Book Review: Instruments of Darkness

Imogen Robertson
Pamela Dorman Books, 2011
384 pages


This was one of those books I lucked into at the library while browsing the "new releases" shelves. Picked it up, read the flap, and added it to my stack. That's what's grand about libraries--getting to taste-test the wares at no cost.

And so here was this book that I'd never heard of by an author I'd never heard of, but once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. It's always nice to find one of those kinds of books now and then.

The story is a sort of murder mystery set in 1780 England, a twisted rope made of three distinct strands: a series of murders in Sussex, another murder in London, and a dark past history of some of the characters involved. All very engaging, particularly for someone like me who (a) likes historical stories, (b) is an Anglophile, and (c) likes anything that smacks even distantly of Sherlock Holmes, which one of the chief characters certainly does. Indeed, I would say Robertson split the archetypical Holmes into two: a man with a scientific and methodical mind and a woman with an intelligent and inquisitive nature. Together they make a formidable crime-solving team. Maybe they could get their own TV series on the BBC.

While some of the story seemed obvious by the time the explanations began to trickle through, and the end of the book sways somewhat toward the Gothic in flavor, the whole of it is satisfying. Definitely worth the read.