Any Charles Todd fans out there?

The most recent Charles Todd book in the Ian Rutledge SeriesIt’s been a while since I’ve belonged to a book club and I can’t rightly remember if we ever read any of Charles Todd’s books.  Ours was a no-name mystery book club so Charles Todd’s stories would have fit right in.  Plus, I think we would have been quite fascinated with the author — a mother/son duo, Caroline and Charles Todd, who live in North Carolina and Delaware, respectively.

They are best known for a series of novels, set in post World War I England. The books deal with the cases of Inspector Ian Rutledge, a veteran of the European campaigns who is attempting to pick up the pieces of his Scotland Yard career. However, he must keep his greatest burden a secret: suffering from shell shock, he lives with the constant, cynical, taunting voice of Hamish MacLeod, a young Scots  soldier he was forced to execute on the battlefield for refusing an order.

Thus far there are 23 in the Ian Rutledge series — all published by Harper Collins.  I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed the first 22.  I love the authentic feel of Great Britain in the twenties — from the distinctive British language that is used (surely one of the duo has spent much time with elderly Brits to get the nuances so perfectly) right down to the descriptions of villages, the “motor cars,” the interactions between people.   It all rings true in each and every book.

Even with number 23, A Fatal Lie, which I’ve just completed, I can find no fault with the setting, the characters, or the plot — except that there were too many.  Too many characters.  Too many towns.  Too many roads.  Too many possibilities.  Halfway through I wished I had kept, at a very minimum, a list of characters and, perhaps a rough map and the trips and return trips Rutledge was making.  But, by then it already seemed too late.

The latest in the Bess Crawford series — also by Charles Todd

By the end of the book, I really didn’t care whodunnit and, in any event, I certainly couldn’t have told you why.  I wish I knew if it was my aging, drifty mind, or if this book really was different.  If only our Mystery Book Club was still meeting (or maybe it is, but it’s a mystery to me), perhaps I could find out if anyone else felt the same way.

Barring that, I looked up a few reviews.  Most seemed pretty boiler-plate-straight-from-the-publisher, but one by L.J. Roberts said:  One does need to keep track of who is where. Between the character names and Ian traveling from place to place, and back again, it can become confusing. Pulling up a map proves helpful. It is also a challenge to follow the timeline. There is a lack of clarity as to when things happened as there can be the impression of something happening in the past only to realize it is in the recent past. Follow the trail of bodies which are always one step in front of Ian. Yet it seems to take a while before any real progress is made and then, after all the to-ing and fro-ing, there is the great and complete confession. Good grief.



Leave a Reply