by Wendy Foster Leigh
Raucous describes the discussion of the Inspector Rutledge series in the Armchair Travel Mystery book group. Ten women meet at the Hatch Family Chocolates for a discussion of anything about Inspector Rutledge and Charles Todd. Instead of a scholarly review of the books, it becomes an impassioned look at war and peace.
Rutledge returns from WWI with a ghost in his head—Hamish. But Hamish isn’t any ghost–he is an actual character in the books. He has his own personality and is as layered and complicated as any of the flesh and bones men and women in the book. Over 300 men were killed for cowardice during World War I and 17 of them died after the armistice. Should Rutledge have ordered the shooting of Hamish who consequently saved Rutledge’s life by sheltering him with his dead body? That question is at the core of every Inspector Rutledge novel.
No matter which book we talked about, that one moment in his life was its core. Most of the group had read book one, A Test of Wills, plus The Red Door but others could throw in details of A Legacy of the Dead and The Confession. In each book the authors had to retell that tale in various forms. No matter what linear plot line Charles Todd creates, the execution is never far below the surface.
One group member emphasized her own anti-war feelings and the sympathy she felt for both Rutledge and Hamish. She recalled being raised in a military family where she was not allowed to play with the enlisted men’s children because her father might one day be forced to send their fathers into battle. Readers always bring personal reflections into the reading of a book. The group wants to know more about Rutledge and women. What is going to happen with the women who come into his life? Will Chief Superintendent Bowles ever give him credit for solving the cases? Will Rutledge ever talk openly about the war? Will Hamish ever leave him alone?
The group usually guesses at answers to unanswerable questions. This time, however, we look forward to asking our questions of Charles Todd, the mother-son writing team, when they come to The King’s English and learning more about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of mystery writing.
Editor’s note: Join us for a reading and signing of The Confession, the latest mystery by New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd, Tuesday, March 6 at 7 p.m.