Monday, April 25, 2011

Instruments of Darkness

Robertson, Imogen. Instruments of Darkness: A Novel. New York: Pamela Dorman Books - Viking, 2011. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

This book opens with a body and a murder. In that order.

When Harriet Westerman finds a body on her property in the country, she rudely wakes up Crowther at some ungodly hour of the morning to help her investigate. News has spread that Crowther conducts research on human remains; he's convinced that the way a person lives and dies leaves marks on their body. In addition to the gash across its throat, this body has a ring bearing the crest of Harriet's neighbor in its vest pocket.

Meanwhile in London, Susan hears her father lamenting the loss of a ring that Jonathon, Susan's younger brother, liked to play with. The ring falls from her mind when she and Jonathon are witnesses to their father's murder in his music shop. Before dying, their father tells Susan to find a very important box hidden in the shop and asks Mr. Graves, a young family friend with hardly the means to support himself, to care for the children.

Instruments of Darkness 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 fiery.

Though this is an adult book, there is nothing in Instruments of Darkness to make it inappropriate for teen readers, though it is a bit light on the romance and heavy on the murder/mystery compared to comparable YA titles. Still, it 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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anachronist said...

Oh I really might be tempted now!

Lawral the Librarian said...

It is a fun read! The jacket-flap compares it to CSI (in the Georgian period?), but the general mystery and intrigue was much more interesting than the autopsies, for me.