Robertson, Imogen - 'Instruments of Darkness'
This first novel from a talented tv, radio and film director is written in a natural evocative style that one associates with authors of quality such as Jane Austen or more recently with Patrick O'Brian.
The story is set in June 1780, but also refers to earlier events that occurred in April 1775 in New England. The story begins with Mrs Harriet Westerman, out for a morning ride when she is hailed by a person in the grounds of the adjoining estate who has discovered a man dead with his throat slashed. Harriet immediately asks for Gabriel Crowther, a reclusive but rich neighbour that she has heard has trained as an anatomist or early physician to examine the body. He comes and concludes that the deceased has been murdered but several important clues are apparent. The estate that the body was discovered on belongs to that of Thornleigh Hall, the seat of the Earl of Sussex. The Earl's eldest son and heir Alexander, has been missing for some years. The Earl remarried, inappropriately some years ago to an dancer and the second son, Hugh, is now an alcoholic. Harriet calls the local Squire to arrange for an inquest.
In another strand to the story, in London, the missing Alexander lives, having adopted the alias "Adams" and siring two small children by the woman he loves. He owns and runs a music shop. The famous Gordon Riots erupt in London and mobs of people are rioting and looting any property or person that they belief is owned by a Roman Catholic. Alexander is regrettably killed defending his property and his children are orphaned.
A third strand of the story replays the earlier experiences of Hugh Thornleigh, the second son of the Earl of Sussex, as a British Officer during the American War of Independence in 1775 in New England.
Was the murder of Alexander Adams as haphazard as it appeared or was the Gordon Riots used as a subterfuge? This extraordinary, high quality, historical thriller reveals several other murders before rapidly reaching a very surprising denouement. INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS starts off fairly slowly before developing into an attractive page turner.
I do hope that we hear more from this talented new writer as further adventures of Gabriel Crowther and Harriet Westerman would be most appreciated.
Terry Halligan, England