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Rich with atmosphere, luminous period detail, and human complexity, this second brilliant mystery from the author of A Test of Wills—a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Publishers Weekly Best Mystery, and Edgar Award nominee—marks the return of Inspector Ian Rutledge, “a dogged and insightful character whose psychological landscape and continuing recovery are deftly explored” (The Miami Herald).
Inspector Ian Rutledge is quickly sent to investigate the sudden deaths of three members of the same eminent Cornwall family, but the World War I veteran soon realizes that nothing about this case is routine. Including the identity of one of the dead, a reclusive spinster unmasked as O.A. Manning, whose war poetry helped Rutledge retain his grasp on sanity in the trenches of France. Guided by the voice of Hamish, the Scot he unwillingly executed on the battlefield, Rutledge is driven to uncover the haunting truths of murder and madness rooted in a family crypt...

323 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published February 1, 1998

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About the author

Charles Todd

94 books3,158 followers
Charles Todd is the pen name used by the mother-and-son writing team, Caroline Todd and Charles Todd. Together they write the Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford Series. They have published two standalone mystery novels and many short stories.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 718 reviews
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
June 10, 2017
“Shaken from sleep, and numbed and scarce awake,
Out in the trench with three hours' watch to take,
I blunder through the splashing mirk; and then
Hear the gruff muttering voices of the men
Crouching in cabins candle-chinked with light.
Hark! There's the big bombardment on our right
Rumbling and bumping; and the dark's a glare
Of flickering horror in the sectors where
We raid the Boche; men waiting, stiff and chilled,
Or crawling on their bellies through the wire.
"What? Stretcher-bearers wanted? Some one killed?"
Five minutes ago I heard a sniper fire:
Why did he do it?... Starlight overhead--
Blank stars. I'm wide-awake; and some chap's dead.”
― Siegfried Sassoon, The War Poems

A Jack the Ripper copycat is loose in London, but instead of joining the manhunt Inspector Ian Rutledge is dispatched to Cornwall. His boss, an Inspector Bowles, doesn’t like him very much, not very much at all. No one including Rutledge knows if he is really ready to go back to work at Scotland Yard. The war shattered him mentally and everything feels a bit rushed getting back in the swing of things. He also makes things worse for himself annoying his boss with these leaps in logic. Well, I’ll let Rutledge explain it.

”I survived in those hellholes they called trenches for four years. It seemed like forty--a lifetime. I learned to trust my intuition. Me who didn’t often died. I was lucky to possess it in the first place, and war honed it. I learned that it wasn’t a figment of my imagination. Nor was it a replacement for the God I’d lost. Whatever it was, you came to recognize it. An inkling, a warning, a sudden flash of caution, a split-second insight that saved your life. Indisputably real, however unorthodox the means of reaching you. It gave you an edge on death, and you were grateful.”

And then there is Hamish.
You see he is dead,
but very much alive in Rutledge’s subconscious. He is a Scottish lad that Rutledge unwillingly
had to execute on the battlefield.
Let’s just say the moment stuck with him.

Hamish whispers to him all the time undermining his confidence.

Even though this Cornwall trip was meant as a slap in the face Rutledge doesn’t mind. There certainly wouldn’t be anything to a pair of unmarried cousins committing suicide after all.
 photo LAUDANUM-BOTTLE_zps851dac10.jpg

Another cousin falling down the stairs and breaking his neck, even with a missing foot from the war providing a place for blame, does seem to lead one to think the Trevelyan family is unlucky. It happens, ask the Kennedy family, but then the Kennedy’s did receive more than just a gentle push into the next world.

Another cousin Rachel was the one that asked Scotland Yard to investigate the suicides of her cousins Olivia and Nicholas. She finds it hard to believe that they would commit such a crime against their immortal souls. When Rutledge discovers that Olivia is actually O.A. Manning a poet who gave him many nights of solace in the muck and blood he is even more determined to find the truth. He always assumed she was a man and it takes a bit of mental wrestling to conceive how a woman could understand his state of mind so well without ever venturing a dainty foot into a trench. She is a poet after all, a crippled poet, a woman who knows fear and anger and how it is to look at the world with eyes tinged with both.

”Murderer I am, of little things, small griefs,
Treasures of the heart.
Of bodies and of souls I have taken
All that is there to give,
Life’s blood, the spirit’s wealth.
And these secrets I keep locked away,
For my own joy and your pain.”

As he begins to ask questions of the remaining relatives and the village people Rachel quickly reaches a state where she wants him to leave. He is digging too deeply into family affairs, rubbing raw wounds, and unearthing unseemly family secrets. She expected him to just come down there and by some trickery like a gypsy fortune teller ascertain what really happened. As he finds out more about the family he discovers more deaths each surrounded by more questions than answers. It doesn’t take long for him to realize there is a killer and it has to be a member of the Trevelyan family.

He has men searching moors for decades old clues. He resorts to unorthodox means to get people to talk. He makes an old woman cry.

”She began to weep, tears running down her white, withered face in ugly runnels, as if there had never been places for them to fall before, and now they couldn’t find a way.
Rutledge found himself breathing hard, his body tight with black and wordless rage. He gave her his handkerchief and she took it, fumbling in the blindness of tears. She touched her face with a dignity that was heart wrenching, because these were not tears for herself. She still hadn’t cried for herself.”

If the moors haven’t already put you in mind of a certain Sherlock Holmes maybe a fall off a cliff wrapped up in the arms of a killer will.

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”Then before either person could brake their momentum, over the edge of the cliff.
It wasn’t a sheer drop. It was rock eroded by wind and weather. It was clumpy grass and earth, punctuated by straggling shrubs and heaved outcroppings. A long and rough slope that took its toll on bone and flesh as they tumbled down towards the fringe of boulders where the surf crashed whitely. The noise rose to meet them, so mixed with the thunder that there was only an endless, deafening roar.”

I really liked the first book in this series, A Test of Wills, but this one was even better. The plot was riddled with plausible red herrings and the pressure that is brought to bear on Rutledge to just let it all go was palpable in my own reading chair. The conclusion comes together like a train loose on a track with a full head of steam. I couldn’t have put this book down if a scar faced one eyed bandit had a cocked .45 nestled up against my head. I’d get to him...after...I turned the final page.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Ingrid.
1,210 reviews50 followers
October 23, 2017
For the second time Inspector Ian Rutledge has been sent to the countryside to look into some suspicious deaths. His superior wants him out of the way. Of course it wasn't a demanding read, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. A generous 4 stars.
Profile Image for Deb Jones.
713 reviews81 followers
September 13, 2019
This is a meaty, character-driven series set in post-WWI Great Britain. Ian Rutledge is a detective inspector with Scotland Yard, having recently returned from four years of active military duty and time spent in hospital due to injuries and effects from his military service.

Rutledge, who is plagued by the effects of shell shock (today called PTSD) and a severe head injury, is internally haunted by a Highlander Rutledge killed during the war, a man by the name of Hamish. What a wonderful literary tool Hamish provides to the author -- and the reader -- who recognize that his existence in Rutledge's mind indicates the detective is yet battling within himself to overcome the war's effects on him and also provides insights into Rutledge's inner dialogue through Hamish's "conversations" with the protagonist.

This was an intriguing and intricately-woven story. I look forward to reading more books in this series. These titles can be read as stand-alones, but to have the best understanding of the journey Rutledge is on, the books should be read in order.
Profile Image for Patsyann.
179 reviews
September 22, 2022
On these books it is all about the mystery. There is no romance, no sex, the dirtiest words are damn and bloody. But I have to read to the end to find out who did it and this book did not disappoint!!
Just lean back enjoy the ride.
There is no CSI, no fingerprints, no latex gloves and most importantly - no search warrants!! Just a good interviewer (kind of a Mentalist type) who reads people and can tell their guilt by looking at their face.
There is always an attractive woman for Ian - and their relationship is always full of sexual tension (never fulfilled) but the relationship goes nowhere because Ian always sees these women as either suspects or people that hold back crucial information.
Love Ian Rutledge, love the mystery!! But this book is not one of my favorites. Just too much talking
and a very convoluted story line that at times got boring.
BEST USE OF: As always - a small English town and its weird people
ALPHA MALE - Ian is an 8 in this book
SPUNKY HEROINE - 10 (but she is dead)
SEX - 0
HEA(HAPPILY EVER AFTER) In this book - yes!!
Rating System
10 - Perfect! - on keeper shelf forever.
Heat Level
No Sex or heat!!
HOLLYWOOD ACTOR ALERT: James McAvoy as Hamish!! SIGN HIM UP NOW!! I'm also thinking Tom Mison as Ian Rutledge.
Profile Image for Liz.
191 reviews57 followers
March 14, 2017
This second book in the series is not as strong as the first, in my opinion. A little too much merry-go-round with the suspects and a weaker motive discovered in the end. That said, I enjoy Todd's writing and flair for the dramatic, and Ian Rutledge is a strong leading character whom I will continue to follow with this series. Three stars says it all: I liked it.
Profile Image for Amy.
587 reviews28 followers
December 20, 2015
I love the idea and setting of this book but I thought it was too complicated of a plot. I was 75% through the book and was still confused on who was who.
Profile Image for Lewis Weinstein.
Author 9 books495 followers
October 22, 2014
A terrific story.

Inspector Rutledge is on his own, sent out from London to re-investigate three recent deaths which had been closed cases. What he unravels about the dead people and those still alive is a remarkable family history played out over decades. The plot offers many twists and surprises.

Set a few years after WWI, Todd allows the reader to immerse in the period, behind the action and never interfering, but often adding a telling detail.

And of course, Rutledge's man in his head is there, offering advice, criticism and perspective, sometimes taken, often ignored. It's a very effective literary device in Todd's skillful hands.
368 reviews10 followers
February 26, 2012
I gather many GR readers think this book was better than the first Ian Rutledge mystery. Not me. It was a tedious slog that I read to the finish mainly because I'd paid for the thing, and wanted to get my money's worth. Why didn't I like it? For one, it was boring: Rutledge talks to the cousin of the deceased, then the parson, then the housekeeper, then back to the cousin, then to the innkeeper, then maybe someone else, then back to another person he already spoke with...all the while going in circles, neither the questions or the answers very interesting. Second, I hate it when an author keeps telling the reader over and over how fascinating or wonderful a character is, but never shows anything that would lead the reader to the same conclusion. And Todd does it with two characters here. (See objection #1, boring.) And three, I didn't get where, or why, Rutledge had the aha! moment that led him, at long, long, long last, to the killer. But maybe that's because I began skimming to bring it all to an end more quickly.

Now, if someone who has finished the book would kindly answer this question, I'd be so grateful!

Profile Image for Kim.
426 reviews507 followers
June 9, 2012

This is the second novel in Todd’s Inspector Rutledge series. In this installment, Inspector Rutledge is sent to Cornwall by his Scotland Yard superior to investigate the three deaths of three half siblings in a local manor house. Two have apparently died as a result of a suicide pact, the other as a result of an accident. Rutledge is there to investigate the possibility of foul play, although his jealous superior really wants to keep him away from the hunt for a serial killer currently taking place in London.

Todd – a mother and son writing team – go for atmosphere in this novel. By setting the narrative in an old house by the sea in Cornwall, it appears that they were trying to channel Daphne du Maurier. “Trying” is the operative word here, because in my view they don’t succeed in evoking the gothic atmosphere of Rebecca or in otherwise making the reader really feel the setting. The combined Todds don’t have du Maurier’s way with words. Also, the fact that they described a character as having seaside souvenirs from Truro – an inland town – made me wonder whether they have in fact been to Cornwall.

If I had been fully engaged with the narrative, I would probably not make such a pedantic point. I wanted to like the novel more than I did. However, the writing, while competent enough, doesn’t shine. The plot is also competent and generally held my interest, but I guessed the identity of the culprit early on. Nothing very clever was involved in this - just a process of elimination – but I’m always vaguely irritated when it happens. Also, too much of the narrative is advanced by telling and not showing. Most of it involves Rutledge moving in a ceaseless round of interviewing one character after another, which gets a little tedious.

The major problem I have with the first novel in the series, A Test Of Wills, continues in this novel. That problem is Hamish. Inspector Rutledge is a WWI veteran with what used to be called shellshock. So far, so interesting. A symptom of his mental state is that he hears the voice of Hamish, a dead Scottish soldier. In my view, this plot device does not work well because Hamish is supposed to fill too many roles. At times Hamish is Rutledge’s conscience; at other times he is Rutledge’s sub-conscious. He is also the chattering inner voice which all of us have. Sometimes Hamish tells Rutledge things which realistically neither the conscious Rutledge nor his sub-conscious could possibly know. To me, Hamish is expected to do too much work for a symptom of psychosis.

Overall, I liked this book better than A Test Of Wills. Rutledge is an interesting and sympathetic protagonist and the Todds are not bad storytellers. I haven’t decided whether I’ll read the third book in the series. Maybe I will, but I’m in no hurry to do so, which indicates that the series is not really a winner for me.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,890 reviews1,920 followers
November 16, 2011
Rating: 3.75* of five

A more assured second outing for a mystery series that is becoming an addiction! This is a very well-written novel that happens to have a mystery at its center. The role of Hamish-the-voice is a little skimpier this time, not quite as loud on the page; I'm not sure that's entirely to my liking, but I think it's probably the best way to treat that difficult character. He could be a very great distraction, used too freely, though I find him fascinating...sleuth and sidekick only need one body!

I'm always interested in stories set in Cornwall, as this one is. It's such a different place, one that doesn't seem quite like England but undeniably is; it's so isolated (in English terms) from the main flow of the country that it seems to have all the advantages of being foreign...mystery, exoticism...without the inconvenience of learning a foreign language. Necessarily, that is, since a determined (an American would say "bloody-minded") effort is underway to "save" the Cornish tongue.

Inspector Ian Rutledge's work in this small Cornish village, whose Hall has seen three rapidly succesive deaths, is to determine with his London experience whether the local force did its job properly in ruling the deaths accidental or suicides. You can imagine that puts the backs up of pretty much the entire village as the news spreads! No one likes his territory big-footed across by the Big Noise from the City. It's just never a popular thing, and as the newsvine spreads the fact that it's a member of the Hall family...a cousin...who called in the Londoner, feeling runs even higher.

Todd examines how people, no matter their connection to events, respond to them with fierce passion. A simple childhood slight, an accident of observation, a detail changed by a fearful witness in a larger plan...all these play their role in creating and then sustaining a mystery that has at its heart the simplest of human motivations: Envy. Coming fresh off the Great War, this trope has special poignance, since it was largely the German Kaiser's envy of his cousins that set the conflict in motion.

I would recommend reading these books in order. I hope you'll give them a shot. They're good psychological novels that happen to come in a series and feature the same protagonist(s). Gladly recommended.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
636 reviews42 followers
January 17, 2011
This wasn't really the English murder mystery I expected, it's really more like a Gothic novel mixed with an English murder mystery. It reminded me a lot of Daphne Dumaurier's Rebecca, and that's a compliment. It has all the Gothic elements: A stormy Cornish coast, a mansion, a family with a complicated family tree and plenty of skeletons in closets, a talented poet who is also a housebound cripple, a witch, and hints of incest, ghosts, mysterious hounds haunting the house and its inhabitants. Well, if I haven't made it sound tastey enough to you, check your pulse. I confess that there were moments when I had to check the copyright page to see if this book was written in the 1970s (it was 1998, actually, or maybe 1996), because it did have some kind of pantsuity, blue eye shadow moments but overall, a really good read. I'm already on a second book in this series and liking it even better.
Profile Image for Lawyer.
384 reviews831 followers
January 3, 2011
Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard is a veteran of World War One. He has survived the war, but is haunted by the memories and experiences of futile frontal assaults and relentless artillery barrages, one of which buried him alive. Unknown to anyone but Rutledge, he hears the voice of one of his men, a Scot named Hamish, who died under circumstances best left discovered by the reader. Hamish is his constant companion, advising, cajoling, and frequently warning Rutledge when he's going off the track, either on the case he is working on, or when he is perilously close to allowing his battle instincts in the trenches to spill over into his civilian life.

"Wings of Fire" is the title of a book poetry written by Olivia Marlowe, published under the pseudonym O.A. Manning. The reclusive author is critically acclaimed, believed to be a man because of her graphic lines capturing the hellishness of WWI and the passion expressed in the love poetry found in "Wings of Fire."

When Olivia and her half brother Nicholas are found to be victims of an apparent suicide, and another member of the family dies of a broken neck in an apparent fall, Rutledge is assigned to determine whether foul play was involved.

What follows is a well plotted English mystery, detailing the tragic history of a family in which too many deaths had occurred. Olivia's twin fell from an apple tree dying at the age of eight. Five year old brother Richard wondered off onto the moors never to be seen again. Richard's distraught father dies while cleaning a pistol. Over the years, the deaths have mounted up at a rate unlikely under any statistical probability.

It will be up to Rutledge to unravel the tangled threads of this family's history. "Wings of Fire" builds to a satisfying conclusion.

Rutledge's first appearance was in "A Test of Wills," a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Read it first to understand Rutledge's time in the trenches of WWI and the reason that Hamish is his constant emotional conscience.

Highly recommended.
66 reviews
February 4, 2015
This book will make you reconsider watching reality TV.

The character on whom much of the story hinges, is dead.
But before her demise, she has managed to marry three men (all of whom die in turn, leaving the way open for the next husband). With each husband she has 2 children, 4 of which are sets of twins. Of the twins, one twin has died of each set, and one husband moved in bringing his niece, and another brought his daughter from a previous marriage.I paused at chapter three and spent some time designing a family tree so I could try to keep up with the cast of characters (it didn't help much.)

But wait! There's more! The inspector, a WW1 veteran, "hears" and "converses" with Hamish, a fellow soldier who died on the battle field. Of course, no one else can hear Hamish, so this adds yet another layer to some of the conversations: who is "real" and who is not.

Honey Booboo reruns have never sounded so good.

692 reviews4 followers
March 3, 2015
Too many character names to keep track of but you can see that Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge series has promise.
Profile Image for Christopher Swann.
Author 12 books309 followers
July 6, 2010
I've enjoyed the other Ian Rutledge mysteries I've read, but this was one of my favorites so far. Mystery/police procedural novels can suffer from too much familiarity and cliche or from gimmicks. Todd sets the Ian Rutledge novels in post-WWI England, which is an interesting historical time period, and the novels reflect that not-so-far-off world quite well, which enough periodic detail to satisfy a historian of the era. The risk Todd makes is that these novels depict Rutledge, a survivor of the trenches, as a man on the edge of a mental breakdown. He is "haunted" (more psychologically than supernaturally) by the ghost of Hamish, a Scottish corporal Rutledge had to have executed for refusing to obey orders on the battlefield. Hamish argues with Rutledge, taunts him, reminds him of the hell he suffered in the trenches, and Rutledge's greatest fear is that other people will discover that a dead Scotsman talks inside his brain.

It could be a cheesy device in the hands of a less talented writer. But Todd--which, in reality, is the pen name of a mother-son writing team--is a very good writer. The novels plots are good, but the character of Rutledge--and of his nemesis, Bowles, and all the other characters that appear in these stories--is compelling. A tragic, flawed hero...maybe the best kind.

Definitely worth reading. All of them.
Profile Image for Kribu.
510 reviews52 followers
November 18, 2014
Actual rating: 3.5-3.75, but there's just something not quite letting me rate it as "really liked it".

I did like it, but ... dunno. Perhaps the pace was a bit too slow for me right now. Or it was just that the central mystery, while certainly interesting as such, never properly captivated me. Or perhaps it was the "lyrical singing of jackdaws" that kicked me out of believing in the story and never quite let me back in again. Who knows.

Anyway, still a good book, and Rutledge is a terrific character. But I think I'll need to take care to judge my mood better whenever I pick up the next book.
Profile Image for Judy.
1,623 reviews26 followers
January 23, 2018
Coming back to this book after several weeks, tried my memory. But it didn't take long for me to get back into the plot. Inspector Rutledge has been sent to a small town at the request of a family member who questions whether a joint suicide is really what happened to a brother and sister. As Rutledge delves into the situation, he begins to question the deaths of several other members of the family many years before. The plot kept me guessing. Rutledge is still recovering from the trauma of WWI, and struggles with his own demons. I hope he eventually will be free of his mental anguish, but meanwhile he is an interesting character in a well-crafted story.
Profile Image for Janice.
1,398 reviews39 followers
July 21, 2017
This was an excellent second book in this series. Rutledge is sent to Cornwall to investigate the deaths, believed to be suicides, of two members of a prominent family. Rutledge soon begins to suspect that a string of accidental deaths over many years, all in this same family, may actually have been homicides. This time, Hamish, the inner voice he has carried since WWI, is more an asset than an impediment. Rutledge is also aided by the poetry of one of the dead, a woman whose poetry he has loved since the war. I would give this historical mystery 4.5 stars.
1,362 reviews23 followers
September 5, 2019
Really enjoyed this one as well. The coastal setting was fun. I liked the small town and the cast of characters. The sheer number of murders may have been a bit ridiculous, but the character work is really strong. Olivia and Nicholas were interesting. I really liked Rachel Ashford a lot. The local vicar was endearingly sincere and kind. I just liked this. I also really like the psychological aspects of the crime-solving, and of Hamish, the voice in Rutledge's head.
Profile Image for eyes.2c.
2,434 reviews50 followers
February 16, 2022
Gripping thriller. Sent out of the way from London, Rutledge goes to Cornwell to investigate a double suicide. The family and the locals are appalled. What Rutledge begins to suspect is even more appalling.
Profile Image for Miranda.
177 reviews4 followers
December 22, 2020
Well color me pleasantly surprised. I had read the first in the series and found it basically okay, but this book was significantly more engaging. I don't know if the mystery was better plotted (much more satisfying reveal IMHO), or because the setting and the characters felt more fully drawn (the first one had sort of a bland generic village aspect to them), but I found this a delightful mystery.
Profile Image for Ed.
869 reviews113 followers
June 25, 2015
This is #2 in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series. I finished #1 few months ago and was so impressed, I've acquired a number of volumes and plan to read them intermittently over the next year or so. I've never been a big fan of so-called British mysteries but I do like these stories, perhaps because of the characters, especially Rutledge.

Rutledge, a veteran of World War One survived the war, but is haunted by his experiences, including being buried alive in a German artillery barrage. He also he hears the voice of one of his men, a Scot named Hamish, who he had been forced to put in front of a firing squad because of Hamish's unwillingness to lead a suicidal advance. Hamish is a constant companion in his head, telling him things he often does not want to hear. They argue, sometimes out loud which can be disconcerting to the people around Rutledge - a WW I version of PTSD.

"Wings of Fire" is the title of a poetry book written by a critically acclaimed, virtual recluse, Olivia Marlowe. Writing under the pseudonym of O.A. Manning, she is mistaken for a man because she does such a good job of capturing the Hell that is combat and the passion of love expressed in "Wings of Fire".

Olivia and her half brother Nicholas are found dead in what is assumed to be an apparent suicide. When another family member breaks his neck falling down the stairs, questions are raised by another relative, Rachel Cheney, Rutledge is sent to Cornwall to determine what really happened.

The plot then unfolds as Rutledge discovers the tragic history of the family in which a number of people have died under mysterious circumstances. He becomes convinced that all of the deaths were
murders. He takes it on himself to unravel the tangled family history in the face of opposition from the local authorities and most of the citizens of the nearby town.

Rutledge, who could be seen as being an obsessive-compulsive cannot abide an unsolved mystery and persists in his inquiries until the truth comes out in a very satisfying, exciting conclusion.

While this book can certainly stand on its own, the first book in the series, "A Test of Wills," was helpful to have read as it does an excellent job of describing Rutledge's syndrome and the history of his relationship with Hamish.

I certainly can recommend this book.
Profile Image for Bill.
1,617 reviews75 followers
January 23, 2018
Wings of Fire is the 2nd book in the Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery series by Charles Todd. The series is set after WWI and Rutledge is an Inspector in Scotland Yard. He served as a military policeman during the War and returned damaged, not knowing who he was. Somewhat cured, he has returned to work but still is 'haunted' by the voice of Hamish, a Scottish soldier whose death Rutledge bears some responsibility for. Hamish is his conscience and adviser or just a troublesome irritant at times.
Rutledge is sent to Cornwall by his supervisor to investigate two apparent suicides and another 'accidental' death, all from one well-known family. His supervisor in effect wants Rutledge out of his hair, as he investigates a serial killer in London. The request for an investigation comes from Rachel, another family member who feels that the deaths might not have been suicides. One of the deaths is of a famed poetess, one who affected Rutledge during his wartime service.
It's an interesting story, kind of wanders around as Rutledge begins to look into the facts of the deaths. It's a small community, where everyone knows everyone and many of the people in the town don't really want an investigation. We begin to find out the history of the family and of other deaths that occurred in the past. It's an interesting investigation peopled with interesting characters, from Rachel to Sadie, the old woman who seems to have a second sense. At times it seems pointless for Rutledge to continue investigating the deaths but as the story progresses, it grows in interest and tension. The final chapters are tense and exciting. I wondered at first where the story might go but was ultimately quite satisfied with the outcome. I hope the next books continue to grow in plot and interest. (4 stars)
Profile Image for Michelle.
271 reviews14 followers
February 16, 2009
Inspector Ian Rutledge returns to London still fighting his own demons. Scotland Yard is on an all out manhunt for a Ripper copycat. In order to get the glory for himself, Bowles sends Rutledge out on the case in Cornwall to keep Rutledge out of the way in London. When Rutledge arrives to Cornwall, the case seems pretty straight forward. A double suicide and an accident. What really shocks him is that one of the suicides happens to be the author of the poems that got him through the war. As he makes more inquiry's, Rutledge discovers there is more to this case than meets the eye. Will the town recover from the revelations made and will Rutledge ruin the one person that helped get him through the horrible war?

This was a more emotional book that I had anticipated. I was able to connect to the characters as a large part of the book dwells on people returning and changing from war. Although I myself have not been to war, I am a military spouse and have sent my husband to war. There are changes that people go through and I felt that Todd really captured those feelings. Another big part of the book was how appearances (especially in the family) are deceiving and how families deal with their secrets. I couldn't put the book down as it completely captivated me. The characters are beautifully written and very much believable. I cannot wait to get the next book in the series. A must read.
Profile Image for Megan.
301 reviews23 followers
March 11, 2009
Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge is one of those great characters of British crime fiction. He fought in the trenches of WWI France, and came back a shattered man, carrying the guilt of what he had seen in the war. The twist is that his guilt takes form as a very convincing delusion. Rutledge hears the voice of a man who died under his command. This voice, a Scottish officer called Hamish, serves as Rutledge's conscience. It is also the voice of his intuition, which he fears he lost in the war. I love the setting of between-the-wars England. So much devastation and loss, but people had to try and move on. In Wings of Fire, Rutledge investigates several suspicious deaths, including that of a famous poet. He always seems to be sent on the cases that are politically sensitive, and indeed there are hints that his Scotland Yard superior knows his weakness and is hoping he will fail. Rutledge was a huge fan of the poet, who he knew as O.A. Manning. No one realized until her death in an apparent double suicide that the poet was a woman, a spinster living in a small village. When she died, in a strange pact with her half-brother, Rutledge must find out the family's secrets. They have plenty, and I enjoyed following Rutledge's investigation. The author evokes life in a small English village very convincingly, and you are always involved emotionally with the tormented Rutledge.
Profile Image for Joan.
2,193 reviews
June 20, 2015
Any book that I finish, then wanted to read again, straight away, (my husband nabbed it first!) deserves five stars.

Rutledge is a wonderful character, and the story, although complex, twisty and inn many respects far too 'convenient' draws me in to his world. A lonely, damaged man, struggling to overcome his own personal demons.

I love these books. Yes, there are flaws, but when I read them none of that matters. Lovely prose. Rich details.
Profile Image for Colin Mitchell.
956 reviews14 followers
February 18, 2021
Ian Rutledge, back in the Yard following his return from the trenches of France, is sent to Cornwall at the request of the Home Office to look into some suicides that may not be all that the locals want to accept. He finds lots of secrets in the background that may lead him to the killer.

There was not a lot of atmosphere of the surrounding area, which came over more as the Dartmoor of Devon than Cornwall and made me feel I could be anywhere. There are some issues over the American spelling ie color and catalog and did Doctors hang out a "shingle" with their name. Probably not. Oh, and I didn't like Rutledge and Rachel going sailing in a dingy and then row with no mention of hoisting a sail. There we go. The old house and the village, in general, seemed right and the people that you might still find in more rural communities.

A good enough read even if it did upset my sensibilities. 3 stars but could have been 4.
Profile Image for Laura Knaapen.
338 reviews
December 3, 2022
We could have shortened the book considerably, if he'd asked the question that I wanted him to ask much earlier in the book. Interesting characters, quite a tragic family full of them. He kept me on the edge of whodunit for quite a while, but then the wrap up was a bit much.

And I am getting tired of Hamish. I hope Rutledge is allowed to grow, heal, move on eventually.
Profile Image for Lisa Johnson.
2,599 reviews36 followers
February 16, 2014
Title: Wings of Fire (Inspector Ian Rutledge #2)
Author: Charles Todd
Pages: 306
Year: 1998
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Inspector Ian Rutledge is sent to investigate an apparent double suicide, followed by another murder all in the same family. His boss wants him out of the way and wants to satisfy an important person by sending someone to investigate these supposed crimes. He is also hoping Inspector Rutledge will fail in this endeavor.
Ian Rutledge has been sent to the small village of Borcombe. He really isn’t sure why he has been sent to investigate these closed cases, but he will follow orders. He begins asking questions, but doesn’t see any fault with the local police outcome of the deaths. He can’t help wondering why though. Why would a young, talented, famous poet take her own life? Why would her stepbrother also commit suicide? Was it a murder/suicide scenario? He keeps digging and soon catches the scent of murder, but the trick is how to prove it. There has to be someone who knows something. There are so many deaths in this particular family over the last several years that there has to be a witness somewhere. Were these deaths accidents or cleverly disguised murders? Who in the family might be capable of such twisted evil? Ian also has his ever-present assistant Hamish who warns, hinders, cajoles and lambasts the inspector at just about every turn.
While this is an oldie, it is still a goodie. There is some profanity in the story just so readers are aware. This one took a few chapters to grab my attention, but once it did, the pages flew by. The authors really know how to get into a character’s head and draw the reader along with them. This is not a fluff story, but one that makes readers think. This is my third book in the series and each book thus far has maintained the mystery and thrills of a great story. This plot had a great climax that occurs on a dark and stormy night! This is British mystery writing at its best.
My rating is 5 stars.
Note: The opinions shared in this review are solely my responsibility. Other reviews can be read at http://seekingwithallyurheart.blogspo.... Also follow me on Twitter @lcjohnson1988, FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/lisa.johnson...
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