Friday, 9 March 2012

A Test of Wills by Charles Todd

In 1919, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge remains haunted by World War I, where he was forced to have a soldier executed for refusing to fight. When Rutledge is assigned to investigate a murder involving the military, his emotional war wounds flare. It is a case that strikes dangerously close to home--one that will test Rutledge's precarious grip on his own sanity.

I cannot express how much I loved this book! Rutledge is a detective from Scotland Yard who has just returned to work after recovering from the injuries he sustained in the First World War. Although he has kept the fact from almost everyone what he is really recovering from is shell shock. He hears voices. One voice in particular - that of one of his men. I won't tell you why it is this voice in particular that haunts him since we don't discover that til about halfway through the book.

Rutledge is well aware that Hamish, the voice in his head, isn't real, but that doesn't make him any less present. The voice of Hamish is very distinct from Rutledge's own voice and the conflict between the two and Rutledge's struggle to appear 'normal' and to regain his previous skills as a detective make for a fascinating take on the classic detective story.

The main plot is the investigation of a murder which may or may not have been committed by a war hero. Rutledge has been sent to investigate because the locals don't want to be involved in sending Captain Wilton, VC, to the gallows - especially when their only witness is suffering from shell shock and is viewed by most as a deranged coward who also happens to be a drunk. Rutledge's boss dislikes him and as such sees him as a good scapegoat should anything go wrong.

For most of the story it looks like his superiors might be right and the only possible conclusions are the arrest of a war hero on evidence that won't stand up at trial or the murderer going unpunished.

The characters are all well drawn and jump off the page and Rutledge is a really unusual and interesting hero. And the eventual conclusion is very well done and again highlights the advantages and disadvantages of Rutledge's mental state.

VERDICT - 5 stars. Absolutely brilliant. Couldn't put it down.

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