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When Colonel Charles Harris is shotgunned to death while out riding on his English estate in the Spring of 1919 and the leading suspect turns out to be a Victoria Cross decorated war hero and friend of the King and the chief witness is a shell-shocked vet, a malicious Scotland Yard supervisor sees the perfect opportunity to get rid of a nettlesome subordinate.  So Inspector Ian Rutledge is plopped down into the middle of a politically charged murder investigation.  Compounding his difficulties is the fact that Rutledge himself suffered an emotional collapse after being buried in a trench during the War.  Now, unknown to all, he is continually accompanied by an internal voice, named Hamish, that belittles him and exacerbates his war guilt.

Rutledge makes for an interesting and sympathetic detective and it is unusual to find a period mystery that actually acknowledges the War, let alone probes so deeply into the psychic damage left in its wake.  And Rutledge was profoundly effected:

    Before the war it had been the case  that drove him night and day--partly from a gritty determination
    that murderers must be found and punished.  He had believed deeply in that, with the single-minded
    idealism of youth and a strong sense of moral duty towards victims, who could no longer speak for
    themselves.  But the war had altered his viewpoint, had shown him that the best of men could kill,
    given the right circumstances, as he himself had done over and over again.  Not only the enemy, but
    his own men, sending them out too be slaughtered even when he had known beyond doubt that they
    would die and that the order to advance was madness.

Rutledge's empathy for suspects and victims alike is appealing and his running battle with Hamish adds a real tension to the story.  But the pacing of the story is a little stately and the key plot twist is a tad obvious.  Still, it's a good first effort and I'm willing to read the next in the series to see if Todd improves.


Grade: (C+)


See also:

Charles Todd Links:

    -WIKIPEDIA: Charles Todd
-OBIT: Caroline Todd, Half of a Mystery-Writing Duo, Dies at 86: Writing under the pen name Charles Todd, she and her son published nearly 40 mystery novels, all of them set in rural England just after World War I. (NY Times, 11/21/21)

Book-related and General Links:
    -INTERVIEW (Partners & Crime)
    -REVIEW: (Crime, Marilyn Stasio, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: (Mystery Guide)
    -REVIEW: "This is Not America"  Charles Todd: A Test of Wills  (L. J. Hurst)
    -REVIEW: of Wings of Fire   by   Charles Todd (Book Browser)