How is it that, having been an avid reader of mysteries for much of my life, I had never picked up one of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books? A grHow is it that, having been an avid reader of mysteries for much of my life, I had never picked up one of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books? A gross oversight on my part that I have now rectified. I have finished the first one of the series.
I've been reading quite a few serious books this summer - "The Maytrees," "Falling Man," "Absolute Friends," and "A Thousand Splendid Suns" to name the most recent - and I was ready for a drastic change. This book certainly offered that.
I was captivated by the personality of Stephanie from the very first chapter and I found it hard to put the book down. I just couldn't wait to see what happened to her next. As a result, I read the book within 24 hours and most of it in one sitting.
This, of course, was the book that introduced Stephanie, her family and friends to the reading public. We get to know her as a very smart woman who has had some hard knocks but is still standing. She has a loving, if annoying and sometimes embarrassing, family.
And she has loyal friends from the "burg" where she grew up. One of those "friends," Joe Morelli, plays a very large role in this adventure and apparently in the Plum adventures to come in the series.
This book has everything one can ask of a mystery. The plot and the pacing are brisk. The protagonist is attractive and both tough and vulnerable. The repartee is engaging. All in all, a thoroughly satisfying read. On to "Two for the Dough."
UPDATE 01/26/12: This was the selection of my local Mystery Book Club this month and so I reread it - or at least most of it - to remind myself of its plot. I found it just as enjoyable the second time around. ...more
Laurie R. King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series has been a favorite of mine since I first discovered it a few years ago. The thing that I have enLaurie R. King's Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series has been a favorite of mine since I first discovered it a few years ago. The thing that I have enjoyed most about it is the relationship between young Mary and the great Holmes. I found the growth of the relationship from beekeeper's apprentice to partner and wife to be thoroughly believable and thoroughly entertaining. The problem that I have with the latest installment in the series, Pirate King, is that there simply isn't much of that relationship here.
Early on, Mary is sent away from Sussex and Sherlock on a supposed mission for Inspector Lestrade. She is to be an undercover agent embedded in a company of silent motion picture actors. Lestrade allegedly suspects that something nefarious is going on with the band of thespians. Illegal drugs? Gun running? It's never made quite clear and apparently Lestrade doesn't really know. Nevertheless, Mary is supposed to sort the whole thing out. Mary very soon suspects, however, that it isn't really Lestrade who is sending her on this mission, but her brother-in-law Mycroft who is a high muckety-muck in His Majesty's government. Further, she suspects that Mycroft is simply trying to get her out of Sussex. Why? Well, that, along with several other things about the story, is never really made clear.
Despite her misgivings, Mary takes on the task and finds herself with a theatrical group which will be making a film about a theatrical group that is making a film about "The Pirates of Penzance." Are you confused yet?
Fflyte Films, the producer of the film which is called "Pirate King," prides itself on reality and so hires some actual sailors to appear as the pirates in the film. Except the "sailors" turn out to be actual pirates. And the pirates seem bent on kidnapping the Penzance Major and his thirteen blonde daughters, along with Mary Russell. Ah, well, if you just suspend disbelief and go along for the ride, you'll be much happier.
This is a lark of a book. Nothing serious happens here until the very end and very little even there. Worst of all, there's very little Sherlock. It was a very light, fun read, but I hope this doesn't foretell a new direction for the series. I'm much happier when the story involves both of its main characters. ...more
V.I. Warshawski, Sara Paretsky's Chicago private detective, is one tough woman. Those bad guys who try to intimidate her soon learn that such tacticsV.I. Warshawski, Sara Paretsky's Chicago private detective, is one tough woman. Those bad guys who try to intimidate her soon learn that such tactics only strengthen her resolve. She takes a licking and keeps on ticking, and she never, ever gives up on a client.
The opening of this latest book finds V.I. at a club in Chicago where a performance artist who bills herself as the Body Artist is doing her thing. Her "thing" involves appearing naked on stage and allowing members of the audience to draw or write on her body. Everything proceeds about as you would expect in the circumstances until a young woman who is obviously a talented artist starts to draw. What she draws is a woman's face surrounded by flames and by an enigmatic symbol. Her drawing seems to enrage a young Iraq War veteran in the audience who reacts violently before his friends can calm him. A few days later, the woman who drew the picture lies dying in the alley near the club, after having been shot. She is cradled in her dying moments by V.I. Warshawski.
Soon, the police go to arrest the young man who had been disturbed by the drawings. But when they get there, they find him unconscious with a gun that proves to be the murder weapon on his pillow. He remains unconsious and is taken to the hospital under police custody. Did he try to commit suicide or was he deliberately poisoned, causing his coma? And did he kill that woman or has he been framed? If the latter, why?
The man's parents believe he would have been incapable of shooting the woman and they hire V.I. to prove that. As she digs into the case, she finds that the woman who died had an older sister who died in Iraq while working for one of the contractors there. Was there a connection between this older sister and the suspect in the sister's murder?
Things get more and more complicated when Warshawski uncovers evidence that the death in Iraq may not have been what it first seemed and she finds that the dead sisters came from a dysfunctional family that has suffered multiple tragedies. Were they all somehow related?
This is a complicated story that seems ripped right out of today's headlines about the Iraq war and the role of contractors in it.
Paretsky and her alter ego Warshawski have a strong interest in and concern about issues related to women, especially violence against women, and that concern is woven through this story. Paretsky skillfully keeps the reader guessing until very near the end and then she brings all the disparate strands of the story together to create the complete picture.
The problem is that the bad guys here are very rich people and very rich people tend to buy their way out of trouble. In the end, Warshawski is able to serve her client well and bring about a kind of justice, but not enough. One is left not really wanting the book to end and wanting very much to know what Warshawski's next case will be.
I had heard good things about this author and so I was anxious to give this book a read, but by half-way into it, I was really appalled and repelled bI had heard good things about this author and so I was anxious to give this book a read, but by half-way into it, I was really appalled and repelled by the characters. They had no redeeming social value as far as I could see. I essentially skimmed through the rest of the book, thinking that perhaps I would find a gold nugget somewhere in the pages, but all I found was dross....more
After reading the previous book in this series, A Cold Treachery, I was interested to see where Inspector Ian Rutledge's cases would take him next andAfter reading the previous book in this series, A Cold Treachery, I was interested to see where Inspector Ian Rutledge's cases would take him next and I decided to jump right in and read the next book in the series. After all, it was already on my Kindle waiting for me, just a click away.
We first encounter the inspector here on New Year's Eve, 1919, only a short while after the end of his last case. He accompanies his sister, Frances, to the house of mutual friends for a dinner party. At the party, one of the guests is alleged to have some psychic powers and she is asked to hold a seance, an activity that is very popular in the London of the day. This makes Inspector Rutledge, who has an intimate knowledge of and relationship with the dead from the recent war, very uncomfortable, and he is relieved to receive a phone call from Scotland Yard which gives him an excuse to leave.
As he is leaving, he finds a brass cartridge casing on the steps outside. He picks it up and sees that there is an engraving on it. He puts it in his pocket and goes on his way, but soon he's finding other such engraved casings. Someone seems to be following him around and leaving the casings for him to find. For a man already on the knife's edge of mental collapse because of PTSD, this seems a deliberate attempt to unsettle and threaten him.
Mercifully, he is called away from London to a small Northamptonshire village where the local constable has been shot and seriously wounded by a bow and arrow, while in woods that the locals consider to be haunted. Trying to find out what has happened proves difficult for Rutledge because the local folk are extremely taciturn and close-mouthed.
Rutledge learns that there are other mysteries which the villagers seem intent on hiding for some reason. For example, a teenage girl disappeared from the village some three years earlier and has never been found. Her grandmother, with whom she lived, says she must have gone to London to look for her missing mother. But did she? And was the constable looking for her grave in the woods when he was shot?
It soon becomes apparent to Rutledge that there is a connection between the missing girl and the wounded constable, but just what that connection is is not at all clear.
Meanwhile, distressingly, Rutledge continues to find engraved cartridge casings in odd places and then while he is out in his motorcar one day, a bullet smashes his windscreen, barely missing his head. Who is this unknown adversary who appears to be stalking him?
To complicate the situation further, the psychic from the New Year's Eve party shows up in the village and expresses concern about Rutledge, but is her concern genuine or is she somehow connected to the stalker?
In order to solve the mysteries, Rutledge must find a way to break the silence of this unfriendly and secretive village and he must find the motive behind the disappearance of the teenager and the wounding of the constable and discover the connection between the two.
This is another eloquent story of suspense told in absorbing prose with an emotional depth that gives the reader a sense of Ian Rutledge as a very real and sympathetic, if flawed, character. He is a character that we can care about, one about which we can look forward to reading more. ...more
My first introduction to the story of Helen of Troy was a movie by that name starring Rosanna Podesta. It came out when I was a child, sometime in theMy first introduction to the story of Helen of Troy was a movie by that name starring Rosanna Podesta. It came out when I was a child, sometime in the '50s and it wound up on the bill at the Princess Theater on a Saturday matinee.
I used to love to go to the Princess Theater on Saturday afternoons to sit in the dark and drift away into another time and place. The Princess was my time machine and, in it, I made the trip to ancient Sparta and Troy.
That was an epic movie in the era of epic movies like "The Ten Commandments" and "Ulysses." ("Ulysses" is another that I remember well.) They were wonderful adventures for a young, imaginative girl who had otherwise not been exposed to classical literature. The epics introduced me to classical literature and the cartoons introduced me to classical music. Yes, that truly was another era.
I thought of all that as I picked up this book to read, on the recommendation of my daughter. I had just reread "The Iliad" a couple of years ago and, of course, I saw the movie "Troy" with the wonderful Eric Bana as Hector, so this ancient tragedy was still fairly fresh on my mind.
When I first started reading the book, I found it beautifully written and I thought I was really going to enjoy it. It was wonderful to see this story that is so well-known told from a different perspective. A female perspective. It is the viewpoint that is usually overlooked or denigrated in the telling of war tales, and yet in these ancient wars (and in modern ones) women often suffered the most horrendous fates of all, paying the price for the hubristic ego-trips of the men.
As I got further into this book, though, I found my sympathy for Helen and for Paris waning. Paris seemed more and more like a petulant boy and Helen seemed like a thoroughly selfish woman, throwing away a husband who was kind to her, her parents and siblings who loved her, and worst of all, her daughter, all for the promise of sexual ecstasy. She had her ecstasy, at least briefly, but she lost everything else, and because Agamemnon was able to use her betrayal as an excuse to attack Troy, thousands died and a great city was destroyed. Was it worth it?
Of course, the excuse throughout George's book as well as in Homer's telling of the tale is that the gods made them do it. The immature and petty Greek gods were an extraordinarily bloodthirsty lot. But then most gods are.
In the end, I did enjoy this book and found it an interesting, if perhaps overlong, retelling of the well-known tale. George is a good writer and had obviously done some significant research to write the story in a fresh way. I think I will be looking for her other books retelling ancient stories from female perspectives. Truly, though, it is hard to improve on or compete with Homer.
Thank God! I finally finished this neverending book! It took me more than a month, but I perservered.
It wasn't a bad book. At moments throughout it waThank God! I finally finished this neverending book! It took me more than a month, but I perservered.
It wasn't a bad book. At moments throughout it was quite good. But the moments were too few. Many times I considered giving up on the book, but I just don't like to do that unless the book is truly atrocious - and this one wasn't.
George has channeled Cleopatra to give a new perspective - the first person perspective - to her well-known story. But it is a daunting task. After all, that story has been known and written about for over two thousand years. Shakespeare has written it, for heaven's sake! How can any mortal writer compete with that?
And yet it is such a captivating story that it must be a strong temptation for a historical fiction writer to give it a try. I think George's effort would have been more effective if it had not been so damned looooong!!!
Why must she report every single conversation that Cleopatra ever had? And yes, it no doubt took a long time for events to percolate to their climax in the ancient world when travel was only overland on one's own feet or through the power of horses or camels or on sea under sails or oars. Still, could she not have sped up the TELLING of the action a bit? I think some judicious editing could have made this a much more readable, coherent and, yes, interesting story.
It's impossible to make the story of Cleopatra, Caesar, and Antony dull and George hasn't. But one is left with the feeling that it could have been so much better. ...more
My home state of Mississippi is one of the poorest in the country and is problematic in many ways, but one thing it has always been rich in is writingMy home state of Mississippi is one of the poorest in the country and is problematic in many ways, but one thing it has always been rich in is writing talent. Each generation in turn seems to produce at least one or two extraordinarily talented writers. Richard Ford is one of the ones from my generation.
For years, my husband had been trying to get me to read Ford's books and I finally decided that this would be the summer that I would read his Frank Bascombe series. The Sportswriter is the first in that trilogy.
Frank Bascombe is the sportswriter. He tried his hand at writing fiction but gave up after one book and took a job with a sports magazine. It's a job that seems to fit him. He likes the traveling. He likes talking to athletes. He likes meeting people who know how to be "within themselves." Frank doesn't really know how to be within himself but he aspires to learn.
The sportswriter is actually a very conventional, middle-aged, middle class white male with a wife and two children. He did have another child, but his oldest son has died a few years before. That tore his world apart and was the beginning of the end of his marriage. Now his ex-wife and children live separately and are making new lives for themselves and Frank has joined the Divorced Mens' Club and has found a new girlfriend, Vicki, who seems particularly annoying.
To be honest, Frank is pretty annoying himself. He's not really someone I would choose to spend a lot of time with and I got pretty tired of his rather complaining voice before the end of the book. But I think that was all a part of the exposition of the character. I'm not sure that he was meant to be a particularly sympathetic character. And yet one cannot help but feel a certain amount of sympathy for this sad sack of a man who seems to have no real clue of how to pull himself out of the funk he is in.
I got the impression that Ford was very, very familiar with Frank's story, that although it may not be strictly biographical, some aspects of it were rather closely based on Ford's own experiences. He tells the story in a very straightforward manner with no bells and whistles. He just lays it all out, even the uglier parts and leaves the reader to draw his/her own conclusions.
I think it will be interesting to see how Frank Bascombe develops over the course of the trilogy. One hopes that he might become a little more appealing as we come to understand him better. Or perhaps he'll be more like Rabbit of John Updike's award-winning series - a character who never became especially likable but was mesmerizing nevertheless.
I have loved Annie Dillard's writing since I first picked up "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" some 30 years ago. She has such a unique insight into the worldI have loved Annie Dillard's writing since I first picked up "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek" some 30 years ago. She has such a unique insight into the world of Nature and a uniquely poetic way of expressing it - even in prose. And even in fictional prose, like "The Maytrees." Although the Maytree family and friends comprise the cast of characters here, the overriding "presence" of the book is the beauty of Cape Cod and the places along the Eastern seaboard that these people visit and love. Reading it made me love them and want to visit, too. ...more
Case Histories is certainly not your typical mystery. It is more of a literary fiction/mystery hybrid, perhaps weighted on the side of literary fictioCase Histories is certainly not your typical mystery. It is more of a literary fiction/mystery hybrid, perhaps weighted on the side of literary fiction. Still, it contains all the elements and many of the stock characters of the mystery formula, including exploited teenage runaways, innocent female murder victims, blowsy and outrageous middle-aged actresses, strait-laced and uptight spinsters, pathetic and hapless males, and wives with secrets. Moreover, it has the world-weary detective, existing in his own world of pain, who feels driven to try to protect, or occasionally avenge, all of these characters.
The book begins with the telling of three case histories, any one of which could have been the backbone and beginning of a literary fiction novel.
First, we have the story of Olivia Land, the youngest and favorite of four Land daughters. The child disappears one hot summer night when she is three years old and she is never seen or heard from again. Thirty years later, two of the sisters find a troubling clue regarding her disappearance which makes them look for a detective to reopen the investigation of the case.
Second, we meet Theo, a man with two daughters, Jennifer and Laura. Laura is the younger and more beloved daughter. Theo delights in her beauty and intelligence. She is perfect in every way in his eyes. Then she goes to work as an intern in her father's law offices and, on her first day there, the unspeakable happens, turning poor Theo's world upside down. The perpetrator of the unspeakable crime is never found and many years later, Theo seeks the truth and closure.
Third, Michelle is a young wife and mother who is stressed out, probably suffering from postpartum depression. Her husband is not understanding. One day she snaps and her world as well as her family's - including her sister's - is shattered. Years later, the sister, too, looks for a detective who will bring her closure. But is the story that she tells true?
After reading these three case histories, we meet the detective who will take on all three. Jackson Brodie is a bit of a down-and-outer whose private detective agency is not going very well. Mostly, he is engaged to investigate domestic disputes. He's presently following an airline attendant whose husband thinks she is cheating on him. In fact, following her is extremely boring because she doesn't seem to be doing anything.
Then, in rapid succession, Brodie is presented with these three new cases, long cold cases for which his clients need resolution, much as he needs resolution in his own sloppy personal life.
Brodie has an ex-wife who seems a bit of a bitch and an eight-year-old daughter who seems to be slipping out of his control and yet whom he adores. He has an old client, whom he has never billed, a cat lady who hires him to locate her missing cats! She will loom large in the development of one of his new cases.
Jackson Brodie certainly fulfills the formula of the former policeman, world-weary private detective with a heart of gold. He is an engaging and empathetic character who is also full of humor and gets off some good one-liners throughout the book.
In fact, a big part of Atkinson's talent is her humor. She is able to write about very sad and troubling events with a light touch which makes them bearable to read about. Indeed, as one reviewer that I read wrote, she is "able to see the way happiness and sadness can emerge from the same situation." That seems a rare gift for a writer and it made reading this book a joy.
In the end, the reader gets some resolution of all the case histories. Brodie's clients are not all necessarily as lucky. But then, as we learn, they don't all necessarily deserve such resolution. As I said at the beginning, this is not your typical mystery. ...more
Two years ago, I started reading Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series after years of prodding by my husband who insisted that the books weren't reaTwo years ago, I started reading Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series after years of prodding by my husband who insisted that the books weren't really war adventures - which I would hate - but were more about the relationships of the men on the ships. Finally succumbing to his persuasion, I found that hubby was right. Again.
In fact, I do like this series very much. I've been reading it now at a rate of about five books a year, more or less, and if I continue on that pace, I should have at least two more years of good reading ahead. So far, I have not found a stinker among the books and this tenth one is, I think, my favorite of all that I've read.
The bromance between Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin continues in The Far Side of the World. Aubrey is still captaining the Surprise which, much to his distress, had been designated to return to England to be decommissioned and possibly broken up for scrap. But he and the ship get a reprieve. He is commanded to take the ship to protect English whalers and to stop the American frigate, the Norfolk, from interfering with them.
The Surprise chases the Norfolk all across the Atlantic, along the coast of South America, and finally around Cape Horn and into the vast openness of the Pacific Ocean. They never come very close to catching the Americans and they have many adventures along the way.
The trip sees one of the most serious disagreements ever to occur between Aubrey and Maturin when Aubrey refuses to allow Maturin and his friend, the parson Martin, time to explore the Galapagos Islands. The captain is convinced that they are getting closer to Norfolk and he will not dim his chances by slowing down for science.
Maturin is angry, but his is not a nature that can hold a grudge for long.
Sometime later, through a combination of circumstances, Maturin, who has never really mastered the art of seamanship in all his years as a ship's surgeon, manages to fall from the ship into the Pacific. Aubrey turns to speak to him and finds him gone. He realizes almost immediately what has happened and jumps in to save his friend, who is not a proficient swimmer. He gets the doctor stabilized and begins to hail the ship to bring them on board, but there is a noisy celebration going on and the crew cannot hear him. The ship obliviously continues on its course, leaving the two treading water in the middle of the Pacific.
Things do not look hopeful, but there follows some of the most exciting adventures encountered by Aubrey/Maturin in all their years together. It won't really be a spoiler to say that they do survive. Since there are ten more books in the series, that's pretty evident, but how they survive is the real heart of this book and the bang-up ending just puts the capper on it.
Some of the recent books have put the emphasis on Stephen Maturin's secret work as an intelligence agent. This one is centered on Jack Aubrey's skills as a sailor and his knowledge of the ocean - if not always of human nature. Their relationship continues to deepen and grow stronger through their shared experiences. They often give a thought to their wives back in England, and Aubrey to his children there, but, in fact, they are more married to each other than to any woman. They spend more time with each other than with any other humans. They are very much like an old married couple - each knowing what the other is thinking even before the thought is expressed. The other members of the crew, like Aubrey's man Killick and Maturin's Padeen, make up their extended family. The Surprise is very much a family and these stories, while nominally following the English Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and War of 1812, are really about the relationships of this family and how they care for each other in often trying circumstances. So, yes, hubby was right about that.
One of the many pleasures of these books is the language. O'Brian obviously was a careful researcher and his language feels true to the period about which he is writing. I'm not competent to assess the accuracy of his nautical terms, many of which my eyes glide right over, but I suspect they are spot on. The language that really grabs me, though, is that of the dialogue. It is full of such humor and it just seems to be the way that sailors of the period would talk. It is a real treat to read a conversation between Maturin and Aubrey and, in this particular book, between Maturin and his friend Martin.
Both Maturin and Martin are enthusiastic naturalists and most of their conversations concern the flora and fauna of the places they visit. They are particularly good on the birds of those areas. For a backyard birder like myself, those conversations are really some of my favorite parts of this book.
There was, of course, a movie made a few years ago - "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" - which mostly relied on the events from this book. I saw the movie in the theater at the time and quite enjoyed it, although, now, I can't really recall too much about what happened in it. Now that I've read the book, maybe I should see it again. ...more
I found this ninth in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series a bit of rough going. It was hard to work up much interest in the plot or in the main characteI found this ninth in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series a bit of rough going. It was hard to work up much interest in the plot or in the main characters. The whole premise of the story just seemed rather unbelievable.
As always, the plot is tied to the experiences of World War I. In this instance, the connection is through a man with whom Ian Rutledge had served in the war. a man who returned from the war to find the woman that he had been in love with now married to another older, richer man of a higher social class. When that man is severely beaten and left for dead, suspicion falls upon Rutledge's former comrade in arms.
When the police go to question the man, he goes a bit off the tracks and runs over the constable's foot with his car as he makes his escape. Instead of leaving the area, he makes his way to the house of the victim where, in a strange encounter with the man's wife, she gives him her husband's gun and essentially invites him to hold her and the housekeeper hostage!
When the police inevitably come calling, he tells them that he will not talk to anyone except Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard. Rutledge is involved in investigating another case at the time and is very reluctant to head out to the hinterlands to deal with this new crime, but his superiors do not give him a choice in the matter. He's instructed to go and sort it out.
As he goes, he is still accompanied by the presence of Hamish, the Scottish soldier whom he executed during the war for refusing to obey a command. Hamish is an ever-present reminder of the horrors of war, but his contribution to this story seems subdued at best.
After Rutledge arrives on the scene, things seem to go from bad to worse. The suspect, the grieving wife, and the housekeeper are still holed up in the house with the suspect brandishing his revolver. Soon another body is added to the death toll as the housekeeper is smothered in her bed. Then the victim, who had apparently been in a coma at the local doctor's surgery, mysteriously disappears. Did he leave on his own or was he spirited away?
In the contretemps caused by the missing patient, it isn't noticed at first that the doctor's wife has been bludgeoned to death, her body left behind a desk. So, the tally becomes three dead bodies and one missing, either dead or alive, body.
At this point, the tale seemed to be descending into parody. I could not work up any empathy or interest in the two main characters, the wife and the suspect. They both seemed utterly unsympathetic and undeserving of my time. I really didn't care what happened to either of them.
The list of possible suspects, once we had pretty well established that the man in the house was not guilty, was long and scattered. Moreover, the denouement, when it came, was particularly unsatisfying and didn't really wrap things up for me. Too many loose ends were left hanging.
In a long series like this, there are bound to be times when the writer(s) is/are not at his/their best. The mother and son duo that make up "Charles Todd" have maintained a high standard of quality and this book didn't meet that standard. It was not terrible and there were bits that were entertaining, but, overall, it certainly was not one of their best.
I shivered a lot while reading A Cold Treachery. Not because of the suspense particularly, but because of the description of the weather during whichI shivered a lot while reading A Cold Treachery. Not because of the suspense particularly, but because of the description of the weather during which the action takes place.
Inspector Ian Rutledge had been testifying in a case in the north of England when he was contacted by Scotland Yard to get himself to the remote village of Urskdale where a horrendous crime has taken place. Five members of a family have been murdered and the sixth member of the family, an almost ten-year-old boy, has disappeared. Did he do the killing? Or was he a witness who escaped the carnage but can tell who did it? But if he escaped, did he manage to find shelter and survive the merciless storm lashing the dells?
Rutledge heads to Urskdale in the middle of a violent blizzard. Barely able to see where he is going, he comes upon an accident on the road. A carriage is overturned. The horse that had been pulling it is dead and a woman lies seriously injured amidst the wreckage.
Rutledge manages to get the woman to his car and sets out in search of the nearest farmhouse where they might get shelter in the storm. He finally manages to find help and leaves the woman with the farm family while he continues on toward the place where the savage murders have taken place.
On arriving, Rutledge finds that the Elcott family had been slaughtered around their kitchen table with no sign of there having been a struggle. It seems that the murderer must have been someone they knew and trusted. But who could have possibly wanted this apparently inoffensive family - including two babes in arms and a small girl - dead?
When it is discovered that the boy is missing, all the able-bodied men of the village head out into the storm to try to find him, but after days of searching, no trace is found.
Inspector Rutledge pursues his investigation, asking questions and looking into possible motives. Surprisingly, he finds this family had been formed when the tragedy of war had splintered the woman's first marriage. Her husband had been presumed dead, but, in fact, he was alive and a prisoner. After the war, he returned to find his wife had married another man and taken their two children north to live on a sheep farm.
Rutledge finds that there are actually several possible motives of murder, including revenge, greed, jealousy, even love, and there are more suspects than he can make heads or tails of. Will he ever be able to sort through all the clues, figure out who is lying, and solve this heinous crime? And will he be able to find the boy - or his body_ and figure out what has happened to him?
I was kept guessing throughout this well-plotted mystery. I was just as confused as Inspector Rutledge concerning what had happened and why it had happened. It seemed that everyone was lying to him or trying to hide something. I wondered how he was ever going to find the perpetrator of this crime.Of course, in the end, he did unmask the culprit and give us hope that justice may prevail after all.
I think this has been my favorite entry in this series so far. Charles Todd seems to be hitting his stride as a writer.
Legacy of the Dead is the fourth in Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge series. This is an intelligently written, literate series about a veteran ofLegacy of the Dead is the fourth in Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge series. This is an intelligently written, literate series about a veteran of the trench warfare in France during World War I who, after the war, is trying to pick up the pieces of his life and his career at Scotland Yard.
But he carries the burden of a dark secret - namely, that he still suffers from the effects of shell-shock, as it was then known, post-traumatic stress disorder as we call it today. He carries with him the persona of a young Scots soldier named Hamish McLeod, whom he had to have executed on the battlefield for his refusal to obey an order. Hamish's cynical, taunting voice is a constant presence in his mind. One of the strengths of these books is that they deal with the issue of PTSD in a very sensitive fashion.
Ian Rutledge's superior at Scotland Yard is a very jealous man and he prefers to keep the skilled investigator Rutledge as far away as he can, so he always sends him out of town on cases at every opportunity.
This time, he is sent to Scotland which is where many of the ghosts that haunt Rutledge rest uneasily. This will not be a comfortable assignment for him.
The case that he is sent to investigate involves the weathered remains of a woman that have been discovered on a Scottish mountainside. The police believe they may be those of Eleanor Gray, a young woman from high society who has not been heard from in three years. Her mother, Lady Maude Gray, a woman of imperious bearing and ties to the British crown, professes not to believe that the bones are those of her daughter, and her objections must be handled delicately. Just the sort of thing that Inspector Rutledge excels at!
The real problem is that there is a young woman in jail who is accused of having killed the woman whose body was found and that young woman turns out to be a shocking surprise to both Rutledge and his mental companion Hamish.
We follow Rutledge through his examination of the evidence and his interviewing of many potential witnesses in the small and very insular Scottish town. He perceives early on that the accused woman, who has been enduring a campaign of slanderous anonymous letters sent to her neighbors, has become a scapegoat. He is sure that she is innocent and he hopes to be able to prove it and save her from the hangman.
There are several surprising turns in this well-written book and perhaps the most surprising is saved for the last. The plot is intricately planned and executed and it keeps the reader guessing and turning those pages right up to the end. It's easy to see why this was a "best novel" nominee for the Anthony Award when it was published in 2001.
"Charles Todd" is actually two people, Caroline and Charles Todd, a mother and son writing team. They have been very prolific. They actually have two series going, as well as stand-alone books. The Ian Rutledge series has at least ten more books, and counting, which just means lots of good reading ahead for me! ...more