Friday, March 30, 2012

A Test of Wills by Charles Todd

This book was so boring I can barely summon the energy to write about it. I really wanted it to be good because I am craving a good mystery. I was also in the mood to read more about Britain in the WWI era, having just finished watching Downton Abbey on TV. Alas, this book was not even as good as Downton Abbey, which, despite its clunky plotting and lack of chemistry between the stars, at least provided some good eye candy in the way of houses, clothes, and atmosphere.

Charles Todd has written several mysteries set just after the war, one series featuring male detective Ian Rutledge, and another series about a battlefield nurse named Bess Crawford. A Test of Wills presents the detective Ian Rutledge in his first case. Rutledge suffers from PTSD (known then as shell shock). Its most obvious manifestation is an internal dialogue Rutledge keeps up with Hamish, a soldier who was executed for desertion. It’s an interesting device, especially when we discover Rutledge’s relationship with Hamish and how he came to take up posthumous residence in Rutledge’s head. Hamish alternately serves as the voice of Rutledge’s conscience and harshest critic. But this feature alone isn’t enough to carry the story.The mystery itself is just dull and the solution is infuriatingly manipulative.

Charles Todd is the nom de plume of a mother-son writing team. Amazon was offering the first volume in the Bess Crawford series for $1.99 on the Kindle, so I bought it. Maybe these mysteries will prove more original than Rutledge’s. And I can always picture her looking like Lady Sybil Crawley in her nurse’s uniform.

(Book 10, 2012)


Anonymous said...

I am glad you said what you did about the flaws of Downton Abbey. To me, the best thing about it is Maggie Smith. I would watch her paint a room!

Anonymous said...

In the UK there has been a lot of controversy about Downton Abbey which is considered to be mesmerisingly watchable but horribly flawed historically. The best book about WWI in Britain has to be 'Testament of Youth' by Vera Brittan it is non-fiction but reads like a novel. Her daughter is Dame Shirley Williams a British politician who sits in the House of Lords. 'Testament of Youth' was made into a BBC series in the late 1970s and was absolutely superb.

Anna said...

I haven't really been drawn to the Charles Todd books and your review doesn't push me toward changing my mind! Your review will be featured on War Through the Generations on May 15.

Annette said...

I've only read 1 Charles Todd book, A Duty to the Dead. I really liked it. I'm not a mystery book reader, no particular reason, just have not become adapt yet in this genre.
I am a BIG fan of Downton Abbey. It it one of the few programs on television I watch.

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