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A Lonely Death by Charles Todd
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A Lonely Death: Charles Todd's Mixture of War and Revenge

It's time to confess that I have my own guilty pleasures on my library shelves. Mine happen to be the Inspector Ian Rutledge novels by Charles Todd.

If you've not met Inspector Rutledge, this is definitely not your starting place. A Lonely Death is his twelfth case. The series dates back to A Test Of Wills.

So, I suppose that a bit of background is in order. Rutledge is an Inspector for Scotland Yard. He is not the favorite of Chief Superintendent Paul Bowles. Perhaps it is because Rutledge is not your particular police officer. Rutledge was university educated, the son of a solicitor and a concert pianist.

Of course, Rutledge could have easily followed his father into the law. However he chose not to do so after a conversation with his father.

Then a remark my father made when I was ten, I think, changed that. He said the law was created so that everyone could expect a fair and impartial justice. There was a murder trial later that summer, and I asked who spoke for the dead man. He told me that no one did, the man was dead. The police gathered evidence, made an arrest, the killer was brought to trial, and if found guilty, punished. That struck me as odd—why shouldn’t the dead man have a voice in what caused his death? My father replied that the law wasn’t set up that way. By the time I’d come down from university, I realized that I wanted to be that voice. It’s how I approach my cases.


What intrigued me by this series of novels is that Rutledge served four years in the trenches on the Somme, not a pleasant place. His right hand non-com was a Scot named Hamish McLeod. One evening orders came down for another launch over the top to take out a machine gun nest. Hamish was to lead the group. He had come to see the futility of the war, was sick of the deaths of the men he led and refused to carry out the mission. Rutledge, within military law, had his comrade in arms executed. Almost simultaneously a barrage sent a shell hurtling into the trenches burying Rutledge alive. After he was dug out, it had been a pocket of air supplied by the dead Hamish that kept him alive.

Rutledge emerged from his experiene not only shell-shocked as they call it in those days, he was constantly accompanied by the voice of Hamish McLeod in his head. After almost a year's recuperation under the care of a psychiatrist, Rutledge returns to duty at Scotland Yard. That his shell-shock diagnosis might come out constantly haunts him. That he must constantly be aware of not carrying on a two way conversation with Hamish drives him to distraction.

But enough of background. In this go around, it it July, 1920. Someone is killing former members of a a squadron of Eastfield Village boys who returned home relatively unscathed by the war. One by one, someone is picking them off with the effective use of a garotte, a particularly nasty way to die.

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The garotte in these particular murders appear made of wire, leaving the victim in a particularly messy pool of blood. To make it even more interesting, an identification disk, the forerunner of the more recent dog tag is found in the mouth of each murder victim. However each disk comes from a man of a different regiment. What could possibly be the connection?

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Even with Rutledge on the case, the murders continue. A particularly hostile witness files a complaint against Rutledge to have him removed from the case, giving Superintendent Bowles the opportunity to yank Rutledge and replace him with his pet favorite Inspector Mickelson.

Things get complicated when Mickelson himself is attacked, but not with a garotte. And the suspect? Why, Rutledge, of course. Bowles has found the ideal way to permanently remove Rutledge from the yard by having him charged with the attempted murder of Mickelson.

But as I've said, Rutledge is not the ordinary policeman. He has friends in high places who have him restored to the case.

This is no straight forward mystery, nor is any mystery intended to be if well written and this is an extremely well written novel. Nor is there one violation of the rules of the Detection Club founded by the great English writers of the 1930s. Each clue is there. There is no surprise assailant. This is a most pleasant diversion for a couple of hot summer afternoons served up with your favorite libation.

And about Charles Todd. Well, it's a pen name. Charles Todd is actually a mother and son writing team, Mother in Delaware, and Son in North Carolina. It's impossible, at least to me to determine who wrote what. Each of this series has received consistently high reviews, particularly from the NY Times. I highly recommend Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge series.

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Caroline and Charles Todd

A history of Inspector Rutledge giving a brief summary of each novel in the series is available at http://charlestodd.com/the-history-of... . Highly recommended.

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Reading Progress

05/27/2012 page 30
9.0% "The latest Ian Rutledge. I'm hooked on the series and have been since the first, "A Test of Wills.""
05/28/2012 page 172
50.0% "Ah, this is a good one."
05/29/2012 page 245
71.0% "Better and better..."

Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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message 1: by B0nnie (new)

B0nnie great review...seems like a pretty good guilty pleasure


message 2: by Barbara (new)

Barbara I enjoyed reading your review, Mike. I think I would enjoy this series. Which one would you suggest as a starting point? Does one have to read them in order?


message 3: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Well thank you for that lovely garrote pic Mike. lol


message 4: by Sonali (new)

Sonali V I had never heard of this series and since i like reading crime fiction I am happy to be introduced to one. Thank you Mike. However the books are very expensive, as I checked out on Flipkart.But I am intrigued, so I'll see if I can get them in our local stores.
Like Barbara, I would also like to know which book I should start with.


Mike Barbara wrote: "I enjoyed reading your review, Mike. I think I would enjoy this series. Which one would you suggest as a starting point? Does one have to read them in order?"

I strongly recommend reading them in order. So start with A Test Of Wills. The first novels fully explore Rutledge's experiences in WWI. And as the series progresses, you meet characters who return in later novels. Interestingly, each novel is set apart by about a month. Rutledge is a busy man. Superintendent Bowles keeps him very busy, indeed.

You'll also discover that Rutledge is drawn to the poetry of O.A. Manning, a poet whose work appealed to Rutledge. Manning appears in one of the earlier novels. However, Rutledge frequently quotes from Manning's poetry from case to case.

I do hope you'll give the series a try. One note, Goodreads refers to this latest novel as the 13th case. It seems that the Todds wrote two short stories regarding Rutledge as "singles" and goodreads classifies those two stories as #12.

Mike


Mike Sonali wrote: "I had never heard of this series and since i like reading crime fiction I am happy to be introduced to one. Thank you Mike. However the books are very expensive, as I checked out on Flipkart.But I ..."

Sonali, try http://www.abe.com as a source for your books. You may well find the series for pennies. And see my note to Barbara, above. By all means, read this series in order. Events and characters have impact on further cases.

So good to hear from you.

Mike


Mike Cynthia wrote: "Well thank you for that lovely garrote pic Mike. lol"

Why, it was done purely for educational purposes. *laughing* The garotte was a weapon of choice for Thugees, followers of Kali. Ghurka troops were also particularly efficient in its use during night patrols in both World Wars.

Mike


message 8: by Sonali (new)

Sonali V Thank you so much Mike.Thank you for the link too. However The test of wills is very reasonably priced and I have ordered it.
On a different note,I was fascinated by the picture of the garotte you gave. But as far as I know, the thugees used a completely different version of it. It was more a piece of cloth, something which is still used by poor villagers in our country even today. It has multiple uses,as a towel for bathing,wiping things,as an apron,as a turban to protect against the fierce summer sun.I read about it in a book by Michael Dash 'Thugs.'(I may be wrong about the name of the book, because I am now in Mumbai, with my son and his wife, and so can't go to my bookshelf at home to verify and I can't find it in Goodreads)


message 9: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Nice review Mike, though I skipped over some details as I'm currently reading it.

I've been reading this series from the start (per a book store recommendation!) and love it. Heartily agree with the advise to begin with the first book to catch all the nuances of the Rutledge/Hamish relationship as well as other of Rutledge's relationships and losses.

Thanks for the picture of the disc (as well as the garrote).

I have to admit I don't even feel guilty about this pleasurable series.


message 10: by Mike (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mike Thank you, Sue. I love the series and eagerly await the release of each volume. Have you read any of the Joe Sandilands novels by Barbara Cleverly? I recommend them to anyone who enjoys Rutledge. The series begins with The Last Kashmiri Rose. Sandilands is also a veteran of the Great War. His cases begin in Colonial India. A delight.


message 11: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue No I haven't read them Mike and I don't know if any are on my tbr. I'll add the first one if it isn't. I'm increasingly finding I really enjoy stories written about the turn of the century and WWI/post war.

Have you read The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller? It's also a post WWI novel, British and now has a sequel. (sorry I can't make the links work tonight) Also a turn of the century book I loved is The Children's Book by A.S.Byatt. I read it with a GR group and it seemed to be a love hate thing. I was firmly on the "love" side.


message 12: by Mike (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mike Sue wrote: "No I haven't read them Mike and I don't know if any are on my tbr. I'll add the first one if it isn't. I'm increasingly finding I really enjoy stories written about the turn of the century and WWI/..."

I was just looking at the Speller book at the library the other day. I had several items for checkout. But I'll definitely give it a try my next trip. I am fascinated by literature revolving around the Great War. The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker is a favorite. Flanders by Patricia Anthony. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulk. I've not gotten to the Byatt, but I need to. I've read good things about her work. Thanks for your recommendations. I'll certainly give them a look!


message 13: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten I just ordered the second one in the series this weekend. I really liked Test of Wills. I'm glad to see we agree on yet another series my friend.


message 14: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Oh Mike! Now I have more for my list. The Regeneration trilogy is already on it but Flanders I'm not familiar with and I don't recall if I've added Birdsong yet. It seems our reading likes are quite sympatico.

Jeffrey--glad you liked Test of Wills. This is such a good series. I actually have all the books...bought them as they were released, except Test of Wills. That one I had to read from the library. I keep telling myself I can't keep buying them, but.....


message 15: by Wordsmith (new)

Wordsmith Oh my. I need another series like I need a hole in my head! I'm not ashamed to say in the least, a good mystery or heck, a good garroting is my guilty pleasure, my calgon, so to speak. *laughing* I'll get to this series one fine day...


message 16: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Sue wrote: "Oh Mike! Now I have more for my list. The Regeneration trilogy is already on it but Flanders I'm not familiar with and I don't recall if I've added Birdsong yet. It seems our reading likes are quit..."

Sue The Regeneration Trilogy is incredible, simply wonderful. Mike recommended Flanders and I picked up a copy. I'm glad he mentioned it tonight because I need to put it on my short list.


message 17: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue My library system has Flanders so I added it to my list there. As for the trilogy, not sure when I'm going to get to that. Every day,I add another 4 or 5 books to the tbr pile. I have 4 hold books coming shortly. What a wonderful reading world I'm in. But it is on my list.


message 18: by Mike (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mike Sue wrote: "My library system has Flanders so I added it to my list there. As for the trilogy, not sure when I'm going to get to that. Every day,I add another 4 or 5 books to the tbr pile. I have 4 hold books ..."

Flanders is a book I've done my best to call to readers' attention. It is a phenomenal book. And it borders on being lost to readers because of extremely poor promotion by the publisher. Here is my review that tells the story of what happened to this fine book by Patricia Anthony. http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


message 19: by Mike (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mike Wordsmith wrote: "Oh my. I need another series like I need a hole in my head! I'm not ashamed to say in the least, a good mystery or heck, a good garroting is my guilty pleasure, my calgon, so to speak. *laughing* I..."

Ah, but you'll love this series. *grin*


message 20: by Mike (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mike Jeffrey wrote: "I just ordered the second one in the series this weekend. I really liked Test of Wills. I'm glad to see we agree on yet another series my friend."

Having gotten to know our library shelves since we've come to know one another through goodreads, I'm not surprised we've found another similarity. I'm sure what we don't share on our shelves is a gap that needs to be filled. *grin*


message 21: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Mike wrote: "Sue wrote: "My library system has Flanders so I added it to my list there. As for the trilogy, not sure when I'm going to get to that. Every day,I add another 4 or 5 books to the tbr pile. I have 4..."

Your review of Flanders is excellent and makes me feel I should find the book and "rescue it", as you put it. My shelves may not be happy but it does seem a really good idea.


message 22: by Sonali (new)

Sonali V I agree with Sue totally. I tried placing an order with flipkart but only the very expensive version is available.Shall try again, because I too am very interested in the war years.I loved Byatt's 'The children's book'.Ian MacEwan's 'Atonement'.


message 23: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue Sonali, I looked at Abe books and they have a few. Also www.bookfinder.com is a great source. They actually look through all the sources for you and then list by new/ used and then by cost. The books are then linked to the source site.


message 24: by Sonali (new)

Sonali V Sue, thank you so much for all the information. Mike too had given me this information. I once again visited the site ...Actually, if the books are shipped to India, where I am,the shipping charges make them more expensive than if I buy on Flipkart. I have discovered another site which is cheaper, called indiaplaza.com,but sometimes the books are available at a later date. So I am being patient...:-)Thank you again.


message 25: by Sue (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sue You're welcome Sonali. Didn't know you are in India. I know some of the sellers at Abe books are in England. Does that help you at all?


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