7 November 2011

Review: A LONELY DEATH, Charles Todd

  • Published by Harper Collins 2011
  • ISBN 978-0-06-172619-4
  • 343 pages
  • source: my local library
Publisher's blurb (from author's site)

Three men have been murdered in a Sussex village, and Scotland Yard has been called in. It’s a baffling case. All the victims are soldiers who have made it home alive from the Great War, which ended two years ago, only to be garroted, with small ID disks left in their mouths. And shortly after Inspector Ian Rutledge arrives, there’s a fourth murder. The killer is vicious and clever, leaving behind few clues. As the stakes ratchet up, Rutledge is determined to find answers, even as he puts his job, his reputation, and even his life on the line.

My take

A LONELY DEATH is #13 in the Ian Rutledge series and I am guilty of dipping in and out of the series (see my reviews below). #1, A TEST OF WILLS, was set immediately after the war in 1919 and it does seem that, with A LONELY DEATH, historically we haven't come very far. The story begins in June 1920 and most of the action takes place within a few weeks of that beginning.

The Great War is still fresh in people's minds, missing soldiers are still being found in hospitals near the Western Front, and England is still coming to grips with the economic impact of such a terrible loss of manpower. It does seem wrong that soldiers from the Eastland Company, some terribly wounded during the conflict, have survived only to be murdered near their homes. That it is murder can't be doubted. After Rutledge is appointed to the case a fourth murder occurs, but it is only when he begins to toy with the idea of a pre-war connection that progress is made.

Even so Rutledge is removed from the case, even gaoled, in mid-stream, by his old enemy, Superintendent Bowles, his superior at Scotland Yard. Bowles dislikes Rutledge, his education, his reputation as a war hero, and his pre-war history as an intuitive clever detective.

As with the others from this series that I have read,  A LONELY DEATH is a good read, well crafted, with an excellent feeling of authentic detail. There was one thread in particular, the case of a missing elder son, which didn't feel tied off, but maybe I just missed something.

Rutledge still has Hamish on his shoulder, the ghost of his court-martialled and executed Corporal, who talks to him and suggests ideas. To Rutledge Hamish is very real, and he often converses with him aloud which must at times be disconcerting for others who can't "see" Hamish. I must admit I was a bit taken aback when Rutledge and other policemen piled into a car to go somewhere and the comment was that there was no room for Hamish in his usual place. I'd be interested to know if a reader, new to the series, perhaps starting with A LONELY DEATH, actually manages to work out who Hamish is.

You'll notice also that I am counting A LONELY DEATH as a "British" read, despite the fact that the author, Charles Todd, is in fact an American mother and son.

my rating: 4.7

Reviews on MiP
SEARCH THE DARK (Rutledge #3)
A PALE HORSE (Rutledge #10)
A TEST OF WILLS (Rutledge #1)
4.5, A DUTY TO THE DEAD (Bess Crawford #1)

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