four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
51-Mar-Apr-2011
By: 
Charles Todd
user_rating: 
0

An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery

A-A Lonely DeathWith A Lonely Death, the prolific mother-son team writing under the pseudonym Charles Todd has published 13 books in the Ian Rutledge series. Starting in June 1919 with A Test of Wills, each of the series' subsequent installments takes place a month after the previous book. A Lonely Death, set in July 1920, draws attention to a small band of war-torn soldiers for all the wrong reasons--and brings Rutledge to the brink of his own destruction.

The Story: Having been sent home shell-shocked from World War I, Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge can't shake the horrors that daily force him to question his own sanity. Not least among his many torments is the frequent appearance of Hamish McLeod, a friend whom Rutledge had executed for disobeying orders at the Battle of the Somme. When called from London to Eastfield, a small, quiet town in Sussex, to investigate the deaths of three men who had fought together in the trenches, Rutledge ruminates on the inhumanity of the murders and the violence in his own past. His life--and the lives of the soldiers--hangs in the balance.
Morrow. 352 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 9780061726194

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"While respectful of the resilient spirit of communities like Eastfield, Todd ... doesn't shrink from challenging the assumptions about class and economic privilege that once sustained their insular way of life. Once again, Rutledge comes to realize that war changes everything." Marilyn Stasio

Reading the Past 4 of 5 Stars
"The setting has a crisp sort of solemnity, the freshness of the coastal sea air contrasting with the grim reality of life after years of war. ... I hope Rutledge succeeds in keeping his demons at bay, as I intend to spend more time in his company." Sarah Johnson

New York Jrnl of Books 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The [Rutledge] books are meticulously researched, atmospherically rich, and classically British. ... There is an awkwardly inserted subplot about an unsolved killing from 15 years earlier, a contrivance that distracts from the main business at hand and whose solution feels rather hurriedly concluded in the last chapter, with only a tenuous tie to the main storyline." Norman Powers

Washington Times 3.5 of 5 Stars
"In this complicated case of a coldblooded strategy involving nine murders, Rutledge even finds himself in the unlikely position of being accused of attempting to kill another police officer, and once again there is no assistance from Scotland Yard--represented by the malicious Bowles--in clearing his name. ... And even his success in tracking down the serial murderer fades in the face of a fresh personal tragedy." Laura Childs

Critical Summary

The Charles Todd team is an old pro at the police procedural, and the pair continues to add layers to the damaged Ian Rutledge, a character whose PTSD keeps these books especially relevant and compelling. The series has been compared favorably to the Golden Age crime fiction of Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh, among others, as well as Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy, perhaps the finest contemporary fiction to center on World War I and its consequences. The Rutledge series shows no signs of becoming stale. New readers can jump right in, while those already a dozen books deep in Rutledge's struggle for redemption and justice will find new aspects of the novels to keep them reading.