We have to be ashamed to not want to die.
It is 1919 and Inspector Ian Rutledge has returned from the trenches of France to resume his duties at Scotland Yard. Before the war he had a knack, a way of seeing beyond what people were willing to tell him. It is described at one point as putting his fingers on the pulse of a dead man and bringing him back to life. The war has left Rutledge shattered. His fiance has broken off their engagement. She is terrified of the man England has sent back to her. He has a dead Scottish soldier named Hamish residing in his head, dogging his every move, insistently casting doubt on every decision. To make matters worse he has a boss, Bowles, that wishes Rutledge had died in the war, and is intent on not only seeing him removed from Scotland Yard, but broken as well. Little does Bowles know how little of a push that would take.
Rutledge is dispatched to Warwickshire to investigate the bloody murder of Colonel Harris. The prime suspect is a decorated war hero who is friends with the crown prince. Bowles sees the perfect opportunity to put Rutledge in an impossible position that should see him embarrassing the wrong people, and insuring his ouster from the force. We follow along with Rutledge as he tries to make sense of a small town murder where information is scarce and what people do know they don't want to share with an outsider from London. As if that isn't enough for him to contend with, he also has to keep a death grip of control on Hamish. If anyone where to find out that he has this insistent Scottish voice in his head he would be sent away for treatment and his career would be ruined.
He meets the enticing Lettice Woods. "She leaned forward slightly and he could see her face then, blotched with crying and sleeplessness. But most unusual nevertheless, with a high-bridged nose and a sensitive mouth and heavy-lidded eyes. He couldn't tell their color, but they were not dark. Sculpted cheekbones, a determined chin, a long, slender throat. And yet somehow she managed to convey an odd impression of warm sensuality. He remembered how the Sergeant had hesitated over the word 'attractive,' as if uncertain how to classify her. She was not, in the ordinary sense, beautiful. At the same time, she was far, very far, from plain."
There is also a determined, talented female artist and an attractive wealthy widow that also quicken the pulse of our detective. The women of Warwickshire do their best to cloud his mind.
Clues are locked up in the addled mind of a shell shocked drunkard and a little girl scared into a catatonic state. Even if he does discover what they know they hardly make for star witnesses. Rutledge can feel the fear of failure circling over his career. Just as he is on the verge of conceding defeat he gets an unexpected break.
Charles Todd is the son and mother duo of Charles and Caroline Todd. Charles and Caroline Todd
At the time of this review there are fourteen entries in the Ian Rutledge series. I for one will be exploring more of them to see how the writing duo intends to handle the forces arrayed against our stalwart hero. There is also a new series from this writing team involving a World War One nurse that looks interesting as well. If you like period pieces and good old fashioned Agatha Christie who-done-its you should give this series a try.