Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Test of Wills: A Mystery by Charles Todd

A Test of Wills: A Mystery by Charles Todd --- 282 pages

This is the first book in the critically acclaimed Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery series set in post World War I Britain, written by the American mother-and-son team of Caroline and Charles Todd, who publish under the pseudonym Charles Todd.

In many ways it's an old-fashioned mystery story eschewing explicit violence, sex and language.  In other ways it's a subtle psychological portrait --- not of the murderer as one might expect --- but of the Inspector, a survivor of four years in the trenches, suffering from what was then called "shell shock" (we know it today as post-traumatic stress disorder).

It s 1919, and the war has been won. Or at least people tell themselves that it's been won. But there is no happy homecoming for Inspector Ian Rutledge, who has spent months in hospital, shell-shocked and locked in a mortal embrace with the pitiless voice of Corporal Hamish McLeod, one of his men whom he had to execute for refusing an order during battle, under the pitiless military code of the time.

When his fiancee deserts him, Rutledge decides that the only way to save his sanity is to escape into his work. He conceals his fragile mental condition, and manages to get his old job and rank back at Scotland Yard. But Superintendent Bowles, his previous superior, is still jealous of Rutledge's brilliant pre-war reputation, still determined to destroy his career.  

Bowles sends Rutledge to investigates the murder of a popular colonel in Warwickshire but neglects to mention that the chief suspect in the case is a decorated war hero who has been received at Court and lauded by the Royal family.

The case is a political minefield. Charging a popular war hero with murder will create a storm of notoriety around the Inspector. Regardless of whether the trial results in a judgment of guilt or innocence, the political consequences will demand a scapegoat --- and who better than a war-damaged investigator who has lost his nerve?

Even worse, the crucial witness who can make or break his case is a another veteran suffering from severe shell shock that has never been recognized or treated. And as Hamish's voice eagerly points out, that grim fate could easily become Rutledge's own.

Click HERE for a review from Kirkus.

Click HERE for a review from the Paradise Mysteries blog.

Click HERE for a review from

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