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A Fearsome Doubt [Mass Market Paperback]

Charles Todd
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 29 2003 An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery
Bestselling author Charles Todd has earned a special place among mystery’s elite writers with his acclaimed series featuring Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge, a former soldier seeking to lay to rest the demons of his past in the aftermath of World War I. But that past bleeds into the present in a complex murder case that calls into question his own honor...and the crimes committed in the name of God, country, and righteous vengeance.

A Fearsome Doubt

In 1912 Ian Rutledge watched as a man was condemned to hang for the murders of elderly women. Rutledge helped gather the evidence that sent Ben Shaw to the gallows. And when justice was done, Rutledge closed the door on the case. But Shaw was not easily forgotten.

Now, seven years later, that grim trial returns in the form of Ben Shaw’s widow Nell, bringing Rutledge evidence she is convinced will prove her husband’s innocence. It’s a belief fraught with peril, threatening both Rutledge’s professional stature and his faith in his judgment. But there is a darker reason for Rutledge’s reluctance. Murder brings him back to Kent where, days earlier, he’d glimpsed an all-too-familiar face beyond the leaping flames of a bonfire. Soon an unexpected encounter revives the end of his own war, as the country prepares for a somber commemoration on the anniversary of the Armistice. To battle the unsettled past and the haunted present at the same time is an appalling mandate.

And the people around him? among them the attractive widow of a friend, a remarkable woman who survived the Great Indian Mutiny; a bitter, dying barrister; and a man whose name he never knew—unwittingly compete with the grieving Nell Shaw. They’ll demand more than Rutledge can give, unaware that he is already carrying the burden of shell shock? and the voice of Hamish MacLeod, the soldier he was forced to execute in the war. The killer in Marling is surprisingly adept at escaping detection. And Ben Shaw’s past is a tangle of unsettling secrets that may or may not be true. Rutledge must walk a tortuous line between two murderers...one reaching out to ruin him, the other driven to destroy him.

From the Hardcover edition.

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A Fearsome Doubt + Watchers of Time: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Novel + A Cold Treachery
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This brilliant and gripping whodunit may well be the best of Todd's six Rutledge novels (Watchers of Time, etc.). Featuring as its protagonist a Scotland Yard inspector who is among the walking wounded after his WWI traumas, the series has always been compelling. This time, Todd ratchets up the psychological pressures by raising doubts about the one aspect of Rutledge's life that he has felt secure about: his prewar accomplishments as a policeman. The widow of a convicted killer, who went to the gallows for preying on the infirm elderly, confronts him with a missing jewelry piece found in a neighbor's possession, suggesting that Rutledge helped execute an innocent man. Reopening the inquiry requires caution not only because of the soul-searching it provokes, which threatens to shatter the inspector's tenuous grasp on sanity, but also because the case contributed to his superior's promotion. This old mystery becomes only one of the puzzles Rutledge must resolve when he's ordered to investigate the poisoning deaths of three disabled soldiers. The solutions to both sets of crimes are logical, satisfying and unexpected, but it is the character of Rutledge himself-intuitive, exquisitely sensitive to mood, the emotions of others and the significance of what is left unsaid-that makes this both an outstanding historical mystery and literate period fiction.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Todd's sixth work featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge is a well-crafted addition to his popular historical series (e.g., Watchers of Time). Rutledge is taken aback when a persistent Nell Shaw brings him new evidence that could clear her late husband's name. Had Rutledge and his fellow policemen inadvertently sent an innocent man to his death six years earlier? Reconsidering the pre-World War I case serves to distract the inspector from his current assignment: determining who is killing maimed ex-soldiers in the peaceful countryside in Kent. Rutledge is sidetracked as well by his friendship with Elizabeth Mayhew, the widow of an old school chum. Elizabeth's feelings for a mysterious stranger further complicate Rutledge's investigation. Todd expertly demonstrates how shadows from the past intersect with unsolved murders in the present, revealing tantalizing details about Rutledge's wartime experience in France along the way. Here, Todd downplays the role of Hamish (the dead soldier who lives on in Rutledge's mind), but he remains a key player in the series. A pleasure to read; highly recommended for all public libraries and collections of historical mysteries.
Laurel Bliss, Yale Arts Lib.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Doubting one's self as a cop is NOT good. Sept. 16 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I always enjoy Charles Todd's mysteries. They are so well-written, and the history of the time period after WWI is so interesting. It's hard to realize in this day and age, with America's 'war' with Iraq, how lucky we are. We as a nation will not forget those who died over in Iraq, and whether we question the President's reason for going to war or not, Saddam had to be dealt with. What is important is the number of men (and women) now who have died in this war is so small compared to the thousands of boys who died in WWI. And those who came home, were many times mortally wounded in the mind, and spent their lives like that. This is not to glorify any war, or deny that families are hurting now, but we need to remind ourselves how nasty WWI was, with the trenches, mustard gas, sarin, and the mud. I can only pray that we never go back to the days of wars like that, or the Vietnam War, and that we value our men and women who gave so much now. Todd's writing is a good reminder of how absolutely horrid that war was, and how many people were hurt. England fought to recover from the loss of an entire generation of young men, and the way the war ended was by mutual truce...but also it left Germany in such a way as to make it ready for someone like Hitler.
Back then there was little understanding of 'shell-shock', or what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder. These men were expected to come home and take up their lives as if nothing had happened, because so little was understood about the psychological impact of this nasty time period. That Rutledge has to deal with Hamish, a Scot he had to have shot because he refused to send young boys out to be killed on the basis of rich/powerful men behind the lines playing these guys like they were a board game...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Murder Well Written Dec 15 2002
This is the sixth in the Ian Rutledge series. I agree that this outing is less than the others, but when the others were so far above the genre, that says much for A Fearsome Doubt.
In this outing, Rutledge's self doubts are aggravated by the possibility that he may have aided in the wrongful conviction of a man fairly early in his career. He must unofficially investigate the allegations recently put to him that the wrong man was convicted of three elderly women. But where to start since the man convicted was executed and the main witness dead.
He is officially assigned to investigate three murders in Kent. Someone is murdering veterans who lost a limb in the war. Who would do such a thing? The murderer is clever and has left no clues as to his identity. While he is searching for clues, Rutledge runs head-long into his past.
The writing continues to be remarkable, the character is ever evolving, and the mysteries still remain mysterious. That said, there was something missing from this entry in the series. I think it was that the author had events moving at a lower pace than usual. Thus, it wasn't the page turner that others in the series had been.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Bordering on burnout Oct. 30 2002
In Legacy of the Dead, this mother and son writing team hit the wall. In A Fearsome Doubt they've managed to put the machine into reverse--just barely.
While the first four books in this series relied heavily on the interior machinations of hero Ian Rutledge (and his exchanges with the dead [but-alive in Rutledge's head] Hamish MacLeod,) and the intense interaction between Rutledge and the characters he encountered, the device has worn thin. As well, Ian is no longer as profoundly engaged with the other characters--especially the females--as he was at the outset.
The two cases at the core of this narrative are only mildly interesting yet sufficiently so to keep one reading. What detracts terribly from the construct are the anachronisms and errors in British behavior and speech. One glaring example is having a well-bred fellow veteran say, " ... They end up aggravating each other ... " Well, no. This is a purely American misuse of language, not an English one. Then there is a reference to a character being, " ... bent and determined ..." Well, no again. Bound and determined. Definitely not bent. It's a word that has a number of British meanings, none of them positive.
But the worst errors all have to do with food. Hot milk is never offered with tea. The upper classes would not have had tea but coffee after an evening meal. Nor would a young waitress at the inn greet the hero in the morning by saying, "I expect you'd like your tea." At this point in history, tea was considered a meal, not merely a beverage. Finally, the hero eating "thick wedges of egg salad sandwiches" is so anachronistic as to be hilarious. This is a reference to a food item that one would have difficulty finding in England even today.
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