Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Anatomy of Murder by Imogen Robertson

Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther are back again in 1780s England to solve another mystery. This time Harriet’s sea-captain husband is injured and his memory broken. He has information about a spy for the French, but it’s locked in his damaged mind. When a body turns up that might have connections to the spy ring, Harriet and Crowther step in to solve the mystery.
The quote on the back of the review copy I read calls this book, “C.S.I in the Georgian era,” and that isn't too far off the mark. The nuts and bolts of the detective work do follow a kind of C.S.I. pattern. Crowther examines the body while Harriet uses her insights into people to put the evidence together. Working together – the cold, scientific viewpoint paired with the more human details – they managed to get results without DNA or blood tests or even fingerprints.
The problem with that catchy quote is that it ignores how great the characters are and how well-evoked the time period is. Harriet’s struggle to deal with her ailing husband, her disapproving sister, and her love of her children all combine to make her a great leading lady. Crowther’s shell of self-protection is slowly cracking, but in a believable and gradual way. And, just like in the first book, there is a side story involving a tarot-reader and a street urchin that is woven in and out of the main mystery that is completely captivating as well.