For us voracious historical mystery readers, it feels like striking gold to discover a thriller that features characters who are smart and independent yet not jarringly modern—better yet if it's the first in a series. Reader, I have found one: Instruments of Darkness (Viking, Feb.) by Imogen Robertson, in which Jane Eyre meets Sherlock Holmes, circa the late 1700s. Gird yourself for two murders; a lord accused of heinous crimes; insanity; fire; and orphans. Solving the mystery are an early forensic doctor (eccentric, of course) and his strong-willed neighbor. Aside from the wonderfully gothic elements, what makes this such a pleasure to read are the two amateur detectives, the solitary yet ahead-of-his-time doctor and the spirited and intelligent neighbor, Mrs. Westerman. I'll have a hard time waiting for number two—I hope this is the start of a long, successful series featuring these two fabulously appealing detectives.