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Instruments of Darkness (Crowther and Westerman #1)

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,887 Ratings  ·  483 Reviews
Introducing a new historical crime series that The New York Times Book Review called "CSI: Georgian England" and Tess Gerritsen called "chillingly memorable"

Debut novelist Imogen Robertson won the London "Telegraph"'s First Thousand Words of a Novel competition in 2007 with the opening of Instruments of Darkness. The finished work is a fast-paced historical mystery starrin
ebook, 384 pages
Published February 1st 2011 by Penguin Books (first published 2009)
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Melissa McShane
6/9/15: Edited to mark spoilers, just in case.


It should have been interesting. The plot elements were all there. It's set in 1780, so you have the backdrop of England fighting the colonial upstarts as well as unrest at home--specifically the Gordon Riots, which I hadn't heard of before, and normally that grabs me. But...meh. It didn't help that the introductory chapter interwove the two plots in a moderately confusing way and then continued jumping from one to another throughout the book AND
This was a very enjoyable debut novel from a clearly talented new author, one which introduces a great new 'detective' duo in Gabriel Crowther and Harriet Westerman.
Set in England in the year 1780, the novel begins with the forward-thinking and feisty Westerman securing the help of the reclusive anatomist Crowther after discovering a murder victim on her lands. She suspects that someone at the neighbouring Thornleigh Hall estate has something to do with the murder and she also believes that thin
Richard Derus
Nov 15, 2011 Richard Derus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
2.5 stars.

What worked for me:
+ The mystery was good. It was intricate enough that all the twists weren't immediately obvious, although the main ideas were.
+ Harriet and Crowther were engaging detectives. I liked their personalities, which is always a good thing in a detective story.
+ The subplots worked for me: I can follow skipping around in time, if it's done well, and this was. I even liked the children, which I normally do not particularly enjoy in an adult murder mystery.
+ The villains wer
Aug 17, 2015 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will openly admit I knew nothing of this book before I saw it and bought it (and certainly not the number of sequels that have come off the back of it). It was a case of cover and title catching my eye and then reading the cover piquing my curiosity.

The book itself reads like a period drama (in fact I see there are references to Jane Austin in its comparisons) and yet at its heart is a murder mystery (in fact several) with more twists and turns and intrigue that you can imagine. Now it may ha
Oct 17, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 Briti ...more
First Sentence: Gabriel Crowther opened his eyes.

Harriet Westerman, wife of a navy commander, has given up sailing with her husband to raise their family and provide a home for her sister at Caverly Park in West Sussex. When she finds the body of a man whose throat has been slit, she summons help from anatomist Gabriel Crowther. The victim has a ring bearing the crest of neighboring Thornleigh Hall. Was the man Alexander Thornleigh, the missing heir to the Earl of Sussex?

London music shop owne
Mar 06, 2012 Teri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a solid 4-star read, and a great debut novel for Imogen Robertson.

I had a few issues with the plot's pacing in places, and sometimes the characters' voices would blend together (especially Mrs. Westerman and Mr. Crowther's voices), but this was overall a very smooth read.

If I named one criticism of the book, it would have to be that I read the "f-word" a few times in the book, and each time I did I felt like Ms. Robertson was disrupting the flow of the story and was bringing me back to
Read this with my in-person group and there was plenty to discuss. I had a tiny bit of a problem with the jumping around from Sussex, to London, and then to the colonies but all in all an interesting time and setting. I particularly liked the main characters, Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther, complex individuals somewhat out of step with their time but kindred spirits in many way. I am looking forward to more in this series and the friendship of Crowther and Westerman.
I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the characters and the setting, the majority of events take place during the Gordon Riots which happened in June of 1780. The writing was well polished, the story's pacing was good. I really enjoyed the investigating team of Gabriel Crowther and Mrs. Westerman. The events that unfolded were suspenseful and I enjoyed the characters Imogen Robertson created enough that I would like to read the next book in the series.
Oct 12, 2011 Felice rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mystery series are all about character. The mystery can be the twisty-est ever, the settings creepy enough to give your shivers the shivers and the dialog straight out of The Thin Man BUT if the detectives are not charismatic, intriguing and entertaining your interest in the series will die along with the murder victim in book one. Luckily this is not the case in ImogenRobertson’s series of mystery novels.

Robertson’s detectives are Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther. Robertson introduces us
Alesha Hubbell
I won this book as a Goodreads First Read, and I'm really glad I did. I registered to win mostly on the merit of the cover (we all know that's how you are supposed to judge your books, that's what covers are for), but the description on the back didn't really do a ton for me. Murder mysteries are not really my thing. However; this novel was much more that a murder mystery in the Agatha Christie sense of the word (not that I have anything against Agatha Christie). The three plot lines were interw ...more
Rosario (
Mrs. Harriet Westerman has spent most of her adult life travelling the world with her naval commander husband, giving her experiences most other women in late 18th century England can't even imagine. Family circumstances and obligations, however, have meant that for the past couple of years she's stayed behind running her husband's country estate. One morning, while on a walk, she finds a dead body, a man whose throat has been slit. Being a sensible and non-squeamish woman, she takes matters int ...more
Feb 02, 2012 Ruth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
c2011. I seem to be on a bit of a downward spiral this week as far as books are concerned. This one again ticked all the boxes ie historical, mystery and set partly in West Sussex to boot! The first chapters were excellent - good pace, nice character build up and the setting of a plot but then, for me, it all kind of fizzled away. I was determined to keep going as I really did not want another DNF but when the plot jumped to Boston - I lost all patience. I know that the Telegraph said the "the p ...more
Jun 29, 2011 Lucy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
A reasonable mystery novel, with a bit of a CSI in the 18th Century twist. The problem with this novel is that it is a period piece that gives no real feel of the time it is set in. It is almost like the author read Jane Austen and thought "Well, everyone knows about all that society stuff, so I'll just include some historical references and people will get it". As a result, if it weren't for the mention of the American War Of Independence and other key events this novel could have been set at a ...more
I'd been reading this for a while and finished it on the plane because I didn't have anything else to do. In theory, it has all the elements that would normally make a book really interesting to me, and I did like the characters, but I just didn't find anything about it truly engrossing, and the whole plot was instantly forgettable. I think the period murder mystery meets male/female detective duo thing was done better, and with more warmth and humour, by Deanna Raybourn with Silent in the Grave ...more
Mar 14, 2011 Karen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not great but not bad British historical mystery. There are some interesting characters but the mystery itself is predictably resolved and there is a lot of clunky language and not much suspense. Just blah, kind of like this review.
Jan 04, 2013 Debra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
Very enjoyable first book in what seems like will be a promising series. I already have book 2 to read. The 2 converging plot lines didn't get confusing. Overall, this was a fun page-turner.
Oct 07, 2010 eb rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A dull, badly plotted mystery that inches along, stops to reveal the completely predictable ending, and then expires. Two stars because of the occasional excellent sentence.
Anne Wright
Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson

I have given this book 5 out of 5 I loved it.

A wonderful introduction to Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther. Wonderful snippets of the history form 1775 - 1780 with the battle at Concord in America and the Gordon Riots in London. Into this world we find Alexander Adams with two children Susan and Jonathan living in London giving musical evenings and gathering friends together. Alexander prints music for anyone who will pay for the sheets that they w
Krisette Spangler
Sep 01, 2015 Krisette Spangler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
I would have given the book a higher rating, but there were a few instances where the author was unable to stay true to the time period she was writing about. The book is a fascinating mystery set in 1780, which is one of my favorite time periods to read about. The plot was intricate and exciting. It was pretty obvious as the book progressed who the murderer would be, but the journey to get there was fantastic.

However, the author does throw the F word out there a few times. I realize the word di
Feb 18, 2015 Sana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Linda Baker
Set primarily in London and Sussex in 1780, Instruments of Darkness is the debut novel of the Crowther and Westerman series. Mrs. Harriet Westerman is raising her children and running her estate in the absence of her sea captain husband, James. When she finds a murdered man on her land during a morning walk she enlists the aid of her reclusive neighbor, famous anatomist, Gabriel Crowther. Harriet is no squeamish miss, having been to sea with her husband and seen what violent death looks like. A ...more
Chad Sayban
Dec 30, 2013 Chad Sayban rated it liked it
Shelves: nook-book, good, own
I really do enjoy historical novels – especially when they get their historical facts correct (the Battle of Bunker Hill actually took place on Breed’s Hill, which Robertson correctly depicted). Even better, Instruments of Darkness does a commendable job portraying the nature of investigative “science” in the late 1700s, giving the story a truly authentic feel. The two primary characters of Crowther and Westerman were very interesting and highly nuanced, maybe a little too nuanced at times. Mrs. ...more
Susan in NC
Apr 27, 2011 Susan in NC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
What an amazing debut - historical mysteries are my favorite genre, and this book had it all - fascinating, multi-dimensional characters, dry humor, action, suspense, atmosphere, and historical accuracy. Mrs. Westerman and Crowther are wonderful lead characters and complement each other brilliantly; the support characters, even minor ones, are fleshed out and add so much to the reader's enjoyment and involvement in the story. I was amazed at Robertson's ability to move smoothly between London an ...more
Jun 01, 2012 Cathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mrs. Harriet Westerman, the mistress of a country estate, finds a stranger with his throat slit on her property. She immediately calls for the help of Gabriel Crowther, an anatomist who’s known as much for his reclusiveness as he is for his brilliance. Mrs. Westerman is unconventional by the standards of the day, since she sailed with her husband, a sea captain, for several years before she had her children, and now, living on land and managing the family estate, she lives an independent life, g ...more
Harriet Westerman finds the body of man on her property in Sussex. She asks Gabriel Crowther to help her discover how he died and how he is connected to Thornleigh Hall, the estate neighboring her home. Meanwhile, In London, a shopowner is murdered in front of his young daughter. How these deaths are connected and who is behind them is the premise of this book.

I liked most of the characters in this book - especially Sarah Adams, the daughter of the London man who was murdered. I liked Harriet bu
Dec 14, 2011 Jacqie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Four and a half stars. This is a good debut. The writing is not particularly descriptive, only occasionally referring to the wigs and full skirts of Georgian England. I liked the two practical protagonists, and I didn't find the plotline featuring children annoying- I'm often annoyed by cute children in books.

The book felt almost gothic, with its threatening manor house, dark mysterious figures and orphaned children. It was creepy! I enjoyed the mystery, and while I had my suspicions, it didn't
Jann Barber
Apr 22, 2012 Jann Barber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Goodreads summary of this book will give you a bare bones idea of the plot, so I won't repeat that.

I have already put the second book in what seems to be a series on reserve at the library, as I thought the pairing of Mrs. Westerman and Crowthers was a fine one. Instruments of Darkness takes place from June 2 through June 7, 1780, with occasional flashbacks to fighting in America in 1775. The story is told, then, in three parts: events in London in 1780, events in Sussex in 1780, and events
I could not put this book down, and I was pleased and delighted to discover the author has 3 more titles published and one in the works (due in June 2013), so I can continue to spend time with characters Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther. Set in the England countryside during the American Revolution, the story revolves around a corpse found on Mrs. Westerman's estate. She calls upon her neighbor, Gabriel Crowther, to help her to discover as much as possible abou the man and why he died. Bod ...more
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Imogen Robertson grew up in Darlington, studied Russian and German at Cambridge and now lives in London. She directed for film, TV and radio before becoming a full-time author and won the Telegraph’s ‘First thousand words of a novel’ competition in 2007 with the opening of Instruments of Darkness, her first novel. Her other novels also featuring the detective duo of Harriet Westerman and Gabriel C ...more
More about Imogen Robertson...

Other Books in the Series

Crowther and Westerman (5 books)
  • Anatomy of Murder (Crowther and Westerman, #2)
  • Island of Bones (Crowther and Westerman, #3)
  • Circle Of Shadows (Crowther and Westerman, #4)
  • Theft of Life (Crowther and Westerman, #5)

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