Book Review: A Lonely Death by Charles Todd

21 Dec

A Lonely DeathGenre: Detective/Mystery

Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge #13

Publisher: HarperCollins (William Morris imprint)

Source: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley

Pub Date: 4th Jan, 2011

This latest Ian Rutledge mystery is my first introduction to the series. An intriguing mystery in a chilling setting. This series is written by Charles Todd – the pen name of Charles and Caroline Todd – a mother and son writing team.

Synopsis (from publisher):

Three men have been murdered in a Sussex village, and Scotland Yard has been called in. It’s a baffling case. All the victims are soldiers who have made it home alive from the Great War, which ended two years ago, only to be garroted, with small ID disks left in their mouths. And shortly after Inspector Ian Rutledge arrives, there’s a fourth murder. The killer is vicious and clever, leaving behind few clues. As the stakes ratchet up, Rutledge is determined to find answers, even as he puts his job, his reputation, and even his life on the line.

Review:

A small sleepy town is being terrorised by a serial killer. What is the connection between him and his victims? Is the war the common factor or a red herring? Local politics, irritation from getting toes stepped on and old loves form part of the backdrop of this chilling mystery. Inspector Rutledge has the difficult job of sifting fact from fiction, and prejudice from reality to get to the bottom of the murders before the killer strikes again.

I love a story with a less than perfect hero who is struggling with his own personal demons while he is also dealing with vicious people. I much prefer a damaged hero than a bluff and boisterous one who thinks he can do no wrong. Ian Rutledge is a WW I veteran who is now a detective with Scotland Yard. The war has left its impact on him in the form of his constant companion Hamish, a dear friend who was executed on Rutledge’s order.

There is no neat compartmentalisation in this story – it is the time after the war, and there are no neatly tied ends for the people who have lived through it. Set in 1921, the echos of the war and its aftermath are clear.

The writing is very atmospheric and Charles Todd builds up a great feeling of suspense and drama with this story. At every point, the reader is left trying to make sense of the murders and divine some motivation behind them. The community is living in fear.

Great pace and gripping story telling.

A couple of things didn’t work for me.

One was the Meredith Channing chapter. I felt a big disconnect there. I didn’t take to her at all and could not care less what happened to her. I didn’t quite get why Rutlegde did. Maybe I’m missing some history here.

Another aspect was the mixing together of the old Sussex case, that Rutledge hears about from his boss, Inspector Cummins just before he retires. Cummins tells Rutledge about an old case of his that was never solved, something that he thinks about to this day.

I wasn’t convinced that this case had any place in the story. Am I lacking in imagination? You decide, for this is definitely a good mystery to read.

Set up was exciting, and the conclusion was satisfactory. I might have liked a little more tightness in the wrapping up of the mystery, but that was not a big drawback overall.

Verdict:

Definite choice for an Ian Rutledge fan. If you’re new to the series, I’d recommend starting with the first and tackling them in order. A good read.

Rating: 3.5

*See my Rating policy

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