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The Anatomy of Murder is a murder mystery set in the 1780's; the book is set in London and written by Imogen Robertson. This is the second novel featuring the crime fighting duo of Harriet Westerman and Gabriel Crowther, they are asked to investigate a body pulled out of the Thames. At the start of the novel Harriet Westerman is troubled by the state of her husband, he was mysteriously injured whilst investigating a French warship and has lost his mind. He is being looked after at the local hospital and it appears that Harriet has lost her husband in every practical manner.
The Anatomy of Murder follows the investigation into the death of a middle aged musician, he was found tied to a rock and thrown in the river. The man is in his late fifties and was a decent violinist before illness stopped him playing; he has however managed to stay influential in the theatres by dealing in information and gossip rather than playing the violin. We are then introduced to the finest French female singer, a famous Italian tenor, both have been head hunted by the murdered man and have just arrived in London. The investigation soon moves into the shadowy world of theatre spies, the drive for fame and the love of the London society for all things French and Italian. The book is set in the period where the French are undergoing extreme financial poverty which will lead to the French revolution, the English and French are at war so spies and treachery are rampant in London. The murdered man has his fingers in the movement of information across Europe, Harriet and Gabriel soon build up a case of murder against an awkward unpleasant man who wasn't afraid to blackmail and threaten famous people, he also has more money than a lowly talent scout should have so the number of potential murderers grows very rapidly.
This book feels like the Thomas Chaloner series of murder mysteries written Susanna Gregory which is set in the 1660's, in that novel we have a series of murders always set in London and feature the famous names of the time. In this novel, we again have a murder set in London, we again bump into relatively well known real characters from the past and the feel and pace of the book has a similar feel. However, that connection in my mind isn't a criticism the book flows along at a decent rate but not too quick to bulldoze past some slightly dodgy plot developments. The book takes us through the decadence of London society, underground spies and has a believable ending. The final murderer and why are at least believable, there are other murders peppered through the novel but the final why and how wrap up all the loose ends and leave the reader satisfied. The anatomy of the title is explained by Gabrielle being a doctor and having skills in the then mysterious arts of dissection and examination of a body, the author tries to give Gabrielle a sort of Quincy style of medical skill being able to understand what might have happened based on the smallest piece of evidence. Harriet is more like a Poirot style investigator, she analyses everything and tends to notice slight discrepancies and build motives from the smallest piece of evidence.
This book introduced me as a reader to London society of the late 18th century, a depiction of a city divided rigidly by class, money and position; it takes us from the richest in the lands to the meanest of mean slums. We meet Dukes, lords, local peasants, road sweepers and theatre owners. I enjoyed the book and I'm looking forward to reading other novels by Imogen Robertson if all of them are of this quality then they should be decent read.