I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Test of Wills by Charles Todd

In this first Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery, he has just returned a shell shocked veteran of World War I who hears the voice of one of the men he served with, Hammish, in his head whenever he gets stressed.  In an effort to save his sanity he hopes to drown himself in his work and soon finds himself being set up on a case that could ruin his career.

A Colonel in the British Army whose estate is called Mallows, his found with his head blown off by a shotgun in his fields after his horse returns covered in blood.  The problem is everyone seemed to like the Colonel.  The only man who didn't, Mavers, a malcontent who preaches communism and the oppression of the landowners, has an alibi.  He was in the village square all morning yelling to anyone who could hear his rhetoric. 

The night before the Colonel's murder, a Captain in the British Air Force, Mark Wilton, who is supposed to marry the Colonel's ward, Miss Lettice Wood, has a heated argument and slams the door on his way out with the Colonel screaming "I'll see you in hell first".  The next morning, an hung-over shell shocked veteran witnesses the two arguing with each other in the field.  The problem is, the Captain was awarded the Victoria Cross and is a friend of the royal court.  Arresting him would cause a lot of problems and would likely end Rutledge's career. 

Rutledge worries continuously that his knack for being able to figure out why a person died and therefore leading him to the killer, that he had before the war, is gone.  He can't figure out who exactly the Colonel is or who would want to kill him.  And the word of a drunk, shell shocked vet, isn't worth much in court. 

The only other suspects are Wilton's cousin, Mrs. Davenant, who might have wanted Mark for herself, a local artist, Miss Turrant, whose love affair with a German during the war ended badly perhaps in part to the Colonel, and the mysterious cousins who live in the cottage next to the Mallows estate.  One is a bird watcher who saw Milton on the day in question in an area close to where the road to Mallows was, and the other cousin is an extremely shy recluse.   Also, there's Royston, the man who runs Mallows, who may a secret he doesn't want coming to light.

None of these suspects seem really plausible and the Inspector feels as though he is clutching at straws.  He begins to doubt his sanity and his abilities as a detective, as Hammish babbles in the back of his head, and he tries not to answer him aloud, so that no one my know his secret.  This book is fascinating in that it offers a unique view into the mind of former soldier suffering from shell shock, who is trying to overcome it without resorting to suicide, by delving into a murder that could easily end his career.  I can't wait to read the next one! 

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Test-Wills-Inspector-Rutledge-Mysteries/dp/0062091611/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1461692118&sr=1-1&keywords=a+test+of+wills

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