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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Fine Detective

I have always loved detective stories. From Jim Chee to Adam Dalgliesh to Lord Pete Wimsey to Dick Francis's marvelous amateur sleuths, I enjoy intelligent, interesting people using observation, instinct, and hard work to solving a crime. If you've read any of this blog, then you know that Unholy Alliance is an unabashed detective story only with magic and a Renaissance time frame and more levels of mystery than just one crime. So it is interesting that when I was visiting Chicago - well, more precisely, Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, IL last summer - the fantasy/sf buyer gave me a mystery that she, having read and enjoyed my books, believed I would enjoy. I finally got around to reading it this week. The book was A Test of Wills by Charles Todd, and she was exactly right.

The year is 1919 and Ian Rutledge is a Scotland yard detective who lost his soul, his confidence, and, he fears, his mind in the trenches of France. He is newly returned to the force after treatment for shell shock - a matter he cannot share with others, as shell shock victims were considered irredeemable cowards. Nor dares he tell anyone that he still hears the voice of Hamish, one of his soldiers who died in one of the most hopeless, horrific battles of the war. (I'll let you read that dramatic bit of the story for yourself.) He has superiors who would prefer to be rid of him, thus they give him a seemingly no win case. Rutledge is a terrific, multi-layered character, and the murder is a wonderfully complex weaving of English village society and post-war upsets.

This is clearly a first novel. A few point-of-view hops annoyed me, and I'd have to re-read to see if there were sufficient clues laid down to the tricky solution to the case, but all in all it was very well done. I'll be reading more of Todd's (well it is actually a mother/son writing team) work. There are eight or nine other Ian Rutledge novels.


ssas said...

I grew up in Naperville!! Ok, back to reading post now...

Latharia said...

I love it when I find a new author by way of someone's recommendations! How cool! :D

I'm looking forward to future books from you, too. Once I forgive you for the cliffhanger at the end of Flesh & Spirit, which I experienced this morning at 3:30 am. Cruel, so cruel! LOL!

carolwriter said...

Ah, well, I'm sorry about that cliffhanger - which was not exactly a cliffhanger, but more of an unwilling pause. Yeah, that's it. Truly I wanted to continue to the events of page 78 in Breath and Bone. As it happened I had already hit my publisher with "oops this books is two books and not one" and "oops, the first book is going to be about 3 months late." When they said keep the word count closer to 155K than 175K, I had to compromise. Anyway, enjoy Breath and Bone. I hope it will make up for the abrupt ending!