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on September 16, 2003
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 is not that unbelieveable that Rutledge has this 'ghost' with him always.
In this case Rutledge is doing better. It's been a year since the truce, and all of the sudden a woman whose husband was hung prior to the war due to his committing murders...she comes to Rutledge with what she calls proof as to his innocence. The major charge against capital punishment is the fact that too many innocent men have been put on death row by prejudice or accident. Rutledge is horrified by the idea that he might have sent a man to his death who was innocent. This in connection with another set of murders in the present day (of 1919) of veterans of war, has Rutledge torn in different directions. The fact that he holds down his fear and doubt of himself, to successful get through to the truth in both cases, and deal with a German whose face he is familiar with and thought was dead, is indication that Rutledge is finally coping with his life after the war.
A good, intelligent read (which is often to hard to find nowdays...)
Karen Sadler
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on December 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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on October 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.
Sadly, mistakes like these detract greatly from a narrative. And while the author(s) may be unaware, it's the job of the editor and copy-editor to fact-check a manuscript for accuracy. The end result is a hero who is becoming tiresome, involved in a couple of not particularly engaging mysteries in a novel more notable for its errors than its for its entertainment value.
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on October 1, 2002
Seven years ago, Ian Rutledge was the policeman responsible for sending Ben Shaw to the hangman for killing three elderly, bedridden women. Ian left police work to fight in France during World War I, but what he saw in the trenches almost destroyed him. He came back shell-shocked, guilt ridden and broken with his only grip on sanity being his work at Scotland Yard.

His belief in himself as a good police officer is shattered when Ben Shaw's widow comes into his office with evidence that she claims will exonerate her husband. She wants Rutledge to reopen the case but before he can come to any decisions he is sent to Marling in Kent. Three veterans of the war, all with one leg amputated have been murdered and the local police don't have a clue about who is responsible. During his investigation, Mrs. Shaw hounds Rutledge yet he is able to carry on with both cases.

The protagonist of this novel acts normal but he carries on in his head a dialogue with a soldier he ordered killed before a firing squad in France for failing to obey a direct order. At times the reader isn't sure if Rutledge actually believes Hamish is dead but there is ample evidence he is able to conduct an inquiry and make brilliant investigations from evidence he gathers. A FEARSOME DOUBT is a great mystery as well as a haunting human drama.

Harriet Klausner
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on January 10, 2003
I've been growing less and less enchanted with the series as it goes along. This continues its decline.
Initially, the spectre haunting Rutledge held me fascinated.
Was the Rutledge nuts or haunted? However, as the series continues we get no deeper into Rutledge resolving his psychological conflicts. (It would have been better, if he was just haunted.) I assume he's going to have to visit every county in Britain, Scotland, and Ireland (at one book each) before its resolved.
Also, this book continues the author's recent perchant for making the least credible character to be the murderer.
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on May 16, 2014
Another wonderful Inspector Rutledge outing. The Todds' are wonderful at rendering the emotion and motivations of people. Overall a rollicking read.
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on July 19, 2016
Very well done.The whole series is excellent. Also, the series makes me get interested on the Great War .
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