Review: A Test of Wills (Inspector Ian Rutledge #1) 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. A “Publishers Weekly” Best Book selection. Martin’s Press.
This is a long running mystery series which I had wanted to try for a while, but kept being distracted. When a friend mentioned that she started the first book, I decided that it was a sign and started it too. I found it a bit of a slow start, but overall ended up quite liking it.
As the blurb tells you, Ian Rutledge came back to Scotland Yard after fighting at the front lines of World War One and he came back with physical fatigue and psychological wounds. The soldier he was forced to execute for desertion (since the blurb mentions it I don’t think it is a spoiler) is probably a deepest wound and he carries that soldier within and I am guessing will be doing so during the whole series. I hesitate to spell out exactly what that means because this would be running in the spoiler territory indeed.
Even though our inspector knows that he is not the same person as he was before war – too much pain of all kinds, he wants to come back to at least who he was professionally before going to war .
“He’d learned, in France, to face dying. He could learn, in time, how to face living. It was just getting through the desolation in between that seemed to be beyond him.”
“He hadn’t considered whether the skills and the intuitive grasp of often frail threads of information, which had been his greatest asset, had been damaged along with the balance of his mind by the horrors of the war. Whether he could be a good policeman again. He’d simply expected his ability to come back without effort, like remembering how to ride or how to swim, rusty skills that needed only a new honing . .”
And this part is from later in the book when he is already questioned one of the witnesses:
“It was almost, he thought with one of those leaps of intuition that had served him so well in the past, as if she already knew who the killer was—and was planning her own private retribution . . . . “I can’t imagine how anyone could have done such a terrible thing to him,” she’d said. Not who—how.”
I thought the mystery was interesting and the investigation was good, but I probably had the most pleasure in seeing Ian rediscovering himself and of course not becoming the same person as he was before, since it was impossible, but realizing that he could be a good investigator again even after everything he had been through even if Hamish would probably be with him forever and he won’t be magically cured from that.
Having said that, as much as I liked how Inspector realized at the end what he was missing (literally he realized that he did not question a certain witness and it ended up to be a key to solving the puzzle), the ending itself was a little gimmicky. Again, I cannot say anything because of course it will be a huge spoiler.