A Divided Loyalty by Charles Todd: A review

This is the twenty-second entry in Charles Todd's historical fiction series featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge. It's been a quality series throughout and this latest one is really one of the best in my opinion.

It begins, as always, with Inspector Rutledge being sent to a small village to solve a murder, this time of an unknown young woman. But, unlike the usual plots, Rutledge gets lucky and solves the case quickly. He gives a name to the woman and identifies her unexpected murderer and heads back to London.

Arriving at Scotland Yard, he finds that his boss, the odious Chief Superintendent Jameson, is pleased with his quick resolution to the case but unhappy about another ongoing case. Another unknown young woman had been found murdered at Avebury, her body found among the ancient standing stones there. Rutledge's colleague Chief Inspector Brian Leslie had been sent to investigate but he had found nothing but dead ends. He wasn't even able to name the woman and his report to Scotland Yard left the case unsolved. Now, Ian Rutledge is the Yard's go-to guy for solving difficult cases, so his boss sends him out again, this time to Avebury to finally solve Leslie's cold case.

Tracing Leslie's footsteps, Rutledge finds nothing to criticize in the way the investigation had been conducted. It seems to have been very thorough. But in questioning the villagers, Rutledge's famous intuition kicks in and he begins to find clues that might have been overlooked or ignored by the earlier investigator. Eventually, those clues lead him to what he considers to be an impossible solution, one that would draw the wrath of Jameson and probably see the end of his Scotland Yard career.

The writing duo of Charles Todd excels at painting character studies and through these studies, a clear image of postwar village life soon begins to emerge. It is 1921 and England still reels under the aftermath of the Great War, even as Ian Rutledge still reels under the effects of the shell shock he suffered as a result of his experiences in the battle of the Somme. The economy of the country has been shattered and unemployed former soldiers roam the countryside looking for whatever work they can find. There is a dearth of the male population, as one woman remarks, "we lost more men than we got back." And, of course, even though the men suffered the brunt of the battle losses, many women had died as well from influenza or from Zeppelin raids. At one point in his investigation, as he tries to learn the identity of the Avebury victim, Rutledge goes to Victoria Station to search among unclaimed women's valises and is appalled at the number of them. What had happened to all these women to cause them to be unable to claim their luggage? Rutledge concludes that death and destruction had crept into everyone's life. 

In the end, Rutledge follows his investigation where the clues lead and begins to acknowledge that his "impossible solution" may be the correct one. Then Todd gives us an unexpected twist that ties up all those dangling loose ends and delivers an emotional punch. 

This plot was well-constructed and the pace of it kept me turning the pages to try to discover just what that last clue might mean. The only criticism I might make is that some of the repetition of Rutledge's war experiences and his regrets are more than staid for those of us who have read all the books, although I guess I can understand the writer's need to include them for those who may have read none of them. Also, a lot of time is spent on describing Ian's road trips and his endless search for a place to spend the night. But these are only minor quibbles.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars  

Comments

  1. Twenty two book seems like a lot. It is impressive that quality has stayed high.

    This sounds good especially because the war experiences of the character is integrated.

    I would always read the series from the beginning.

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    Replies
    1. I always like to read from the beginning as well. I've been reading this series for several years and most of the books have been very good. Only a couple of them have been somewhat disappointing.

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  2. I think it is wonderful when an author is able to keep writing at the level she began at or better.

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    Replies
    1. The quality of writing in this series has remained high throughout, although certainly some books are better than others.

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  3. There you go. Some series just go on and on with enjoyment in every book.

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    Replies
    1. Yep. I haven't enjoyed all of them as much as this one but they've all been up there on the scale of enjoyment.

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