Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Book Review: A Test of Wills by Charles Todd (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries #1)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Interesting main character
Cons: Darker than I wanted; weak plotting
The Bottom Line:
War hero’s murder
Gives us a dark first entry
That has weak plotting

I Don’t Believe I Will Read More in This Series

I’ve heard of the mother/son writing team Charles Todd for years, and I’ve heard their books praised.  I suspected their books weren’t for me, but I finally got curious enough that I decided to give A Test of Wills, their first, a change.

The year in 1919, and Inspector Ian Rutledge has returned from his time leading soldiers in the Great War.  Before the war, Rutledge was good at his job solving crime for Scotland Yard, but things have changed after the war, and he is unsure of himself now.

Still, he’s been assigned to his first big case back.  Colonel Harris was shot on his estate in the English countryside, and the local police have asked for Scotland Yard to come in and take over the investigation.  When Rutledge arrives, he quickly learns that the most logical suspect is another war hero with ties to the Royal Family.  Despite the potential political ramifications of the case, Rutledge does his best to investigate.  However, no one in the community can find any negative words to say about the colonel.  Will Rutledge find the truth?

I had suspected these books might be darker than my normal choices.  I was right.  This isn’t a slight on the authors, however, there were some things that really bothered me.  Rutledge has returned from the war damaged.  We learn that early on, but we don’t learn the reason until later in the book in a powerful scene.  There are some other characters we meet along the way who are reacting horribly to tragedy.  All of this is realistic, but it gets to be a bit much as the book goes along.  However, there was one character whose damage was too much for me.

On the other hand, it does make for some fascinating characters.  I was drawn into the story because Rutledge is an intriguing character.  We want to see him succeed, and spending time with him, even with his issues, is interesting.  Or maybe it is interesting because of his issues.  As the investigation progresses, we slowly begin to learn more about the suspects, and we can’t help but care for many of them as well.

Which brings us to the plot.  Honestly, this is the biggest weakness of the book.  After an initially interesting setup, the investigation stalls.  Even though Rutledge also feels the frustration, it really doesn’t help us.  We’re stuck in place for a while until Rutledge finally begins to piece some things together.  I was impressed with his deductions, but the climax, when it comes, is too abrupt and rushed.  While it does make logical sense, it also induces whiplash.

Since I was curious about the series, I’m glad I gave A Test of Wills a chance.  However, I don’t plan to return and find out what happens next to Inspector Rutledge.


  1. At least you enjoyed this overall

  2. What a shame that you didn't love this more!

    Thanks for sharing your review with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge!


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