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 away from adventure, she recruits a reclusive local anatomist named Gabriel Crowther to help her find the murderer, and historical suspense's newest investigative duo is born. For years, Mrs. Westerman has sensed the menace of neighboring Thornleigh Hall, seat of the Earl of Sussex. It is the home of a once-great family that has been reduced to an ailing invalid, his whorish wife, and his alcoholic second son, a man haunted by his years spent as a redcoat in the Revolutionary War. The same day, Alexander Adams is slain by an unknown killer in his London music shop, leaving his children orphaned. His death will lead back to Sussex and to an explosive secret that has already destroyed one family and threatens many others.
Instruments of Darkness combines the brooding atmosphere of Anne Perry with the complex, compelling detail of Tess Gerritsen, moving from drawing room to dissecting room, from coffee house to country inn. Mrs. Westerman and Mr. Crowther are both razor-sharp minds, and their personalities breathe spirit into this gripping historical mystery.
©2011 Imogen Robertson (P)2011 Tantor
"The book works splendidly as a period thriller, with complicated leads and informative details that illuminate 18th-century England for modern readers." (Publishers Weekly)
Avid reader and audiobook listener; I love mysteries, thrillers, historical fiction, and Brit-crime novels.
Yes, I know my title isn't the greatest, but it was the best I could think of to describe my opinion of this book. That said, I may even continue with the series someday. The story was not bad. It held my interest. I have listened to Wanda McCaddon's narration many times and I think she is a fine reader, although at times she seems to be rushing through the story a bit too quickly. This book is a perfect example of that. Another reviewer commented that it is often hard to tell when the story switches between characters and places. This makes it hard to tell where you are in the story and confuses the listener. I found myself hitting the 30-second rewind button frequently. Another reviewer commented that her childrens' voices are irritating; however, I did not find that to be the case. To each their own, I guess. I believe that Ms McCaddon is a more mature woman, but (IMHO) she does a fine job voicing various characters, including men and younger women. She can also give voice to various dialects, which I REALLY appreciate in a narrator. There are many narrators who cannot (it's not easy!). Bad accents can really ruin an audiobook listening experience for me.
I would hope, since this is the first of a series, that the subsequent books get better. The author writes well. This story is interesting, to a point. There are twists that make it suspenseful enough to hold one's attention (I found the manner in which the "yellow man" is dispatched to be quite creative). The characters are fairly well developed and the author does an admirable job of giving just enough information about her characters' backstories to leave listeners wanting to know more. This is a good way to set-up a series.
I would not say it was a waste of time, but neither was it so good that I couldn't put it down. I would urge others to listen for themselves and then share their thoughts with the rest of us. I'd like to hear more opinions about this author/book/narrator.
Maybe a better writter could have done something with the good components of this book. Very Anne Perry in its rehashing details and events between principle characters. Hard to tell when locations and times switch.
Great combination of manners and murder. I can't wait for the next in the series. Wanda McCaddon is a very good narrator, though her children's voices are irritating. If there were more kids in the book, I don't think I'd be able to listen.
I suppose this story could be better if I was reading instead of listening. The transitions between the present and past were too abrupt and ultimately confusing. I couldn't follow the story. The narration didn't promote interest, and the book just made me drowsy.
I usually listen on my commute. Driving and drowsy are a bad combination, so I finally gave up. I seldom ever give up on an audiobook because they are just too expensive. I would not take another chance on this author or narrator.
The Girl Next Door by Ruth Rendell
I found this book a bit of a difficult listen at first. I haven't read the classic British writers since college when I did enjoy them and the style of this narrative reminded me of those. I persevered and was rewarded with a unique historical mystery and interesting characters. McCaddon is the perfect narrator for the story. I'm looking forward to the next in the series.
Very happy to be introduced to this new pair of investigators! Also like the fact that it is set in the Georgian period -- just a bit before Jane Austen. Harriet Westerman is the wife of a sea captain who spent time with her husband at sea and now is land-bound. Even though she has chilldren and a large house to supervise, she is eternally curious and likely to do things that women are not known for in her day, such as reading scientific tracts. Her neighbor Gabriel Crowther is an amateur anatomist. He has written one of these tracts proposing that human bodies can tell us about their manner of death, particularly in the case of murder. So when a murder occurs on Harriet's land, she seeks out her anatomist neighbor to help.
The language and portrayal of the customs of the day feel right and are not intrusive to the story. One reviewer I read was appalled by the author's use of water and lemonade as refreshments during that time -- however, that is a minor flaw. The rest of the book reads and sounds accurate.
The story is complex and has two story lines proceeding through almost the entire book. Listening only, I found myself getting lost occasionally. The story frequently switches from one setting and group of characters to another with little or no warning. Sometimes there will be a chapter heading with date and place, but often not. A slight pause in the narration would have been helpful each time the change takes place.
Overall a very good story and likeable characters -- I've put the next two books on my Wish List!
Love books! Classics and lighter fiction, mysteries (not too violent please :-). And selective non-fiction--whatever takes my fancy.
unusual, engaging, good(mystery)
Lady Harriett, because she seemed to be a woman ahead if her time, but in a realistic way (meaning that as one might suspect, her interest in science was not supported by everyone). however, the less believeable part was that a woman of her station in life could have formed such a tight allegience with another man while her husband was at sea without a lot more social difficulties. I liked it, but I still think that that time in history was one in which her relationship would have been viewed as scandalous, and that didn't play a very large role in this book. Some, but much less than I think would have actually been the case at that time.
Yes, but not for this series. her voice (to me) sounded perfect for the role of someone older. Apologies to her, it only reflects my own "ear" for listening expectations. not her skill!
As an American, I found the historical perspective of being part of the British military during the Revolutionary War quite interesting.
The author is an excellent writer telling an intriguing story. The characters are well defined and appealing. I enjoyed the fact that Lady Harriet and Crowther are not sexually attracted to each other, their partnership is based on curiosity instead of hormones. I enjoyed the imagery emotions evoked by the author.
That said, I found the story structure odd and distracting. The book is broken into several sections, but the reason for the section breaks is unclear. The ending has an "in conclusion" section and an epilogue. The epilogue is actually a prologue and confused me. It is unnecessary. I don't recall the last time, if ever, having an author call out an "in conclusion" to end a story. Isn't the end generally the conclusion? The intermittent backstory flashbacks for a secondary character are also jarring.
I love Wanda McCaddon as a narrator but this reading is my favorite. It is hard to tell if the lack of breaks, or even breathing space, is in her reading, in the writing, or the editing. I suspect, based on the other structural issues in the story, that the author makes abrupt shifts in point of view without scene breaks.
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