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A Fine Summer’s Day by Charles Todd

I have been slowly reading my way through a long series of mystery novels by Charles Todd, reading these books in between more serious novels they are simply rest and relaxation. The first novel in the series A Test of Wills introduced us to a very war damaged and haunted Scotland Yard detective, Ian Rutledge. All of the books that followed continued with the same character, and with each new case time passes, always moving forward.

The 17th in the series A Fine Summer’s Day is a departure from the others, as this one takes us back beyond the first in the series to a time just before the beginning of the First World War. We meet a very different Ian Rutledge. He is a young detective, living with his sister, Frances, in the family home. They have a wide circle of family friends and active social lives.

The novel begins with Ian’s proposal to Jean Gordon, a young woman he loves and looks forward to spending his life with, though some of his closest friends think her rather shallow. It should be a time of optimism for all but for the rumblings of unrest in Europe, and as the summer progresses it becomes more and more likely that England will be at war with Germany. We know, of course that this is to come. The war that many say will be over by Christmas, and again we know it will not be. And we also know this war will result in so many deaths and so many men damaged by their experience of war, as Ian Rutledge will be.

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I found the investigation almost secondary to the lives of the characters in this particular book. Some of you will know that Charles Todd also writes another series of mystery novels featuring a young woman who is a nurse in the First World War, Bess Crawford. In this novel we will learn that Ian’s great friend, Melinda Crawford is an aunt to Bess, and there is mention of a man who is an important character in the Bess Crawford series.

The investigation in A Fine Summer’s Day begins with a death that may or may not be suicide. When other deaths follow, though there seems to be no connection, there are too many similarities to discount some sort of a link between these men. Of course, as usual, the case is eventually solved, but this time we see Ian Rutledge off to war instead of back to the Yard for his next assignment.

The First World War will not be over for 5 long years, and life will have changed for all of the men who fought, and all of the women who stayed at home. Ian is only 23 years old, his sister slightly younger in this novel. For those of us who have been reading this series for several years A Fine Summer’s Day gives us more understanding of the world that was lost to this generation and fills in a little more of the past for many of the supporting characters in this popular series.

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