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A Lonely Death: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery [Paperback]

Charles Todd
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Dec 12 2011 Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries (Book 13)

“Todd’s Ian Rutledge mysteries are among the most intelligent and affecting being written these days.”
Washington Post

Critics have called Charles Todd’s historical mystery series featuring shell-shocked World War One veteran Inspector Ian Rutledge “remarkable” (New York Times Book Review), “heart-breaking” (Chicago Tribune), “fresh and original” (South Florida Sun-Sentinel). In A Lonely Death, the haunted investigator is back in action, trying to solve the murders of three ex-soldiers in a small English village. A true master of evocative and atmospheric British crime fiction, Charles Todd reaches breathtaking new heights with A Lonely Death—a thrilling tale of the darkness in men’s souls that will have fans of Elizabeth George, Martha Grimes, and Anne Perry cheering.

 


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Review

“Masterly.” (New York Times Book Review on A Lonely Death)

“Todd once and for all establishes the shell-shocked Rutledge as the genre’s most complex and fascinating detective.” (Entertainment Weekly, on A LONELY DEATH (Grade: A-))

“[The authors’] subtle prose and profound empathy for all their characters enhance a suspenseful and twisty plot.” (Publishers Weekly on A Lonely Death)

“Another engaging entry in a fine series.” (Booklist on A Lonely Death)

“Todd’s intriguing revenge tale will keep the reader turning the pages, but the main draw remains Rutledge, the relentless inspector haunted by the voice of a Scotsman he executed on the battlefield for disobeying an order. Highly recommended for all aficionados of British postwar historical mysteries.” (Library Journal on A Lonely Death)

“Eloquently blasts war for the obscenity it is.” (Kirkus Reviews on A Lonely Death)

“Todd’s attention to period detail, plotting and character exploration are at the forefront of the 13th Ian Rutledge Mystery….Todd and his hero are in fine form from start to finish.” (Romantic Times on A Lonely Death (4 ½ stars; Top Pick))

“A strong entry in a strong series.” (Charlotte Observer on A Lonely Death)

“Suspense filled.” (Oklahoman on A Lonely Death)

“Todd invests this absorbing fiction with creative storytelling (including intriguing subplots), memorable characters and graceful, seemingly effortless prose….This is fiction that moves, entertains, and as always, underscores life’s victories over death.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch on A Lonely Death)

“Compelling…a provocative thriller.” (Iron Mountain Daily News on A Lonely Death)

“Fully realized characters, well-researched settings, and exquisite writing combine with a surprising and chilling solution to mark this 13th outing as a standout in Todd’s deservedly award-winning series.” (Mystery Scene on A Lonely Death)

From the Back Cover

Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge returns to solve his most exciting and shocking case yet in this latest entry in the bestselling series hailed as "outstanding" by the New York Times Book Review

A breathtaking blend of psychological complexity, haunting atmosphere, compelling twists, and impressive detail, the novels in the Ian Rutledge mystery series have garnered their author widespread acclaim and numerous honors and awards. At the heart of the series is the compelling Scotland Yard detective inspector Ian Rutledge, a veteran of the Great War who understands all too well the darkness that lies within men's souls.

Now three men have been murdered in a Sussex village, and Scotland Yard has been called in. It's a baffling case. The victims are soldiers who survived the horrors of World War I only to meet a ghastly end in the quiet English countryside two years later. Each had been garroted, with small ID discs left in their mouths.

But even Scotland Yard's presence doesn't deter this vicious and clever killer. Shortly after Inspector Ian Rutledge arrives, a fourth soldier is found dead. With few clues to go on and the pressure building, Rutledge must gamble everything—his job, his reputation, and even his life—to find answers.


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By L. J. Roberts TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
First Sentence: The sod had grown over the graves, turning the torn earth a soft green, and the rows of white crosses gleamed brightly in the morning sun.

Veterans of The War survived the horrors of fighting only to now be murdered in this Sussex village of Eastfield. Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard is sent to find a killer whose mark is killing with a garrote and leaving identity disks, but not their own, in the mouths of the victims. How many more will die and might one of them be Rutledge?

The mother and son team that comprise Charles Todd write books that are intriguing police procedurals and fairly effective anti-war stories laced with fascinating history and one of the most compelling protagonists.

We learn more, in this book, about Rutledge, his war experiences and the reason for his mentally 'hearing' the persistent voice of Hamish, a soldier whose execution Rutledge ordered. We also feel his frustration at the machinations of his superior, Boyles, the pain of his relationship with Meredith and his questioning the value of his life. Rutledge is the driving force in the story with just enough back story on the secondary characters for the reader to understand their relationship to the story and each other. I particularly appreciated the rector's comment of 'I don't hold with judging my flock. I see no reason to usurp God's right.' That, alone, says a lot about the man.

The impact of war, in this case WWI, is effectively brought to bear. Todd writes a painful and effective description of the impact war has on those who fight and, by extension, their loved ones. At the same time, they comment on the naivety and ignorance of those at home regarding the conditions and experience of those who fight.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  102 reviews
63 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Have you noticed some of the best British whodunits are written by Americans? Example: this one. Nov. 5 2010
By Sharon Isch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
In a small rural village in England, shortly after the end of World War I, someone with a garotte is killing off, one at a time, a cadre of former school classmates, now all grown up and recently returned home from the trenches in France. This 13th in the series may well be the best Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery I've yet read, and I've read most of them.

I'm a longtime fan of the shell-shocked World War I copper from Scotland Yard created by the American mother-son team that writes under the name of Charles Todd. But I'd been starting to lose interest of late, mostly because the Todds' increasing use of way-too-convenient coincidences to drive their plots was driving my suspension-of-disbelief willingness up the wall. But not this time. What a pleasure then to come across this dense, tightly plotted, nicely paced, wonderfully well written, character driven, un-put-downable, edge-of-your-seat nail biter...and nary a wildly unbelievable coincidence anywhere to be found...until the very last page! And what a doozy that one was. But it also wasn't at all relevant to the main plot. So no major grousing about it from me this time. I suppose that by this point they just had to toss one off-the-wall coincidence in there in somewhere, else we might not realize we'd just read a "Todd.")

I also thought the Todds did a better than usual job this time of helping novice readers get a bead on Rutledge's personal history with Hamish, the voice in his head; Margot Channing, the woman he pines for; and Superintendent Bowles, his nemesis at Scotland Yard. While I tend to think most mystery series are best read in chronological order, I think this book holds up pretty well on its own.

P.S. Have you noticed how many of the best writers of British detective stories these days live and write on this side of the pond--for example: the East Coast Todds, Texas's Deborah Crombie; and California's Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King and Elizabeth George?
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A big improvement on recent Rutledge offerings Dec 12 2010
By S. McGee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
In this, the 13th in the series of mystery novels featuring Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge, the mother/son writing duo who make up author Charles Todd are in better form than they have been in the last two or three books in the series - and the Rutledge series is much more compelling than the new one, featuring nurse Bess Crawford, from the same writing team.

It is still 1920, and Rutledge is still struggling to do his job while battling with the after-effects of shell shock, a legacy of the trenches of the Western front in World War 1. He is still haunted by the specter of Hamish, his friend and sergeant whom he had to put in front of a firing squad for refusing to carry out orders; now Hamish's voice rings in his head and he is almost a physical presence to Rutledge, one that those around him in the "real" world can't see. Rutledge must solve crimes while not being driven around the bend by Hamish's comments and reproaches, on everything from the past to the present, and not disclosing his mental condition to his superiors or even to the woman he is coming to love. In Rutledge and Hamish, "Charles Todd" has created two great characters of detective fiction.

But Rutledge isn't the only one haunted by the past, as becomes clear in this book. One of his friends is unable to cope and kills himself; his former superior is still brooding over an unsolved crime dating back 15 years, the woman Rutledge is drawn to proves to have her own secrets in the past, while a series of murders of men from the same small Sussex town may have something to do with their wartime service. Or do the roots go further back, to a different kind of trauma? This is the main plot, and it's very suspenseful and successful; in the lead up to the climactic confrontation between Rutledge and the murderer, I actually found myself holding my breath several times while I turned the pages. Some of the secondary plot twists, particularly the 1905 "cold case" are deeply implausible, but work to shed a bit more light on Rutledge as a character.

If you've been following the Rutledge series but had found some of the recent books less compelling than the first, try this one. True, it's not as good as the first three or four in the series, but then few series manage to stay fresh this long anyway. Happily, Rutledge and Hamish are so unusual and the setting of the immediate aftermath of World War One so vividly portrayed that even a later book in this series is still better than a lot of other mystery novels out there -- including the other "Charles Todd" series, which feels more perfunctory, with a lot of dashing from point A to point B in motorcars. If you haven't been reading the series, however, this book isn't the place to start; go back to square one and read the debut, A Test of Wills (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries).
40 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but Implausible Nov. 4 2010
By C. Klaassen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is the 13th book in Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge Series and it unfortunately deserves the number. The primary storyline is promising but underdeveloped. The secondary storyline is ridiculous. But worst of all, an ancillary storyline dealing with Inspector Rutledge's personal life is a melodramatic mess. The book is an engaging effort brought down by ludicrous elements.

The Inspector Rutledge series is set in post WWI England. Ian Rutledge is a Scotland Yard Detective recently returned from the battlefields of France. He is a sharp shadow of the man he once was, a victim of shell shock who carries the voice of the corporal who served with him (Hamish) in the back of his head. As the series progresses, Hamish becomes less an angry destructive presence and more an acerbic helpmate. In this book Inspector Rutledge is called from the funeral of a close friend to the village of Eastfield. There have been a series of murders in the village and the victims are recently returned servicemen who have been garroted and left with an identity disc in their mouth. Inspector Rutledge struggles to find a commonality between the murder victims and as the murders continue must delve deeply into the past to find what drives this murderous soul. A secondary, and totally unnecessary, storyline features a cold case which haunts the Chief Inspector Cummins. Cummins is retiring and as he cleans out his desk shares details of a murder committed on Midsummer's Eve in 1905 at Stonehenge. Rutledge is gripped by the tale and stumbles across highly relevant information as he attempts to solve the murders in Eastfield Village. (There is entirely too much coincidence in this storyline to make it at all credible and the conclusion is frankly ridiculous.) Rutledge must also deal with the suicide of a close friend, the imminent death of another friend and saying goodbye to a possible love interest. None of these elements are fully developed and what could have been heartrending storytelling is in the end rather flat. Couple all these story lines with Rutledge running hither and yon about the countryside, across the water and back and you have a rather disjointed mess.

I have been slowly making my way through the Inspector Rutledge series and have to say that this is my least favorite book so far. (I am currently in the midst of "A False Mirror.") Charles Todd (a mother/son writing team) have also written another murder mystery series in the same setting and time frame featuring a WWI nurse, Bess Crawford (I like to call her The Good Sister Sherlock). In general this writing duo tells a compelling tale, sketches interesting characters and keeps you guessing until the end. The first books in the Inspector Rutledge series are probably their best efforts.

Recommended only for die hard fans of the Inspector Rutledge Series.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quiet, enjoyable historical mystery, post-World War I Dec 12 2010
By Esther Schindler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I had adored Charles Todd's An Impartial Witness, so when Amazon Vine gave me the opportunity to read a pre-release copy of his latest mystery, I jumped at the chance. I'm so very glad I did.

A Lonely Death is far from the first in the series about Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge, who survived World War I and is still trying to come to terms with its impact on his life. But I can assure you that you don't need to read the earlier books in the series; it stood alone just fine.

Like An Impartial Witness (which is focused on a totally different character), the events in this novel take place soon after World War I -- in July 1920, specifically. Inspector Rutledge is called to a small town near Hastings after three ex-soldiers are killed. Each man was garroted, and left with an identity disk (the precursor to "dog tags") in their mouths. But it's someone *else's* identity disk. Rutledge must find the murderer before someone else dies...

As in An Impartial Witness, Todd's writing style is quiet. His characters spend a lot of time talking, and as a reader you mostly follow along as Rutledge asks people for information. You figure out Whodunnit along with the protagonist rather than spot a gun sitting on the table and wanting to shout, "LOOK ON THE TABLE! THERE'S A GUN!" This isn't an exciting book that will make your heart beat faster. But it absolutely made me turn pages wanting to know what would happen next, and I always found myself reading, "Just one more chapter..." before going to bed. Okay, maybe three more chapters. Or five.

Todd paints wonderfully visual word-pictures that draw you into the protagonist's world in small ways. "Iris Lane was just that, a short track edged its entire length with beds of iris, the broad green swords of their leaves unmistakable, although there were no blooms now. Old Well House was a pretty cottage, windows open wide to the morning air and a line of wash already hung out at the side of the kitchen garden." You feel as though you're breathing the summer air, as though you can almost smell the laundry soap.

This is an excellent and enjoyable mystery, meant for a solitary evening sitting by the fireside with a mug of tea. I heartily recommend it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb "Inspector Rutledge" Mystery, Set in Post-WWI Sussex April 3 2011
By Lynne E. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
One of the best "Inspector Ian Rutledge" mysteries yet! Charles Todd (actually a mother-son team) is a gifted mystery writer--a writer who crafts lean, polished prose, and who devises plots with intricate twists and turnings that always seem perfectly plausible to readers as they unfold. The Rutledge series is in itself a tour de force, as in each new offering Todd skillfully sustains Rutledge's established character--as a shell-shocked WWI survivor, barely holding on to his job as a Scotland Yard detective, whose mind is nearly split in two by survivor's guilt. Wherever Rutledge goes, he cannot escape hearing the soft voice of the good soldier, Hamish MacLeod, whose death by firing squad was ordered by Rutledge himself.

In A LONELY DEATH, Rutledge has two cases to solve: (1) a 1905 cold case involving the body of a young man found strapped to an altar stone at Stonehenge on the Salisbury plain; and (2) a 1920 present-day case involving a serial killer who is stalking ordinary Sussex citizens, garroting them, and placing fiberboard WWI identity discs in their mouths as his signature. In the midst of his 1920-case investigation, Rutledge is removed from the case, after a local citizen files a complaint about his conduct with his hated Scotland Yard supervisor Bowles. When Rutledge's replacement Mickelson is nearly murdered, Rutledge is briefly suspected of the crime, and suffers a terrifying incarceration that threatens to completely destroy him. As the investigation stalls, yet another Sussex citizen falls victim to the killer.

Regular readers of the Rutledge series won't want to miss the details of (1) Chief Inspector Cummins' retirement; (2) Rutledge's return to France and the site of Hamish's death; (3) Rutledge's renewed relationship with Meredith Channing; and (4) the possible discovery of Channing's MIA husband. The book also explores the problems faced by other WWI-damaged veterans who are Rutledge's friends; and it includes the usual realistic post-WWI settings made possible by author Todd's extensive historical knowledge of the period.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading A LONELY DEATH, and highly recommend the "Inspector Rutledge" series. Readers who are not already acquainted with Inspector Rutledge and Hamish may want to start with the first book, A Test of Wills (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries). However, the Inspector Rutledge mysteries all work as standalones, and do not have to be read in sequence to be fully appreciated.
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