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

4.4 out of 5 stars 46 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

Review

Praise for CIRCLE OF SHADOWS

"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."
Booklist

“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."
Kirkus


Praise for ISLAND OF BONES

“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)


Praise for ANATOMY OF MURDER


“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)




Praise for INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS


“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: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #598,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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...
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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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