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Instruments of Darkness (Crowther and Westerman Series #1)

Instruments of Darkness (Crowther and Westerman Series #1)

4.0 22
by Imogen Robertson, Wanda McCaddon (Narrated by)

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An intricate historical novel about a forbidding country estate and the unlikely forensic duo who set out to uncover its deadly secrets.


An intricate historical novel about a forbidding country estate and the unlikely forensic duo who set out to uncover its deadly secrets.

Editorial Reviews

Jason Goodwin
The plot is a little loopy, but the dialogue crackles along, and Robertson's enjoyment of the period and her characters is infectious…Robertson writes very well. There is history here, and repartee, and the shadows of truncated plots left delicately unexplored. And who, as the shadows lengthen on our lawns, could ask for more?
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Set in West Sussex in 1780, Robertson's auspicious debut introduces the unlikely sleuthing team of anatomist Gabriel Crowther and independent-minded Harriet Westerman, mistress of Caveley Park. When Westerman happens on the stabbed body of a man, eventually identified as Carter Brook, on her land on the track to Thornleigh Hall, Crowther agrees to help her catch the murderer. The secretive Crowther, who's maintained a reclusive existence since moving to the area, finds that Brook's death may be connected to the search for a long-lost heir to the Thornleigh estate. Meanwhile in London, someone knifes to death Alexander Adams, who bears the same first name as the lost heir, in Adams's music shop. While the killer's identity will surprise few, the book works splendidly as a period thriller, with complicated leads and informative details that illuminate 18th-century England for modern readers. Dry humor leavens what otherwise would be a grim story line. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"The book works splendidly as a period thriller, with complicated leads and informative details that illuminate 18th-century England for modern readers." ---Publishers Weekly
Library Journal
In 1780, Harriet Westerman, a British navy commander's wife, trades a life at sea for a more conventional home in the English countryside. But when Harriet discovers on her property the body of a stranger with his throat sliced open, she learns that life in her small village in Sussex is far from normal. In London, a seemingly unrelated murder occurs when a music shop owner is stabbed in front of his young children. Harriet enlists the help of Gabriel Crowther, an anatomist far more at home with the dead than the living. As Harriet and Gabriel delve deeper, they uncover a deadly secret that threatens to destroy a prominent local family. VERDICT Robertson's series debut offers an intriguing premise, but the story is marred somewhat by overwrought prose and villains who all tend to verge on caricature. For fans of historical thrillers and libraries with a healthy amount of wiggle room in their budgets.—Makiia Lucier, Moscow, ID
Kirkus Reviews

A series of murders in an 18th-century English village leads to the investigation of a ruined aristocratic family by an unlikely forensic duo, in an enjoyable debut.

Add another name to the ranks of historical criminology: Gabriel Crowther, student of anatomy and "what record a man's life left on his physical remains"; also a man with a dubious past who joins forces with feisty landowner Mrs. Harriet Westerman when a body is found on her property. London-based Robertson brings good humor and freshness to her story of sudden death and family intrigue, threading larger historical dimensions like the Gordon Riots and the American War of Independence into her rural mystery. Widower Alexander Thornleigh, heir to an earldom, who walked away from his heritage to marry the woman he loved, lives in London with his two children. The murder in West Sussex, near Thornleigh Hall, coincides with an attack on Alexander which leaves the children imperiled orphans. As Crowther and Mrs. Westerman investigate the first death, Alex's younger brother Hugh enters the story, a wounded soldier with a corrosive secret and an unpleasant steward. Guilt, cruelty and dark affections are stirred into the pot as Robertson pulls her London and village stories together in a denouement ringing with leopards' roars and purified by fire.

More a whydunit than a whodunit, but spirited, quality entertainment nonetheless.

Product Details

Tantor Media, Inc.
Publication date:
Crowther and Westerman Series , #1
Edition description:
Library - Unabridged CD
Product dimensions:
6.70(w) x 6.50(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"The book works splendidly as a period thriller, with complicated leads and informative details that illuminate 18th-century England for modern readers." —-Publishers Weekly

Meet the Author

Imogen Robertson is a former television, film, and radio director and the author of Instruments of Darkness and The Anatomy of Murder.

Wanda McCaddon has won more than twenty-five AudioFile Earphones Awards, including for The Seamstress by Sara Tuvel Bernstein, for which she also earned a coveted Audie Award. AudioFile magazine has also named her one of recording's Golden Voices. Wanda appears regularly on the professional stage in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Instruments of Darkness 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
sarahconerty More than 1 year ago
This is a beautifully written and elegantly structured novel, unfolding in three storylines. Two take place in the novel's present day, one following the lives of Alexander Adams (the missing heir of Thornleigh) and his children, and the other the activites of Mrs. Westerman and Mr. Crowther as they struggle to solve a rash of seemingly connected murders. The third storyline unfolds in flashbacks, as it takes place years before in Massachusetts and follows Hugh Thornfield, a Captain in the British Army during the early days of the American Revolution. As the connections between the murders, Thornleigh Hall and Alexander become more apparent, the rapid shift of perspective speeds up as well, heightening the tension and turning this from a really good book into a page-turner. The novel is also chock-full of fascinating chunks of history. Mr. Crowther's profession as an anatomist allows for many intriguing details about his specimens, the process of dissection, and the early building blocks of forensic science. Harriet Westerman is a delight as the mystery-solving amateur sleuth. She spent the early years of her marriage on a ship with her husband, and still yearns for the freeedom and adventure of life at sea. She is rather bored with her life in the country, managing her husband's estate, and minding her manners, much like a bird in a gilded cage. She is practical, intelligent, brave and flawed - I loved her. hroughout the novel the ever-present weight of class consciousness is pressing down on every action, every conversation, from the blatant rejection of the class system in the American flashbacks, to the London riots and the daily activities of every character in the book. It was fascinating to watch how Harriet Westerman and Crowther navigated the dangerous seas of country and class politics and expectations, while attempting to solve a murder.
bookscoutDR More than 1 year ago
I agree with the other reviewers that this was a real page turner. I am looking forward to the second book in the series, Anatomy of a Murder. The book appeals to the mystery lover for so many reasons, not least the investigators, Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther. If you just enjoy reading a book that is carefully plotted in such a way as to keep you on the edge of your seat, this one is for you. I loved the way the sections hinged on parallel actions in Town, in the country, and in America. You get caught up in the race against time. I certainly did (though I did put it down from time to time because I was enjoying the suspense so much I hated to see it end).
ifletty More than 1 year ago
Georgian Mystery at its best. Don’t you love when you are introduced to a new author who, just leaves you spell bound? Well this is what happened to me. One of my friends H/F friends is a mystery buff, and she is always telling me about great books. I requested Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson from her. I was very excited to read this, so I finished up the books I had going and picked this one up. I was tearing up by page 50 always a good sign. Any book that can illicit that kind of emotion from me so early on is good. This series is set in Georgian England during the American Revolution. A dead body is found on the country estate of Mrs. Harriet Westerman, a woman newly come to the area. Her husband Commander Westerman of his Majesty’s navy is at sea, and until the birth of her children Harriet had traveled with him, but now she is running the estate and raising their children. Upon finding the body Mrs. Westerman; who is not only a practical woman but one with worldly experience and intelligence, is leery about involving the local Earl. There are dark secrets that are whispered about, as well as her own dealings with the Thornleigh family, which make her reluctant to involve “The Hall”. She sends for the magistrate, but as it happens she has recently read a paper written by a reclusive neighbor. Mr. Gabriel Crowther, an anatomist, she goes to him for help and reluctantly he agrees to help her. Meanwhile London is simmering in the summer heat, and we meet Alexander Adams and his precocious children, a widower and owner of a small but successful music shop; he is murdered in front of his little family the very same day that the man is murdered miles away. Is there a connection between his death and the one in Sussex? Well get ready for an incredibly well written, page turner, and be ready to have the second book on hand. I down loaded it immediately upon finishing Instruments of Darkness, and had the third ordered before I had read a few chapters of the second because, it is one of the best series I have read in quite some time. Even knowing who “done it” I am ready to read them again as I wait for book three. 5 stars
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Imogen Robertson strikes pay dirt with this fascinating tale of greed, secrets and murder in 1780's Sussex. With Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther as an unlikely pair of detectives and background of the Gordon Riots in London and the American Revolution, she creates an almost unputdownable tale. Further, Ms Robertson has the ability to bring even the most minor characters to life; while the major supporting characters become either people you despise or want to know. She does this magic in variety of small touches and traits that make them come alive. We hope to know more of these characters in the next book. She has a deft hand with the period and the dialogue is realistic, and hard to decipher dialect almost non existant. Recommended highly
Avid_ReaderLT More than 1 year ago
It has been a long time since I've found a book I could not put down. This is the book. Imogen Robertson breathes life into her characters and the plot draws you in and keeps you on the edge. I wonder if she is Georgette Heyer reincarnated. I can't wait for more from Imogen Robertson.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the rest of the series. I love to be transported back in time and leave the here and now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BluJay More than 1 year ago
The premise of the story was pretty good but I thought it was slow and hard to follow at times. Also I found the main characters somewhat irritating. I probably would have given it a 3 star rating until the main "detective" poisoned a dog in a "scientific experiment" in order to see how long it would take him to die of arsenic poisoning. That did it for me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoy reading historical based mysteries. This one kept me interested throughout. I would definetely read other books by this author.
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Lawral More than 1 year ago
This book opens with a body and a murder. In that order. It is full missing heirs, hidden wills, unhinged trophy wives, absent husbands, headstrong women, shamed men, and more bodies to go with more murders. It's a fun and engrossing historical mystery that really has no dull moments. Even scenes away from the "action" had something to entertain: comedy in one story, grief and uncertainty in the other, drama and intrigue in both. Ms. Robertson makes good use of the Georgian period in which she places her cast, using the Gordon riots heavily in one storyline and making the real John Hunter a connecting point between the two. For the most part, characters speak in that generic historical fiction kind of way that is unique to no period but "the past." This is good since real Georgian English would be a bit hard to follow, but I was a bit disappointed that there were a few phrases that stood out a modern. They weren't enough to pull me out of the story for long, but they stood out enough that I remember them. Additionally, though I loved Harriet, some of her boldness and forwardness seemed a bit too progressive for the time in which she lived. I don't know that I would have noticed, but put beside Susan, Miss Chase, and Harriet's own sister, Harriet is definitely a bit too fiery. Instruments of Darkness is sure to be enjoyed by historical fiction and mystery readers and adored by those who revel in the combination of the two. Book source: ARC provided by the publisher through the goodreads first reads program.
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ElleKane More than 1 year ago
An unlikey forensic pair set out to solve a series of murders in late 18th century England. Not quite the duo from "Bones;" it makes for an interesting story, especially on a gray, rainy day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read all of this series and have enjoyed every one . They are well written, rich in historic and forensic detail. The humor was delightful as well and kept it from being too dramatic and dark. If you like historical mystery, you will love these.