“The best yet in [Robertson’s] late-18th-century historical series.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
In the fourth installment of Imogen Robertson’s acclaimed historical suspense series, Mrs. Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther depart England for the Duchy of Maulberg on a desperate mission to save a man accused of murder.
Shrove Tuesday, 1784. As Germany’s elite dance at a masked ball, the beautiful Lady Martesen is murdered. Daniel Clode, Mrs. Westerman’s brother-in-law, is found near the body, his wrists cut, his memories nightmarish. Is Daniel a killer? As he awaits execution, Westerman enlists Crowther, the increasingly reclusive anatomist, to help prove Daniel’s innocence. After another ruthless death, the investigative duo find themselves racing to solve the mystery behind the killings—but no one will talk, and the clock is ticking for Daniel.
British author Robertson's fourth mystery (after 2012's Island of Bones), the best yet in her late-18th-century historical series, takes widow Harriet Westerman and her investigative partner, anatomist Gabriel Crowther, to Germany's Duchy of Maulberg, where her brother-in-law, Daniel Clode, has been charged with murder. Clode, disoriented and bleeding from an apparent suicide attempt, was found behind a locked door near the smothered corpse of Maria Martesen, Countess of Fraken-Lichtenberg. Westerman and Crowther, having doubts about Clode's guilt, soon find evidence suggesting someone else was the killer. The case is especially sensitive, since Maulberg is in debt to England, and Clode's conviction and execution if they can't clear him could plunge the duchy into financial ruin. Roberston adds in the intrigues of a secret society, the Minervals, whose scheming may have played a part in the death of the countess, among others. 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.
As with her other books, this is an easy read but I have to say, it was my least favorite thus far. For some reason it felt more "contrived" than the others? Maybe it has to do with the same evil character re-appearing from the last book?