Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Racing the Devil by Charles Todd

Charles Todd, the pseudonym for the mother/son writing duo of Caroline and Charles Todd, has a new Ian Rutledge book out today and it’s unstoppable. Kerry Hammond is here to tell us why.

Racing the Devil by Charles Todd was released on February 14, 2017, by William Morrow Publishers in Hardcover. It is the 19th book to feature WWI soldier and Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge. (See my review of the 18th in the series, No Shred of Evidence here). Rutledge is a great character and the Charles Todd books always keep me up late at night, but I still keep coming back for more. This latest was no exception and one of the best in the series.

In true Todd form, the opening scene starts off with a bang and then the book jumps to a later time and another place, making the reader constantly wonder when that opening scene will come into play and how the pieces will fit in. Our opening scene happens in France, during WWI. Seven officers who are strangers sit around a table drinking beer. The battle at Verdun is imminent and all are feeling the pressure. They make a pact—one year after the war is over, they will meet in Paris and race motorcars to Nice. It seems a foolish promise to make to strangers, but given the war, it also seems necessary.

Jump to Nice three years later and the race is on. Five men survived and all showed up for the event. On the route we see one of the drivers run off the road and crash to his death. He pulls away but is sure that another car was involved and perhaps was trying to make him crash. He arrives in Nice to find out that another of the men has been in a crash and lays in a hospital, severely wounded. The group disbands anti-climactically and continue on their separate paths.

One year later Rutledge is called in to investigate the death of the Rector of East Dedham. Mr. Wright was found dead in a vehicle belonging to Captain Standish, who did not know or approve of the man borrowing it. No one knows where the Rector was traveling or why he took the man’s car, but to Rutledge, it’s clear that it was no accident. Rutledge must navigate the town and the residents to solve what he is sure was murder.

These books really transport the reader back to a time when the war had just ended and England was battered and bruised. The men who fought came back with visible scars as well as those that were hidden, but nonetheless traumatic. The people who were left behind suffered in a different way, but suffer they did. They were the ones left to pick up the pieces of the wrecks that came home and those that died in battle. The Todds really bring that time to life in this book.

Rutledge is a character with many deep scars, but I think it makes him a better detective. He can feel what others who fought are feeling, and understand their actions and motivations. It’s always fascinating to watch him slowly unravel a case that, in the beginning, looks like it has no comprehensible solution. I think this book is one of the top in the series.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review is fair and independent.

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