** Instruments of Darkness by Imogen Robertson

I have to admit that I stayed up very late (but, reasonably, on a weekend night) to finish Instruments of Darkness, so I can’t stick a one-star rating on it, but it’s a close call. The story is the infinitely contrived tale of a murderous powerful man in 18th century England who is finally unmasked (and concurrently rescued, in a weird twist) by a fearless woman and a mysterious scientist. Nothing feels quite right about it. Not the overly modern heroine, who seems about as genuine as veterinarian Barbie. Not the unlikely service in the “American Rebellion” of the earl’s son, where he conveniently makes all the acquaintances needed for the blackmailing that follows — and which seems custom-designed to attract American readers. And not the minutely timed London riots that burn down the prison where a key fiend was detained and allow him to escape and continue his dark deeds. There are a few cute kids here and there, sometimes a little too close to the impressive number of corpses, and suspense does build in the end, but that was not enough to save the story from its overly scripted and slow unfolding.

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