Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery Novels
Pair of Writers Pen Intelligent and Sensitive Crime Novels
The series of mystery novels by Charles Todd featuring Scotland Yard Detective Ian Rutledge began with A Test of Wills published in 1994. The most recent is the 19th in the series Racing the Devil, published in February of 2017.
Charles Todd is in fact both Charles Todd and his mother, Caroline. When it was revealed that Charles Todd was collaborative venture, mother and son explained, “It started out as something we'd talked about for awhile, mostly joking about it, and then slowly getting intrigued with the idea of using an enthusiasm for history and literature and mysteries to create a character we ourselves would like to read about. What was new was Rutledge, this complex man with such an interesting background. He seemed to arrive on the scene of his own volition, a shadowy figure with haunted eyes. After that, the first novel all but wrote itself.”
When asked why this time period and this particular character? “We were thinking about the kind of character we'd really like to read about ourselves. And the most intriguing concept was someone who had worked as a policeman, then gone off to war and returned to pick up the threads of his job. How does killing affect a man who hunts killers? What strengths or weaknesses came of out the trenches? How had war changed him psychologically? Has he learned skills beyond those he'd possessed in 1914? Is he more empathetic, or more callous? And how can we in 1995 relate to the hardships and trauma of 1919? What is there about this man that makes him universally human and at the same time a part of his own period? How do you make the past and the present overlap in modern terms? As we answered such questions, he took shape and he is still growing. Very few people came out of the Great War unscathed. We couldn't make Rutledge different from his contemporaries. If he hadn't shared their suffering, he couldn't live and work among them effectively.”
Mother and son have completely succeeded in accomplishing all of this, and have continued to write together. In Legacy of the Dead, the 4th in the series, they write about the death of a young man and his surviving father who has the sense that his son is just out of sight, and will come down the passage of their summer house at any moment. Rutledge for the first time realizes what “the civilian population had endured during the long, dark days when casualties mounted and there seemed to be no end to the fighting”. And it is this sensitivity and understanding of people, for me, that makes this series superior to the common or garden mystery novel.
Not only do Charles and Caroline Todd write the Ian Rutledge series but, since 2009, another series with a female protagonist, Bess Crawford. Bess Crawford is a First World War Nurse, working in France. She often has the opportunity to come back to England while evacuating badly injured soldiers. With connections to the British Government through her father and a family friend she is able to access information to assist her in solving crimes that might otherwise have been hidden by war.
There is always a reservation list for new books by the prolific Charles Todd – read one and I bet you’ll read them all!