Thursday, August 07, 2014

Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd

One hundred years ago this month, a minor nobleman was shot, cascading to WWI, which resulted in 15 million deaths, including at least 880,000 for England alone.  For those who saw long time in the trenches but survived, the experience made a lasting mark on their lives.

The Inspector Rutledge series focuses on a man who survived four years in the trenches but is haunted by the ghost of one of his men whose death is the fault of the inspector.  Rutledge now works for Scotland Yard but marches to his own drummer when solving cases.

This particular case starts with the killing of an English officer, followed by another killing whose relationship to the first is unclear.  Rutledge is called in to take over the investigation from local officials and makes no more headway than those officials, at least initially.  He is a dogged investigator, and his dead sergeant provides enough commentary to keep Rutledge from overlooking that which may be below the surface, but is germane.  The case takes a while to start to come together but feels like it is what a real investigator might encounter when looking into a crime by a skilled and intelligent criminal.

Charles Todd is a a mother/son team, both of whom are writers with interests in different eras of English history, among others.  They live in the U.S., but the story resonates with a felt authenticity for the post-WWI era.  The story itself is well plotted, the characters realistic, and when you get to the end and look back at all that has been described, there are no holes although there are a few red herrings.  This sounds like damning with faint praise and that is not the case.  I intend to go back to the first book in the series and read them all.  It's an excellent addition to crime fiction and a cut above most that I've read in quite a while.

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