Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Review of "A Lonely Death" [2]

A Lonely Death: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery by Charles Todd
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0061726194
January 4, 2011, 352 pages

So many came back from the battlefields of WWI with terrible wounds, limbs missing, lungs burned from the gas attacks. Others came back with wounds that are harder to see, but no less serious. Their minds are damaged by what they had seen, by what they had done, seemingly damaged beyond repair by shell shock.
Some can not deal with it and, like Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge's friend, kill themselves, leaving behind devastated family and friends. Others, like Rutledge himself, are pretty successful at keeping their torment a secret. No one knows about Hamish, the voice of a dead fellow soldier, that he hears constantly in his head. The voice of a man that, as an officer, he had executed for refusing to follow orders and who yet, in a way, was responsible for saving Rutledge's life.
Now if he can just keep Hamish from driving him over the edge, mad, while he investigates a series of murders in a small Sussex village that seem to have their own connection to the war.

A number of men, all veterans of the battlefields of Europe, have been found murdered by a garrote, a military ID disk found in the mouths of their dead bodies. When the son of a very prominent local businessman becomes one of those killed, Scotland Yard, in the person of Rutledge, is called in to take over the investigation from the local police. What ties these men together? Is it something that happened far away on the battlefields or is the motivation a lot closer to home? And can Rutledge race against time and find out the answer before yet another man dies, while dealing with his own hostile police superior, some jealous local law enforcement and some in the community that may have their own secrets to hide?

My feelings about this book are a bit mixed.
Rutledge, in this, the 13th book in the series, is a good character, if a trifle gloomy. I must admit, when I started this book, I had no idea there were so many books in the series, written by the son/mother team of Charles Todd, because this book easily stands alone. But as much as I like Rutledge, I am not sure I am at all up for 12 more books of him dealing with Hamish and his shell shock. I was a wee bit tired of it after one book.
And the setting is quite good too. I admit I am a bit of an Anglophile when it comes to murder mysteries and love the Sussex setting and to set it just after WWI in England, a country still recovering from the war, is an excellent idea. A lot of emotions, a lot of life and death issues around to add background interest to the story. And then there is the story itself, who and why these men were killed. Interesting, as it turned out, not quite what I expected.

But...there is something rather flat and drawn out about this story. No, I am not an editor, but I would suggest that this is another book that might have benefited from use of the Big Red Pen. Good beginning, good ending...and a rather boring, wandering center section that seemed to lose focus. There is a second story, the story of a cold case murder committed long ago, that really added little to the book in my mind and the tie together of the stories at the end of the book seemed forced and a bit gimmicky. And as much as I liked the good inspector, at points I wanted to just shake him and yell "Get over it man!" The third element in the book, some glimpses into the inspector's personal life, past and present, is one area I actually want to see a bit more of, but it was not to be in this installment. Maybe if you have read the whole series, and were better versed in Rutledge's background, this one might have been more enjoyable, but honestly I am not too sure.

Good enough, interesting enough that I finished the book, but maybe not enough that I want to go back and read previous books in the series.

My thanks to Harper Collins/William Morrow for an ARC of this book.


  1. What a shame. I was loving the premise. But I agree, after all those books I'd get a little tire of the same old issues too!

  2. In a series, I think characters have to grow and change and that does not seem to be happening here.

  3. It is always beneficial to have background knowledge about the characters, but you shouldn't HAVE to have that. I think one of the pitfalls of series is the characters not moving on and growing or entering different stages in life. Each book needs to stand out somehow.


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