Title: A Test of Wills (The First Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery)
Author: Charles Todd
Year: 1996 (Copyright)
I was first introduced to this series of mysteries when I received a free copy of Hunting Shadows, the 16th book in the series. I thoroughly enjoyed that book, but wanted to know the background and beginnings of Inspector Rutledge and his relationship with Hamish. So I went back to the first book in the series to see what I might discover. I soon learned that the love/hate, guilt, shame and so many more emotions that link Ian and Hamish are the result of Ian ordering Hamish’s execution during WW I. Now, to cope with daily living, Ian allows Hamish to live in his mind. They have conversations and sometimes Ian forgets that it is only in his mind and answers Hamish out loud, sometimes much to the surprise of whoever is with Ian at the time. Ian has tried to rid himself of Hamish, but almost lost his mind permanently trying to do so. The doctors tell him it is a coping mechanism to deal with the horrors of war. It adds a very interesting dynamic to the story.
Inspector Rutledge is sent on his first big case after returning to Scotland Yard after the war. His boss would like to see nothing better than to see him fail and be ousted from the Yard and humiliated. Ian enters a small village where a local war hero has been shot while on his morning horseback ride. No one can think of a motive as he was well-liked by everyone. Well, not everyone as someone killed him. As Ian continues his investigation, he is stymied again and again by the villagers who seem to be protecting someone. The victim’s ward, a young woman about to be married, especially resists his interrogation. What is she hiding? Is she protecting her fiancé, who is also a war hero? Why is everyone else trying to throw suspicion away from her fiancé? While trying to discover the guilty person, Ian also must continue to deal with Hamish and his own shell shock and memories of war. He is very aware of his tenuous hold on his sanity. Can he pass this test of wills?
This is a great mystery with well-developed characters and great writing. I’ve only read two books in the series, but I plan to read more in the future. The storyline kept me guessing until the last chapter when the mystery was resolved. There is a little bit of profanity used in the story, but it doesn’t mar the story at all. I am looking forward to reading more books in this exciting series and can say readers won’t be disappointed in this intriguing series.
My rating is 5 stars.
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