Review by James Hodgkinson
Instruments of Darkness By Imogen Robertson
One of my summer reads
Particularly in the summer months I enjoy reading mystery and detective stories by such authors as Peter May, Gerald Seymour, Patrick Gale and Robert Harris. Having exhausted my usual authors in Polly’s bookshop I discovered a well-thumbed paperback called “Instruments of Darkness” by Imogen Robertson.
The setting is in the late 18th century and Thornleigh 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.
The central character is Impulsive Harriet Westerman, the wife of a Commander in the English Navy serving in the West Indies. She lives on the neighboring Calverly Estate and has felt the Hall's menace long before she happens upon a dead man, when she was out on one of her morning walks. The grim discovery cries out for justice, and in the absence of a police force at this time, Harriet becomes a Miss Marples. 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 leads back to Sussex, and an explosive secret that has already destroyed one family and threatens many others.
As a genealogist what intrigued me about this book was how it brought me back to earth about how grim life was at that time. London was not much bigger than Alicante today, there was very little law and order and conditions for the ordinary people were unbelievable. The network between the upper classes was the only thing that mattered.
For me this was Fascinating read and I am looking forward to Imogen’s next book, but I appreciate that it is not everyone’s cup
Imogen is a writer of historical fiction. Now based in London, she was born and brought up in Darlington. She has written 5 or 6 books on Historical Fiction.