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Publisher's Summary

Ian Rutledge returns to his career at Scotland Yard after years fighting in the First World War. Unknown to his colleagues he is still suffering from shell shock, and is burdened with the guilt of having had executed a young soldier on the battlefield for refusing to fight. A jealous colleague has learned of his secret and has managed to have Rutledge assigned to a difficult case which could spell disaster for Rutledge whatever the outcome.
A retired officer has been murdered, and Rutledge, fighting the torment of his illness, goes to investigate. As he digs into the lives of the villagers, the witness who disturbs him most is a war-ravaged ex-soldier who chills Rutledge with the realization that he could become like this man.
©1996 Charles Todd (P)1999 W.F. Howes
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Kathi on 01-30-14

Good early work in series

I believe this might have been the first of the Ian Rutledge series--which has gone on to become most excellent in every respect!

In this book, Rutledge comes back after the Great War and takes back the place he gave up at Scotland Yard to enter the military. He has come back with shell shock (something he does not want his fellow detectives to know, which largely manifests as his hearing the voice of a dead comrade.) He has also faced the devastation of having his fiance break off their engagement because she cannot now bear to be married to him, suffering as he is. Getting back to work is a big challenge for him, so he desperately hopes to succeed.

However, his superior dislikes him, and sends him to handle a murder that could end his career--before it even gets going again, due to the extreme sensitivity of people involved. When Rutledge gets to the town where the murder has occurred, he has to face people who have also been involved in the war, and try to decide whether a highly respected war hero has committed a murder. This will bring up a lot of personal pain and memories for Rutledge, that he has to manage, even while handling a complicated case.

Having read all the books in the series, I can see a few things in this early work that seem to have changed in later ones, such as occasionally shifting to separate thought processes or dialogues between other characters--showing their point of view in that way. In later works it seems that CT gets away from that style, going more to the reader gaining the perspective of other characters through inference from events--much as Rutledge himself has to do (which I personally prefer).

All of this series is among the best out there (in my opinion). I have read all of them (including the Bess Crawford series which Todd has also written. ) The narrator is quite good--with only the comment that it is hard to tell the difference between speakers--but that largely was no problem at all. HIGHLY RECOMMEND anything by Charles Todd. This early book is not quite up to their style and skill that will soon emerge--but well worth reading.

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22 of 23 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Carol on 01-02-13

Difficult to follow the narrator

Inspector Rutledge returns to his position at Scotland Yard after long and horrendous combat service as an officer in World War I. He has been damaged in soul and psyche, and in ways that make him one of the most fascinating detectives in the genre. This first book in the series is truly special, well written, compelling, and different.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend listening to this narration. Even though I've read the book (albeit a number of years ago), I found myself totally confused almost from the beginning as to which character was speaking. We become so used to narrators who handle multiple-character dialog well (even if they don't always sound like we think a beloved character should) that it's a shock to listen to someone with this little skill at voice differentiation. In scenes where Rutledge is conducting interviews, it's almost impossible to follow the flow of questions and answers and the vital information (the plot is fairly complicated) that emerges from these interviews.

There's nothing "wrong" with Giles's voice, he just doesn't use it well. Read the book, skip this audio.

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47 of 52 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By tinyNorman on 01-25-14

Excellent first in series.

I really enjoyed this story. The mystery unfolds slowly. The plot twists are developed in a believable way. The ending seemed a little abrupt, but this is a good start to a great series. The main character, Ian Rutledge, is an appealing, believable character, with an interesting back story. I look forward to more books in this series.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Rogayah on 03-20-16


I enjoy the Rutledge stories and have heard many of them, but I am not keen of the narrator of the early books. He does not seems to have understood the importance of an RP (received pronunciation) accent which was so important until the 1960s in Britain. How could Rutledge have even the slightest provincial twang? I am sure his sister would not have one - they move in the wrong social environment for that (see "A Fine Summer's Day). If he sounded provincial as this narrator suggests then he puts Rutledge lower down social ladder than I have placed him in a very class-conscious Britain. It is also one of the things Bowles, his superior, dislikes about Rutledge.

The other thing that annoy me is the use of US words like "drapes" and "gotten". UK English may now be scattered with US English terms and pronunciation, but either "Charles Todd" is catering for an American-speaking audience of they are from the other side of the pond! It is annoying to think that "curtains" are not acceptable or valid English for a story firmly set in early 20th Century Britain.

This story is the first case for Rutledge post war when he, and the rest of the country, have to cope with their losses and nightmares or ghosts.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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