viscounty" even when very young, younger sons are "Lord {Family name}" and daughters of earls are "Lady {Firstname}" all their lives, etc etc). Most of this is the editor's fault. The author should be able to rely on him or her to catch these sorts of factual oopsies.Still and all...the pleasures of reading this book are many, and *evil chortle* you'll all have to wait until at least 2011 to find out 'cause the book ain't available here yet! I borrowed mine from our own Suzanne/Chatterbox, so there nyah!But it's recommended. Really and truly. Too good to miss.

Review by

Definitely a superior murder mystery novel. Set in Georgian times it uncovers family secrets and folows two parallel naratives plus we are given information in the form of snipopets about the past at the end of each main section of the book. The two detectives are intriguingly matched and also hold their own secrets. The novel builds tension well, but I couldn't help thinking towards the end that it perhaps didn't deliver on the ending as it could have done. Still I lok forward the next one indeed!

Review by

I picked this up in Heffers in Cambridge and was forced to buy because the prose style was just so good.It's set in the 1700s in England, and makes good use of the setting, including the Gordon Riots as a plot point. The story is perhaps more Gothic (in the 1700s sense) than mystery, with Missing Heirs, Good-hearted Commoners, and Vicious Aristocrats preying upon Village Maidens. Robertson manages, despite the occasionally highly-coloured plot, to make her characters rounded and believable, often touching, and for the most part not 21st c. people in period dress. Pacing is strong, with two storylines echoing each other and giving the reader more information than the characters have, which raises the suspense but still leaves the reader guessing.Plot - a sea-captain's wife, somewhat frustrated by her daily round of maintaining their new house and lands in a small village while her husband returns to sea, discovers a throat-slit corpse on her property. Worried that it may be that of the long-missing heir to the troubled local nobility, she asks for the help of mysterious recluse and anatomist Gabriel Crowther - not his real name, for he has his own secrets.And on from there. She and Crowther become friends, and I was pleased that the author didn't go for the easy complication of having them fall in love.Recommended. I did notice perhaps half-a-dozen words or terms that I would question for the time, but all minor, and only noticeable really because the rest was so appropriate.

Review by

Harriett Westerman is a woman who is alone but married, her husband is captain on a ship. Her sister lives with her, and she has to manage the house and the family there. This makes her more independent than most women of her time. When she encounters a body she goes directly to reclusive anatomist Gabriel Crowther to get his assistance to discover the truth about the murder. At the same time you see a murder in London and you wonder where the connections are, (though I have to admit that I did get the links quite quickly once certain clues were given)Still I liked the characters and the way they coped with the situations and the fact that there's no romance between the two main characters. They may be male and female but it never occurs to Harriet that she should find Gabriel attractive. He's a partner, a companion in the solving of the murder mystery but nothing more. I do want to read more in this series.

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