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on November 7, 2013
These books only keep getting better and better. In this fourth in the series it is 1784, and English gentlewoman Harriet Westerman and anatomist Gabriel Crowther receive news that Harriet's sister's new-made husband, Daniel Clode, has been arrested for murder in the Duchy of Maulberg. Harriet and Gabriel decamp there forthwith and plunge into an investigation that is less about the bodies piling up than it is a conspiracy infesting not only the highest levels of the duchy but reaching into all the courts of Europe as well.

The true test of any novel, as I know I say over and over again, is how thoroughly the reader is drawn into the novel's world, and here you can hear the swish of Harriet's skirts over parquet as she prowls the gilt-encrusted halls of the Palace of Ulrichsberg. There are some great characters, like Daniel's engaging jailer, who says of his prisoner

If you whip him away I shall have to hope the duke finds some scribbler of seditious pamphlets to lock up here for a few months, or I shall be deprived of civilized company. No doubt some young man will publish something insulting for the wedding. I trust in that.

I'm not sure Robertson meant me to love the Duke as much as I do, but who wouldn't?

"Swann, the lovely Mrs. Westerman recommends mercy. Is your heart still of stone?"

Harriet saw a flash of irritation cross Swann's face. "Crime against a husband is a manner of treason, sire. If you will be merciful, do not agree to her breaking on the wheel, but she must certainly die."

The duke smiled lazily. "One would think after all these years, Swann, you would have learned not to say 'must' to me..."

When Krall, the local district officer, and Crowther go to interview an alchemist, who is reluctant to admit them into his inner sanctum, Crowther is moved to admiration of the alchemist's ability to articulate his displeasure.

He had always thought German a pleasing language to swear in. It had the proper supply of consonants.

And then of course the adorable and acute spy Jacob Pegel, agent of Harriet's arch enemy (or is he?) Manzerotti

They did what everyone with power does in my experience, Mrs. Westerman. They spend most of their energies trying to hang onto it.

In this season of sequestration and government shutdown, Congress, please note. Not that most people in power are given to self-examination or even rational thought, for that matter, as this novel underscores.

There are some great descriptive lines, thrown away in a single sentence just to make sure we are paying attention.

...the door to the duke's study was opened again, and a gentleman almost smothered by the splendor of his cravat beckoned her inside.

There are some what I can only describe as very creepy automata, also known as Robots 1.0, secret societies bent on revolution, or so they tell themselves, and a serial killer as selfish and self-absorbed as he is insane, although I must say the first victim who initiates the entire cascade of events is entirely deserving of revenge. (Trying to be as obscure as possible so as not to give anything away.) Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon April 30, 2012
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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on August 28, 2016
What more can you want? The author is assiduous in her research, so don't let yourself be fooled by assuming she has just let her imagination run wild. Yes, she has used creative license, but she has not just made things up for her own, personal "pleasure". This seems to be the last book in a 4-book series. I will be devastated if this is the last Westerman/Crowther Mystery!
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on October 31, 2015
Mrs. Westerman and Crowther must travel to Germany to save their friend, Mr. Clode, from being executed for a murder he did not commit. Inside the palace of the Duke, they find a plot so twisted it will keep you guessing until the very end. We are even reintroduced to some old friends and villains from her the previous books, which will challenge what you thought you knew. I was almost disappointed to finish this novel, because the fifth book hasn't been released in the United States yet. This series is brilliant, and I look forward to many more novels from this author in the future.

I will warn there are a few swear words scattered throughout the novel. They always seem a little out of place in a novel written for this era.
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VINE VOICEon August 31, 2013
Circle of Shadows continues the Crowther/Westerman mystery-solving duo. This time they had for the Continent to help a dear friend beat a murder charge. There's plenty of skullduggery as Crowther and Westerman do their usual fine job of getting at the truth. This is a satisfying read that advances the series well. I'm looking forward to the next one!
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on July 24, 2016
All of the books in this series are an interesting read. For some reason, the first book in the series shows weaknesses in writing style but I suspect she got a better editor after that one. I think her characters are unique and the stories generally well told. Don't expect to understand everything that's going on unless you read the books in order.
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on March 10, 2015
I love the Westerman and Crowther series, and am surprised it took me so long to find these books. The characters are enjoyable, and usually relatable, the author is wonderful at setting a scene without bogging it down in unnecessary description, and it's easy to lose oneself in the atmosphere of the story. That being said, as much as I love the character development in this book I found the central mystery overly complicated and not as cleverly pulled together as in previous books. I didn't enjoy the "reveal" as much as in the previous books, but I would still recommend and read again happily to be with these characters again, especially now that the sister is a little more tolerable.
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on August 30, 2016
This series combines the wonders of scientific discovery and knowledge in the 19th century with the very human story of loss and found love, engrossing stories that surround you with the sights, sensibilities, and the routines of life of the times.
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on November 20, 2013
This is an excellent series, with believable, delightful characters. The setting is wonderfully descriptive but the mystery is engaging and unusual. Not a boring moment in the whole book! I heartily recommend it!
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on December 11, 2012
This installment of the C and W series is set in Romanesque Germany. Murders by the score and the investigation is dangerous indeed. Lots of Templar kinda stuff and a Camelot setting. Almost need a scorecard for the characters. Another fine C and W series novel and waiting for the next.
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