The Audio Publishers Association promotes June as Audiobook Month. Last week, when we had to drive up in separate cars, I couldn’t even think about the drive without planning for an audiobook. I never drive long distance without one. The question was, which one?
I was in the middle of a mystery, A Test of Wills by Charles Todd. It’s the first book in his/her/their Inspector Ian Rutledge series. (Charles Todd is a pseudonym for a mother-and-son writing team) There was no question that I was going to either finish the CDs before I left Florida, or I was going to copy the thing to my iPod and finish on the road. I finished on the road.
By the time I decided to return everything to the library, I only had 2 discs left, so I needed a second book for the 6-hour trip. I chose An Impartial Witness, the second book in Todd’s Bess Rutledge series as my next selection, and purchased it from Audible.com. I had already read A Duty to the Dead, the first book in the series, and found it excellent, so I was looking forward to continuing Bess’ story.
Both books were appropriate choices for the Memorial Day weekend, as well as just plain good books. The Todds series are historical mysteries, focusing on the World War I era in England. Bess Rutledge serves as a nurse or, as they were called in England during that period, a nursing sister, with the British Army. Her father is a retired Colonel still doing classified work for the military, and Bess and her mother have “followed the drum”, going with her father to his various postings around the British Raj. From her travels and her own profession, she has acquired a much broader and less prejudiced viewpoint than would be typical of her race and class at that time. Her nursing experience, and the disruption brought about by the Great War, cause her to get involved with people and circumstances she might not otherwise, and bring her into contact with potential crimes, as well as potential spying and put her life in danger at home as well as from bombing near the front.
Inspector Ian Rutledge survived his war, just barely. Rutledge is the victim of shell-shock, what we now call post-traumatic stress disorder. He was an officer during World War I, but before the war, he was a police inspector, solving homicides. He has returned to Scotland Yard in the hope that returning to his old job will help keep the quite literal voices in his head from hounding him into bedlam. He is uncertain if he retains enough of his old skills to perform his old job, and he is handed a case deliberately designed to trip him up. But coming face to face with his own demons turns out to be just the boost he needs.
So, on Memorial Day I listened to mysteries during wartime. I admit, I didn’t see the symmetry until afterwards. I was looking for compelling stories, and I found them.