Wow. Pretty hard to pick a first book. I've decided (for now) not to talk about books written by friends. We'll see how long that lasts.
I love history. I love mysteries. Historical mysteries should be perfect reading material. Except I've never been a fan. I can't remember what made me pick up Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson. A mystery set in Sussex in the 18th century? Really? I had my doubts...
Harriet Westerman, wife of a sea commander, finds a body on her property. She enlists the aid of her reclusive neighbor, Gabriel Crowther, an anatomist, to help solve the mystery. I don't want to give away more of the plot - don't you want to be surprised?
Mrs. Westerman is smart and opinionated and not always bound by 18th century conventions. Crowther is equally smart and opinionated, and there's a reason for his reclusiveness. Both characters are well-drawn and fascinating. Their relationship is chilly at first, but one of the delights of the book is watching the development of their friendship. I enjoyed the mystery (actually there are tons of mysteries and secrets), the attention to historical detail, and the excellent writing.
So much for being a doubter. Thank goodness there are more Westerman/Crowther novels. I couldn't wait for them to be published in the US, so I ordered Anatomy of Murder, Island of Bones, and Circle of Shadows from Amazon.UK. Theft of Life will be out in May 2014 (in the UK - I don't know about the US). Her latest book, not a Westerman/Crowther, is The Paris Winter, about a young female artist in Paris in the early 1900s. With plenty of suspense and mystery.
Check out Imogen Robertson. And please don't blame me if you become addicted to her books.