Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Appreciating Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge Mysteries

Start Here with #1, Purchase HERE

Since 1996, the mother-and-son writing team of Carolyn and David Watgen—posing as Caroline and Charles Todd—have churned out nearly 40 critically acclaimed historical mysteries. Some two dozen star Inspector Ian Rutledge, a Scotland Yard detective active in the prewar period and the early 1920s, who served four years on the Western Front in between. Coincidentally,  all of the Rutledge cases have connections to the war that need to be understood before the case can be solved. The Watgen/Todd team also have a series featuring a World War I nurse named Bess Crawford, which I've not ventured to explore.  (I'm afraid I'm a committed Maisie Dobbs fan, and I fear getting my WWI nurses confused.) 

#3 My Current Read, Purchase HERE

War veteran Rutledge has severe shell shock. He unceasingly hallucinates the voice of Hamish MacLeod, a young Scottish corporal he was forced to execute for refusing to attack at the Somme. Almost immediately afterward, Rutledge was buried alive with the man’s fresh corpse by an explosion. Hamish's ghost, now on permanent haunting assignment in the back of Rutledge's brain, is a remarkable and unforgettable literary device. He provides a running commentary on Rutledge's cases, which is sometimes helpful, sometimes not. In times of stress, however, the frequently droll Hamish becomes extremely vindictive, and makes it impossible for Rutledge to think clearly. 

#24 Series Conclusion, Purchase HERE

I've probably read half the Rutledge set over the years, and I've never been disappointed.  After reading the initial volume, I've jumped around the series randomly, and that doesn't seem to make a difference. The plots are always challenging. The settings—most often English country villages—feel authentic. The World War One content is historically accurate or credible when made up to help the narrative along. Most pleasurable of all, I'm just very comfortable hanging around my old pals Inspector Rutledge and that irrepressible, entertaining, and irritating Hamish.  

Sadly, since all good things come to an end, the most recent volume A Game of Fear (#24) concludes the Rutledge series. Co-author Carolyn Watgen died in 2021. All the team's works remain in print, though—and I'm sure the books will be easy to find for years to come. I recommend all their works, but especially the three covers shown here. A full list of the books with synopses can be found on the authors' website HERE


1 comment:

  1. I agree with that assessment although in the novels I’ve read, as the critic points out, Hamesh is an inconsistent character, which always led me to think that the authors weren’t quite sure how to use him in the plots. I preferred those scenes where Hamesh actually contributes to the investigation.