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Instruments of Darkness (Crowther and Westerman #1)

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  3,501 Ratings  ·  541 Reviews
An intricate historical page-turner about a forbidding country estate and the unlikely forensic duo who set out to uncover its deadly secrets.

In the year 1780, Harriet Westerman, the willful mistress of a country manor in Sussex, finds a dead man on her grounds with a ring bearing the crest of Thornleigh Hall in his pocket. Not one to be bound by convention or to shy awa
Hardcover, US edition, 374 pages
Published February 17th 2011 by Pamela Dorman Books (first published 2009)
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Popular Answered Questions
Asteropê Wiki states she was born 1973, Darlington, United Kingdom older than 36.
I am going by the publication date (2009), so really, she wrote it…more
Wiki states she was born 1973, Darlington, United Kingdom older than 36.
I am going by the publication date (2009), so really, she wrote it prior to being 36. How much so (a year, a decade?) who knows. Unless you've seen or read an interview to pinpoint that, the best you can get is before or at 36 years of age. (less)

Community Reviews

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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
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
Richard Derus
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 15, 2015 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 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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.
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.
Oct 12, 2011 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
Dec 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of a series set in 1780's Sussex, UK and featuring Gabriel Crowther, a gentleman who relinquished his title and is now mostly a recluse and a 'man of science' and Harriet Westerman, who runs the manor next door while her sea captain husband is away. Mrs. Westerman finds a murdered body on her land and having read a paper Mr. Crowther wrote about evidence at murder scenes, seeks him out immediately. This leads to an extensive investigation which is tied to the missing heir of Thornleigh Hal ...more
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Aug 24, 2012 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 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.
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
Alesha Hubbell
Feb 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Diane S ☔
Mar 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Just love historical English mysteries and this first novel is a worthy addition to that genre.
Oct 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Me gustan las novelas de época, con misterios, asesinatos, intrigas y secretos.Imogen Robertson cumple con su cometido, su escritura es sobria y ad hoc a la época en que transcurre la trama y contiene los elementos necesarios en su lectura. Aún así no ha logrado encantarme totalmente ...

Reseña completa aquí:
Michelle Feist
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a highly entertaining and engaging read! I loved the "Georgian Era CSI" feel- two unlikely characters teaming up to solve a series of murders and mysteries involving the noble Thornleigh family in Sussex. I found out there are 4 more in the series (Crowther and Westerman team up again to solve more mysteries) and I can't wait to get my hands on them.
May 26, 2012 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
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
Cathy Cole
May 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First Line: Friday, 2 June 1780, West Sussex, England. Gabriel Crowther opened his eyes.

If Crowther had known what was in store for him, he just might have pulled the covers back over his head. Harriet Westerman, the unconventional mistress of Caveley Park, has found a dead man on her property, and she insists that reclusive anatomist Gabriel Crowther help her find the killer. Their search will take them from country walks to drawing rooms to grimy London streets to dissecting rooms, and by the
Jennifer (JC-S)
Mar 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: librarybooks
‘I have found a body on my land. His throat has been cut.’

In June 1780, the corpse of a man is found near the grounds of Mrs Harriet Westerman’s estate of Caveley in Sussex. In his pocket is a ring bearing the crest of nearby Thornleigh Hall. Who is this man, and what is his connection to Thornleigh Hall? Mrs Westerman seeks the assistance of Gabriel Crowther, a reclusive neighbour, who has trained as an anatomist, to examine the body. When Gabriel Crowther concludes that the man has been murder
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
Jann Barber
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Barbara Gordon
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
I browsed this 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
Krisette Spangler
May 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Chad Sayban
Dec 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, nook-book, good
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
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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

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Crowther and Westerman (5 books)
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  • Island of Bones (Crowther and Westerman, #3)
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