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Posts Tagged ‘Masterpiece Classic’

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.

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