Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Ian Rutledge’

summersdayCousin Gail and I are prepping for the fifth season of Downton Abbey, which begins its American run tonight on PBS’s Masterpiece Classic. We’re planning to watch the last episode of season four first and have a cup of official Downton Abbey tea, which I ordered from PBS as a holiday gift. As we all know, the popular series has created a cottage — or better yet, castle — industry of related products, including jewelry, books and even a board game. (I’ll let you know how the latter plays out.)

I generally write a post about the new or re-released books evoking the Downton era, but I haven’t read anything recently not previously mentioned. It being a century now since the Great War, there are a lot of World War I books to read and savor, new and old. My favorite nonfiction chronicles are Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August and Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory. Favorite novels include Philip Rock’s The Passing Bells, Robert Goddard’s In Pale Battalions and Charles Todd’s Bess Crawford series about a British nurse.

Before Todd — a mother-and-son writing team — came up with Bess, they introduced Inspector Ian Rutledge, a Scotland Yard detective literally haunted by his World War I experiences. Through 17 books, Rutledge, with the ghost of the soldier Hamish whispering in his ear, has investigated murders in England and Scotland, many of which are rooted in wartime. A Test of Wills begins the series, and the second, Wings of Fire, is even better, as Rutledge confronts the sudden deaths of three members of a prominent Cornwall family with a tragic history.

Now comes a treat for Rutledge fans, A Fine Summer’s Day (Morrow, digital galley and ARC), a prequel to the series set in the golden summer of 1914. Rutledge is planning to propose to his sweetheart Jean even as an assassin’s bullet kills the Archduke in faraway Sarajevo. As rumors of war begin to swirl, Rutledge is called on to investigate a series of seemingly disconnected murders. Knowing what lies ahead for Rutledge — and England — gives the twisty plot a special poignancy. Everything changed on that one day, and the reverberations are still being felt a decade later as Downton Abbey’s characters carry on, a new world in the making.

Read Full Post »

saintsAfter finishing Ian Rankin’s Exit Music a few years ago, I really hoped we hadn’t seen the last of Edinburgh police detective John Rebus, even if he had reached the force’s mandatory retirement age. Thankfully, it was a metaphorical Reichenbach Falls for Rebus, who next appeared as a civilian consultant working cold cases in Standing in Another Man’s Grave, one of 2013’s  best crime novels. And now in the riveting Saints of the Shadow Bible (Little, Brown, digital galley), Rebus returns to the force, the age ban having been lifted. Still, he’s a bit of a grumpy dinosaur having been downgraded to a DS,  and working on an apparently routine traffic accident.  Then his nemesis, internal affairs DI Malcolm Fox, asks for his cooperation reopening a 30-year investigation involving Rebus and a group of cowboy cops called “the Saints” who had their own rules back in the day.

How different, really, is the old Rebus from the  young one? As Rankin deftly intertwines the car wreck and the old murder trial with current Scottish politics and a new generation of enterprising crooks and cops, we see Rebus contending with loyalties past and present, as well as changes in policing.  At one point he turns on a reluctant suspect: “I’m from the eighties, Peter — I’m not the new-fangled touchy-feely model. Now get out of my fucking car!”

invisibleTalking dinosaurs, you can’t get more prehistoric than elderly London detectives Arthur Bryant and John May of  the Peculiar Crimes Unit, whose eccentricities match those of the unusual cases they take on. In Christopher Fowler’s witty charmer The Invisible Code (Bantam, digital galley), the duo somehow connect the sudden, seemingly inexplicable death of a young woman in a church and the odd behavior of a Home Office politician’s beautiful wife with witchcraft, black magic, general devilment and matters of national security. Fowler never condescends to his characters or readers, threading his puzzles with quirky facts about London history and that of the PCU. An ancient pathologist, Bryant’s landlady and the cat called Crippen add to the three-ring atmosphere.

vaultedIf you have not yet succumbed to the delights of Alan Bradley’s series featuring precocious junior sleuth Flavia de Luce, do yourself a favor and don’t start with the sixth book, The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Random House Publishing Group, digital galley). You need to go back at least one or two books to Speaking from Among the Bones and I Am Half-Sick of Shadows to catch up on the de Luce family history, the moldering mansion Buckshaw, Flavia’s penchant for poisons and detecting (an excess of high spirits got her kicked out the Girl Guides). There’s also the matter of missing mother Harriet, who vanished on a Himalayan expedition in 1941, and whose absence has defined Flavia as an “extraordinary” person. It’s 10 years later as the new book opens, Harriet has been found and Flavia is faced with becoming ordinary. Ha! Harriet’s homecoming is marred by the death of a strange man under a train, the arrival of distant relatives, experiments with reanimation and film restoration, suspicions of espionage and portents of an unexpected future. For series fans, it’s a fun bridge to the further adventures of Flavia. I can hardly wait for the next installment. O Canada!

huntingEarly on in Charles Todd’s Hunting Shadows (HarperCollins, digital galley), Scotland Yard’s Inspector Ian Rutledge gets lost in a shrouding fog on the Fens. That he can’t see a foot in front of him on the dangerous terrain is emblematic of his ensuing investigation into two baffling deaths. It’s August of 1920, and a sniper — presumably a veteran of the Great War like Rutledge — has claimed two victims two weeks apart. One is an Army officer awaiting a wedding at Ely Cathedral; the other a politician giving a speech in a nearby village. There’s no discernible connection between the two, and Rutledge is indeed hunting shadows, especially after one woman recounts seeing a “monster” in a window. As always, he is haunted by his memories of the war and the ghost of the soldier Hamish. The result is a thoughtful mystery rich in atmosphere.

Read Full Post »