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review 2020-03-16 15:15
A Duty to the Dead
A Duty to the Dead - Charles Todd

by Charles Todd

 

This story caught my imagination when I read the sample. A nurse in WWI promises Arthur Graham, a dying patient, to take a cryptic message back to his brother Jonathan in Kent, memorised word for word. Having developed some unprofessional feelings towards Arthur, she hesitates to encroach on his family, but after a dramatic episode that threatens her own life she decides that it must be done as quickly as possible.

 

The small village in Kent, England where the family lives is depicted very well and the characters are all well-defined and realistic for the period. This story easily took me to WWI and the subtle nuances that define that period of English history.

 

It also presented a mystery. Slowly, a situation unfolds that brings questions about what the message was really about and some of the dark secrets hidden by Arthur's family. By the time I got about two thirds through the book, I understood the deeper meaning of the phrase, "The plot thickens." The mystery aspect had become multi-layered and all my guesses about who the killer really was kept changing as new information presented itself. I also got wrapped up in unexpected twists and turns and some tense situations.

 

I did guess who the real culprit was before the end, but I wasn't entirely sure until it was actually revealed. Along the way I was thoroughly caught up and really enjoyed the read. I'm not a big Mysteries fan but I'll probably try something else by this author sometime.

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review 2018-08-25 00:00
An Unwilling Accomplice
An Unwilling Accomplice - Charles Todd I really enjoy the Bess Crawford mysteries. I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, but these seamlessly blend a vigorous, independent, intelligent heroine with accurate historic detail. Bess Crawford is a reasonable woman.

An Unwilling Accomplice, which I read in the form of an Advance Reader's Edition, is not a disappointment. I think the storyline is a little more complex than some of the previous works in this series, but the "Charles Todd" duo strikes Bess' voice perfectly once again. And the cast of supporting characters is shaded to perfection.

Recommended.
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review 2018-02-06 17:18
The Gate Keeper - Charles Todd

Set in the early twenties,this book just breathes golden age with a very modern twist. A very perturbed inspector, suffering from post-war trauma, finds himself involved in a mysterious murder(a man stops a car in the middle of the night and shoots the chauffeur ). Not only does he needs to solve the case,he is also confronted with a certain animosity from the villagers and the local constabulary. This is a perfect read for lovers of the British detective story (villages,gentry, murder...)but this is definitely not a soppy read. Good story,right atmosphere and good characterisation. Very good.

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text 2018-01-08 18:58
2017 in Review
How To Be A Tudor: A Dawn-to-Dusk Guide to Everyday Life - Ruth Goodman
New York 2140 - Kim Stanley Robinson
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf
Murder Must Advertise - Dorothy L. Sayers
The Summer Before the War: A Novel - Helen Simonson
Racing the Devil - Charles Todd
Calamity in Kent - John Rowland
Ashes of London - Andrew Taylor
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie
Agnes and the Hitman - Bob Mayer,Jennifer Crusie

2017 was an excellent reading year around here.  I had four five-star reads, not counting re-reads, which is a very high total for me, out of some 90+ books read.  One was a novel - 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson, and three non-fiction: The Invention of Nature, by Andrea Wulf, and two by Ruth Goodman, How to be a Tudor, and How to be a Victorian.  Wonderful re-reads included Dorothy L. Sayers' Murder Must Advertise, several Mary Russell novels by Laurie R. King, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (which I think I read in about 1978, but remembered nothing).

 

The best historical novel I read in 2017 was The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson, and the best new mystery Racing the Devil, by Charles Todd.  I read a decent amount of non-fiction, all of it good, from The Glass Universe (about the ladies of the Harvard Observatory) to Michelangelo's Ceiling (Damn it, your holiness, I'm a sculptor, not a painter), The Sun and the Moon (the Man-bats, or America's first great "fake news" story), and A is for Arsenic (Agatha Christie knew her poisons).

 

I had some reads that were just pure fun, like Jennifer Crusie's Agnes and the Hitman, Deborah Harkness' trilogy on witches, or Anne Bishop's novels about The Others.

 

It did have down moments.  Calamity in Kent's plot boiled down to "Scotland Yard inspector decides his tabloid journalist friend, Jimmy, is the best choice to solve a locked room mystery, and tells Jimmy to go for it."  Um.  OK?

 

The one which angered me, however, was my sole 1-star read of the year, The Ashes of London, which was billed as a thriller set during the Great Fire of London.  It is set *after* the fire, did not have very good historical detailing (it could have been pretty much anywhere and anywhen in the past that had suffered a large fire), and had two narrators, neither interesting.  And then it offended me with a touch of "let's start the characterization of the woman by having her evil cousin rape her" and I was out.

 

But most of my reading year was wonderful.  I hope yours was, too.

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review 2017-08-27 00:00
Search The Dark
Search The Dark - Charles Todd I've read 4 "Inspector Ian Rutledge" books previously, and liked them all quite well. This book was ok, but a bit on the marginal side (so, ***- for a rating). Ian Rutledge is a Scotland Yard detective who served in WWI. That conflict was not kind to his psyche and he carries in his mind the thoughts and comments of Hamish, a Scottish Corporal he'd had to have executed. Then too, the love of his life, Jean, jilted him when he came back from the war psychologically damaged. But he went back to Scotland Yard, and has persisted in his duties.

For a time, this basic back story seemed an interesting take. Now, it's getting tedious, despite my sympathy for the ravages of war on the lives of the people sent off by the high-living assholes who send regular folks off to kill and be killed for the asshole's fun and profit.

Anyway, I didn't feel that this particular story held together very well. Rutledge is sent to Dorset to help with a local investigation. The local guy, Inspector Hildebrand, resents the hell out of Rutledge's presence and makes that clear.

So, we have another war-damaged guy, Bert Mowbray, who looks out the window at the Singleton Magna train station and sees what he thinks is his wife, Mary, with their two children and another guy. He's desperate to be let off the train, but it's too late. He gets off at a later stop and returns to Singleton Magna and then spends the next two days badgering everyone any anyone about the woman and children he saw. No one seems to know anything much.

But then, a young woman is found murdered with her face bashed in. She's about the proper size, shape and coloring to be Bert's spouse, Mary. Inspector Hildebrand instantly picks up Bert for the murder. But where are the children? Scotland Yard dispatches Rutledge to Dorset to find them.

Much to Hildebrand's disgust, Rutledge isn't quite convinced that the victim is actually Mary Bowbray. There were reports that Mary and the kids had been killed in a bombing in London several years previously. Also, Bert's description of the children fits the children as they were, but don't account for the fact that they would have become several years older.

Then, we get into a rat's next of red herrings, so to speak. It seems that a young woman, Margaret Tarelton, who and just interviewed for a spot helping with a local museum, has gone missing. She had previously worked for Elizabeth Napier, the daughter of Thomas Napier, a local MP, or something. Perhaps she'd had an affair with Thomas, or perhaps with the father of the guy who was setting up the museum, Simon Wyatt. Simon Wyatt was supposed to have gone into the MP business, but also came back from the war, traumatized. He also came back with a French wife, Aurore. When he had left for the war, he'd been engaged to Elizabeth Napier. But wait, there's more! It seems that they find a second body, also of similar size and shape to the deceased, and also with her face bashed in. But this body is 3 months old. It could be the body of Betty Cooper, who'd been working in the neighborhood some six months previously, but who'd up and disappeared no one knows where. But how could Betty disappear six months ago, but come back unseen only to be murdered three months ago? Then, of course, WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN?????

Well, as you can tell, it's all rather convoluted, and I've left off some other war-traumatized folks. I didn't find the twists and turns particularly interesting or satisfying, and the ending didn't really make a lot of sense. It was just some ad hoc thing to make us all feel better at the end, or something.
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