January 13, 2015

Book Review: A Fine Summer's Day by Charles Todd

You may remember that I met the mother-son writing team called Charles Todd (The Walnut Tree) at the Tucson Festival of Books a couple of years ago. Todd has published a large collection of novels set during and after World War I, but this time Todd jumps back further in time for the 17th Ian Rutledge mystery, detailing a strange case for the Scotland Yard inspector--which he begins mere weeks before the Great War begins.

The strange summer starts with an apparent hanging in the north of England, but soon Inspector Rutledge finds himself crisscrossing the entire country in search of a suspected serial killer--much to the annoyance of his new fiancée. The case tests Rutledge's wits to their limits and he must go against the orders of his superior officers in his attempts to catch a killer.

Longtime fans of the series will enjoy this look back at Rutledge's early years, though they may miss some of the later characters (most notably, Hamish MacLeod). For readers new to Todd's delightful charms, A Fine Summer's Day is a perfect introduction; it can easily work as a stand-alone novel. Just in time for the centennial anniversary of the beginning of the Great War, this irresistible mystery has a sad but gripping setting. The impending unease over the unfolding events in the Balkans and the view of many of the characters that "the war will be over by Christmas" is unbearably naive to the knowledgeable reader, and foreshadows the terrible impact that the war will have on Rutledge and the rest of England.

If you've been on the fence about trying the series, try A Fine Summer's Day! It's a nice glimpse of the series as a whole, and since it's a prequel it won't spoil any of the other books. I enjoyed this one more than the last several Inspector Rutledge books, perhaps because of the novelty of the time shift.

Have you read anything in honor of the World War One centennial?

This post was originally (mostly) written for Shelf Awareness a few days ago.