Monday, July 8, 2013

Circle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson

First Sentence:  The room is dark, lit by only a single candle on the surface of a rough wooden table.

Widow Harriet Westerman receives a letter from her newly married sister, Rachel.  In Germany, where they are touring, Rachel's husband, Daniel Clode, was found in a locked room with the body of Lady Martesen.  Although very confused, seeming to have attempted suicide and having no memory, Daniel is imprisoned and awaiting execution for murder.  Harriet, with her friends anatomist Gabriel Crowther, Daniel's employer Owen Graves and Michaels, landlord of the local inn who insists on overseeing their travels, travels to the Duchy of Maulbery.  There they find a Duke preparing for his wedding, an enemy, intrigue and several more deaths.

Robertson has a very intriguing style.  The prologue both compels and slightly baffles us.  The wonderfully evocative descriptions of the story's first chapter informs us that a crime has occurred so that the mystery is presented, possible ramifications established, and many of the characters introduced with an overview of their backgrounds established.  It is a very satisfying beginning.

The characters drive the story, and they are characters about who we very much care.  For those of us who are Jane Austen fans, one sees shades of Mrs. Croft (Persuasion) and Colonel Brandon (Sense and Sensibility) and the characters of Harriet and Crowther.  Harriet is very much a person one would like to be.  She has strength, but not false courage.  She is intelligent, traveled and capable.  ..."Harriet tilted her head to one side.  "I was going to stab him with one of Mr. Al-Said's files, but he provided a pistol so I almost shot him instead.  I hate to say it, but I think having the opportunity to do so, and not killing him, has done me a great deal of good."  Each of the characters is memorable and significant to the story and it's hard to say enough about them without this review becoming as long as the book itself.  There isn't a cameo player among them, even if their role is small.

Robertson's voice and style are very special.  There is an elegance to her writing.  Her descriptions are evocative, her ability to convey emotion is visceral.  Her voice is neither modern yet doesn't focus on being of the period.  It is conveyed through scenes and narrative, such as Harriet her musing on the comparison of her beginning an intimate with her late husband, as opposed to what may possibly have been her sister's experience.  Her dialogue is always to be appreciated ..."Are you encouraging me to speculate, Crowther?" ... "I suppose I am to a degree.  I will try not to do so again."

The plot is not a simple one.  Beginning from the first page, we are uncertain as to the road on which we travel.  One must pay attention to the details, and it is very well worth so doing.  As with the characters, every aspect is significant.  This isn't a story to skim, but neither is one tempted so to do as each page is engrossing.

"Circle of Shadows" is an excellent read.  For me, it is the best book, so far, in the series.  That is saying quite a lot as this is a series I truly love. 


Circle of Shadows (Hist Mys-Harriet Westerman/Gabriel Crowther-Germany-1784) Ex
Robertson, Imogen
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2013


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