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Circle of Shadows

Cruel murder, poisonous lies and a dangerous truth.

Book four of the critically acclaimed
Crowther & Westerman series

Image: Quaterionenadler David de Negker, cut by Jost de Negker 1510, published by David de Necker (son). Double-headed eagle with coats of arms of individual states, symbol of the Holy Roman Empire (painting from 1510). Public Domain,


     Death at the Carnival: riddle, ritual and murder.

Shrove Tuesday, 1784. While the nobility dance at a masked ball, beautiful Lady Martesen is murdered. Daniel Clode is found by her body, his wrists slit and his memories nightmarish. What has he done?

     Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther race to the Duchy of Maulberg to save Daniel from the executioner's axe. There they find a capricious Duke on the point of marriage, a court consumed by luxury and intrigue, and a bitter enemy from the past.

     After another cruel death, they must discover the truth, no matter how horrific it is. Does the answer lie with the alchemist seeking the elixir of life? With the automata makers in the Duke's fake rural idyll? Or in the poisonous lies oozing around the court as the elite strive for power?


Reviewed by Publishers Weekly

     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.


What are people saying about Circle of Shadows

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

Imogen Robertson's new thriller, [Circle of Life] set in late18th-century Germany, is completely absorbing. Though one of a series, I read it as a newcomer and it stands alone. The multiple narratives are atmospheric and, whilst the written in a style reminiscent of the setting (which works perfectly) the chemistry between characters is contemporary and infectious. The plot is sprawling... when the links become clear it is a deeply rewarding read"

— We Love This Book

Robertson's regular characters, protofeminist Harriet Westerman and oddball man of science Gabriel Crowther, pitch up in Maulberg to save a friend, wrongly accused of murder, from the executioner's axe and find themselves facing a mystery involving Masonic conspiracies, radical philosophers and a mad alchemist still in pursuit of the elixir of life. In her fourth novel, Robertson shows herself to be one of the best writers of historical fiction currently at work."

— BBC History Magazine

Matchless storytelling, gripping and moving in equal measure. Addictive."

— Nicci French


Chillingly extraordinary thriller"

— Tess Gerritsen

Robertson is a virtuoso at capturing the nuances and customs of the period and culture."

— Mystery Scene


A note from the author

Circle of Shadows 1784

     I studied German and Russian at university, but knew very little about the Holy Roman Empire until I read the brilliant Germania by Simon Winder. The courts of those small states seemed like fascinating crucibles of jealousy, power, and the struggle between old and new beliefs. This was also the time of the Illuminati, the growth of freemasonry and a period where the magic of the people merged into the esoteric knowledge of the upper-classes. I also wanted Harriet to confront her nemesis, and found this would be the prefect place and time to do it.


Articles about Circle of Shadows

Here are a selection of articles, blogs, and resources about Circle of Shadows and taken from the news page.


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