Books: Anatomy of Murder by Imogen Robertson

Imogen Robertson
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2010
392 pages

Last year I read Robertson's Instruments of Darkness and liked it very well, and I like this book, which continues the adventures of Mr. Crowther and Mrs. Westerman, equally as much. Fans of Sherlock Holmes might be inclined to count Crowther and Westerman as a sort of Holmes-and-Watson team (though Robertson's books are set a century earlier than the Great Detective's era), but I don't think that's quite true; Crowther and Westerman are more like a divided Holmes, with Mr. Crowther as the scientifically minded, quiet one and Mrs. Westerman the more animated personage, though her mind is equally quick, if not as streamlined in its efforts. But no matter how you choose to parse it, I think anyone who enjoys Holmes would also enjoy these books by Robertson.

I'll take a moment to say, though, that this book must have been rushed to press. There were numerous glaring typos in the copy I was reading (courtesy of my local library). The map at the front of the book, in fact, has a date of 1871 while the story itself is supposedly set in 1781. I found many such problems throughout. I do hope all those have been fixed in subsequent printings, and I suggest a more careful proofreader.

All right, but as to the story. Mrs. Westerman's husband, a sea captain, has come home with a head injury. Meanwhile, on the heels of their recent, if dubious, triumph (read Instruments of Darkness for that tale), Mr. Crowther and Mrs. Westerman are approached by the Admiralty to investigate the murder of a potential French spy. I'd say "hilarity ensues," but that's hardly the case.

Meanwhile, in a parallel story a Tarot card reader tries to warn a patron of something bad that's about to happen to her, and sure enough the woman is murdered. As she did in Instruments of Darkness, Robertson plaits the two narratives into one another in tidy fashion. And while the insertion of something so metaphysical as Tarot seems somewhat incongruous next to the logic of Crowther and Westerman, and also there is some amount of coincidence that stretches the reader's ability to believe that in all of large London these things could truly come together so neatly, the novel still works on the whole.

I realize I am a bit behind in the series, seeing as Island of Bones has recently been released and Circle of Shadows is soon forthcoming. I shall have to pick those up at some point in time. So far, Robertson and her characters have not failed to please.

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