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Circle of Shadows: A Westerman/Crowther Mystery Hardcover – June 13, 2013

42 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A cry for help from the Continent sends Harriet Westerman and her colleague, anatomist Gabriel Crowther, to the German Duchy of Maulsberg in 1784. Here Daniel Clode, husband of Harriet’s younger sister, Rachel, is charged with murder after being found disoriented in a locked room near the body of a popular lady of the court at a masked ball. As an agent of the Earl of Sussex, who holds Maulsberg bonds, Clode escapes quick execution, giving Westerman and Crowther time to investigate his puzzling case and leading to their uncovering of other recent murders of members of the court. In the process, Westerman comes face-to-face with her nemesis, the beguiling castrato and spy-for-hire Manzerotti, who was responsible for the murder of her husband but here proves an ally. The fourth entry in this series mixes shamanism and alchemy with court intrigue and conspiracy, plus a dash of undying love and insanity, as all plot strands come together. With well-drawn characters, sharp dialogue, and distinctive settings, this is a winning historical mystery; Westerman and Crowther continue to shine. --Michele Leber



"The best yet in [Robertson's] late-18th-century historical series. . . The puzzle is intricate enough to satisfy fair-play fans, but it's the perfect prose that puts this in the first rank of the subgenre."
Publishers Weekly, (starred review)

“Dramatic intrigue and painstaking detail combine smoothly in this robust historical thriller. While this is the fourth series entry (after the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Award nominee Island of Bones), Robertson does a particularly good job of filling in the backstory for new readers. Sure to be a treat for Anne Perry fans; try also with forensic investigation readers who like an ensemble cast.”
Library Journal, (starred review)

"The fourth entry in this series mixes shamanism and alchemy with court intrigue and conspiracy, plus a dash of undying love and insanity, as all plot strands come together. With well-drawn characters, sharp dialogue, and distinctive settings, this is a winning historical mystery; Westerman and Crowther continue to shine."

“Delightful . . . Robertson is a virtuoso at capturing the nuances and customs of the period and culture.”
Mystery Scene

"The combination of unusual historical nuggets, a taxing mystery and good writing will please many."


“Robertson's superior third historical featuring anatomist Gabriel Crowther and widow Harriet Westerman (after 2012's Anatomy of Murder) makes the most of its revelations about Crowther's backstory . . . First-rate prose and the deepening relationship between the two leads bode well for the longevity of this series.”
Publishers Weekly, (starred review)

“Set aside quality time to fully enjoy this richly layered, engaging historical series; a great suggestion for fans of Anne Perry, Charles Finch, and C.S. Harris.”
Library Journal

“[An] audacious mix of cultural gloss and uncomplicated, straight-ahead storytelling. The multi-layered nuance of Peter Ackroyd and the buttonholing narrative grasp of Stephen King are stirred into the mix.”
The Independent (UK)

"A new Imogen Robertson book is fast becoming something of an event. . . . This follow-up does not disappoint.  As ever, the characters are enticing and the plot absorbing. If you've not read the previous books, do not despair—they each stand alone. But if you have time on your hands, now is your chance to catch up."
The Daily Mail (UK)


“Memorable prose, strong and unusual leads, a sophisticated plot with several unexpected turns, and an accurate portrayal of the period all make this a winner.”

—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Robertson’s language is spry . . . her scene-setting broad and detailed, her prose gracefully pressed into the service of a serpentine plot.”

—The Financial Times (UK)

“In the overcrowded field of historical fiction, Robertson has the smarts comfortably to outpace most of her rivals.”
The Independent (UK)


“Robertson’s enjoyment of the period and her characters is infectious.”

The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)

“Every so often I encounter a book that makes me think with envy: ‘How I wish I could have written this story!’ Instruments of Darkness is just that book—poetic, enchanting, and chillingly memorable. Imogen Robertson is an exquisite writer, and this is an extraordinary novel.”
Tess Gerritsen, bestselling author of The Silent Girl

“Mayhem runs amok in this period thriller. [Robertson] pulls out all the stops . . . [a] roaring soap opera of a novel.”
The Washington Times

“Impressive . . . Robertson has a wicked way with suspense. A ripping homage to Dickens, Austen, and Conan Doyle, Instruments of Darkness will keep you up at night, and then, like me, waiting for the sequel.”
Seattle Times

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books (June 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067002628X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670026289
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #974,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

British author 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 Crowther are Anatomy of Murder, Island of Bones and Circle of Shadows. The Paris Winter, a story of betrayal and darkness set during the Belle Époque will be published in the US in November 2014. She has been short-listed for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger twice.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Cross on April 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
Considering the pressures to produce a-book-a-year, Imogen Robertson has become one of my favorite writers of historical mysteries and her most recent, CIRCLE OF SHADOWS, was a great pleasure and possibly her best-written to date. I never find her padding her stories or letting her characters drift even as she meets her deadlines - they always seem to develop and flourish. Unless you've started with "Instruments of Darkness," our introduction to Gabriel Crowther and Mrs. Westerman, it would be hard to appreciate how delicately the relationship between a noble anatomist with deep secrets and the wife of a British Navy captain, both shrewd investigators of murder, could be so satisfying, but it is. Similarly, her plots are never humdrum, while there is a hint of romance, she never drowns us in it, like a wet salad dressing. Her adventures become both more complex and more satisfying. Every book, thus far, has added to the sense of creating a three-dimensional world in late 18th century England (and elsewhere) while retaining a cast of familiar characters we can genuinely watch grow and develop. I many times read "what pleasures lie in store for you!" in various blurbs for historical mysteries, and they are not always right - but in this case, they are.

Circle of Shadows travels, for the first time, outside of England and does it with authority. One of our favorite characters has committed an unthinkable murder - except that he remembers nothing about it. Set it a small German princedom a few years before the French Revolution, Crowther and Mrs. Westerman are once again on the trail of probably the most bizarre murderer yet, although I didn't guess it until the very end. Lovely writing, fun plots, spies, alchemists, good development, and an exotic flourish. Well done! I already wish I knew what adventures lie ahead with the next adventure.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bella Rosa VINE VOICE on April 30, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the 4th book in the series featuring Mrs. Harriet Westermann and anatomist Gabriel Crowther. Harriet's sister, Rachel, is on her wedding tour with her new husband, Daniel Clode, when the couple runs into trouble on a visit to the dukedom of Maulberg. When Daniel is accused of murder, Rachel summons Harriet to help clear his name. What follows features alchemy, radical Freemasons, court politics, automatons and the return of the castrato Manzerotti.

Characterization is a strength of Robertson's, and she's deftly expanding her ensemble. My favorite is still Island of Bones, but this is a strong entry in a wonderful series. I'm already waiting impatiently for the next.

(A note on the Kindle edition - several sentences were dropped in the formatting of the prologue, but I saw no other problems in the rest of the text.)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. Mahnken on November 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Imogen Robertson's historical mystery series featuring Harriet Westerman and anatomist Gabriel Crowther constitutes one of the most intelligent examples of the genre out there. Circle of Shadows contains all of the features that make this series so rich and rewarding: a complicated plot; a well-researched, detailed 18th century setting; and a well-drawn cast of characters that feel true to the period.

In this fourth installment of the series, Harriet and Crowther travel outside of England for the first time, when they are called to one of the German states to investigate a murder. Harriet's sister Rachel and her new husband, Daniel, had been touring Europe for their honeymoon when Daniel was arrested for killing a woman. Harriet and Crowther have to identify the murderer in order to free Daniel, but what they discover during their investigation is political intrigue and the handiwork of a madman.

One of the things that I love about Robertson's novels as a whole is how detailed her 18th century world is. She's obviously researched the period deeply. It pays off in the realistic feel of her descriptions of the physical setting of the story, as well as her descriptions of the manners and mores of the characters. The 18th century is not a period that is used often in historical mysteries, so it has benefit of novelty, too.

Another plus for me is the deep cast of characters. Harriet and Crowther show up in every novel, of course, as do their friends and family, but so do other people that they meet during their investigations. Individuals that other authors might treat as minor characters come to life in Robertson's novels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Leeanna Chetsko VINE VOICE on October 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover
CIRCLE OF SHADOWS is a rich meal of a book, full of historical details, unique characters, and an intriguing mystery.

I was initially attracted to the book because of the main character, Harriet Westerman. I was quite curious as to how a woman in the late 1700s could be a detective. But to my surprise, I liked every single character in the book, good and bad, even the minor ones. The author has a real talent for fleshing out characters. I cared about all of them in some way, from Harriet to the daughter of the ballet dancer. I wanted to know more about everyone, too, and I think the author did a good job of integrating interesting and relevant backstories into the plot. Harriet, though, was probably my favorite. I adored her dry humor and quick mind.

And the plot! I admit, I don't usually read mysteries. They just aren't my favorite. But I liked CIRCLE OF SHADOWS so much I want to read the rest of the Crowther and Westerman series. The author wove a compelling story, bringing in everything from forensics to lost family members to secret societies to court politics. I think there's something for everyone here -- there are even automatons, which I so did not expect to see. I had no idea how the murder mystery would tie up, and I admit to being quite surprised by the ending. It was a fantastical mystery for sure, but one that I believed because of the way the author wrote it.

I read CIRCLE OF SHADOWS over a few weeks. Usually I speed through books, but the writing style -- heavy on detail and scene setting, and almost formal -- made me slow down. This was a plus for me, because it was refreshing to spend longer than a day or two reading a book.
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