Review: Tales: Short Stories Featuring Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford by Charles Todd

tales by charles toddFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: historical mystery
Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge, Bess Crawford
Length: 192 pages
Publisher: Witness Impulse
Date Released: July 21, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Now published together for the first time: Charles Todd’s absorbing short stories—”The Kidnapping,” “The Girl on the Beach,” “Cold Comfort,” and “The Maharani’s Pearls”—featuring everyone’s favorite Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge and intrepid battlefield nurse Bess Crawford. These vibrant tales transport readers from the home front in Great Britain where ominous clouds of war will soon lead to the trenches of France, to the bloody front lines where Lieutenant Rutledge must risk his life to save his men. And finally to the exotic, dangerous India of Bess Crawford’s youth. Together they create a fascinating glimpse into the extraordinary backgrounds of two of mystery’s most popular characters.

My Review:

This collection of stories makes a great introduction to Charles Todd’s two completely different protagonists – the professional police officer Ian Rutledge, and the amateur detective but professional nurse Bess Crawford.

All of the stories take place in the World War I and immediate post-war period, so if you have an interest in that period, whether courtesy of Downton Abbey or not, these are great people to explore with.

maharanis pearls by charles toddEspecially since two of the stories in this series, the Ian Rutledge story Cold Comfort and the Bess Crawford story The Maharani’s Pearls, serve as prequels to their respective series.

Bess Crawford is a trained nurse who serves all too near the front lines during the war. Bess is in some ways a special case. Her father, often referred to as the Colonel Sahib, is a career officer who served in India, and continues to serve in some super-secret capacity during WWI. Though her connections to her father, Bess is sometimes able to circumvent authority, or at least drag more information out of it than it wants dragged. She also has a more thorough knowledge of how the Army works (and doesn’t) through her years following her father’s many postings.

The story The Maharani’s Pearls is a case in point. This story takes place during Bess’ childhood in India, and could be said to be her first case. It explores the relationships between the British military and the local population, and showcases Bess’ early talent for detection as well as subterfuge. When I picked this collection, I didn’t realize that I had read and reviewed The Maharani’s Pearls last summer.

cold comfort by charles toddCold Comfort, while it is listed as #16.5 in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series, is also a sort of prequel. The series as a whole takes place in the post-war years, where Inspector Rutledge, after his military service, returns to his pre-war police career after a hard-fought recovery from shell-shock. However, the story in Cold Comfort takes place during the war, when Lieutenant Ian Rutledge is serving in France. He has to use his detection skills to figure out just why two Welsh sappers are so intent on killing one Manchester miner, to the point where they are willing to blow up their own side in the process. This is a case where Rutledge uses his skill and intuition to figure out the very civilian motive for all of the skullduggery that is concealed within the ranks.

The other stories in this book, The Kidnapping and The Girl on the Beach, show their respective detectives in their more usual settings. The Girl on the Beach, the Bess Crawford story, is particularly good at showing the way that Bess often inveigles herself into investigations that should be none of her business. One of the things I particularly liked about this one was the police detective who finds himself working with Bess almost without realizing he is doing it. Bess, of course, does contribute to the solution, but the fun thing for me in this story was that the description and mannerisms of the police detective reminded me very much of Christopher Foyle in Foyle’s War. Admittedly, Foyle actually served in the Army in WWI, but the detective still felt and acted like him.

In The Kidnapping we see that Inspector Rutledge’s faculties are firmly back on track after his recovery from shell shock, but that his career still needs some healing. He’s stuck on night duty because he has so little seniority, and his seniors are unhappy that he manages to solve a very sensitive case without their help.

Escape Rating B+: These are all great stories in their respective series. The Maharani’s Pearls and Cold Comfort would make excellent introductions to their series for anyone who loves historical mysteries or historical fiction in this period. We are able to see the characters start, and then in the later stories we see how far they have come since those beginnings.

If you’ve never dived into either of these series, this collection is a great place to start. And it certainly whet my appetite for the new Bess Crawford book, A Pattern of Lies, which I’ll be reviewing at the end of the week.


***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd + Excerpt + Giveaway

hunting shadows by charles toddFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: mystery, historical mystery
Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge #16
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: William Morrow
Date Released: January 21, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A dangerous case with ties leading back to the battlefields of World War I dredges up dark memories for Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge in Hunting Shadows, a gripping and atmospheric historical mystery set in 1920s England, from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd.

A society wedding at Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire becomes a crime scene when a man is murdered. After another body is found, the baffled local constabulary turns to Scotland Yard. Though the second crime had a witness, her description of the killer is so strange its unbelievable.

Despite his experience, Inspector Ian Rutledge has few answers of his own. The victims are so different that there is no rhyme or reason to their deaths. Nothing logically seems to connect them—except the killer. As the investigation widens, a clear suspect emerges. But for Rutledge, the facts still don’t add up, leaving him to question his own judgment.

In going over the details of the case, Rutledge is reminded of a dark episode he witnessed in the war. While the memory could lead him to the truth, it also raises a prickly dilemma. To stop a murderer, will the ethical detective choose to follow the letter—or the spirit—of the law?

My Review:

Hunting Shadows is a fascinating mystery that combines a search for “whodunnit” along with a surprisingly twisty trail leading to “why did they do it”. The struggle in this story is to make sense out of two crimes that seemingly don’t, until they suddenly, and chillingly, do.

This story starts out as a seemingly traditional mystery; we see the crime, but don’t know who the perpetrator is. It looks like the mystery will be the hunt for the killer. But it’s not that simple. He strikes again, and the second victim seems to have no relationship to the first. Except in the mind of whoever shot them both, using the tools and the training of a military sniper.

The combined crimes stump the local constabulary, and Inspector Ian Rutledge is called from Scotland Yard to Cambridgeshire. He arrives and promptly gets lost in both a meteorological and a metaphorical fog.

There are plenty of reasons why someone might want the first victim dead. Captain Hutchinson was a man who did his best to ingratiate himself with the most important people in any room. His problem was that he was just a touch obvious and his charm wore thin on close acquaintance.

It’s even possible to find a motive for the murder of Herbert Smith, the local Tory candidate for Parliament. But there doesn’t seem to be anyone who reasonably, or even unreasonably, wanted them both dead.

Especially not someone with sniper training. That points to a motive left over from the war, and that particular dish of revenge has gone very cold by the time this story takes place in 1920.

Investigation determines that Smith and Hutchinson did not serve together, and they don’t even seem to have known anyone who served with both of them.

But the war and its aftermath are still all too present. Every household lost too many of its young men. Even for those who survived, like Rutledge, the war altered their lives irrevocably. Rutledge manages to successfully investigate murder, sometimes in spite of and sometimes because of the PTSD that he still endures.

In this case, he is under pressure to find the killer quickly. His superiors want a fast result for the murder of a candidate for MP. But when Rutledge finally has a suspect who fits the crimes, he can’t make himself believe that the (relatively) easy solution is the correct one.

His slightly unorthodox methods, combined with intelligence and utterly dogged persistence, finally reach the guilty party.

Escape Rating A-: This series is a marvelous addition to the growing amount of historical fiction and mysteries that cover the World War I and post-war period. For anyone who has fallen in love with this era because of Downton Abbey, the Rutledge series provides a fresh perspective into the post-war life of a much bigger cross-section of people.

Rutledge survived his war, but his shell-shock makes the war an experience that he will carry with him forever. Through him we can see the changes that the war made on the people who served, and through his investigations, the impact on those left behind.

This is a mystery for those who want to see the details of the investigation, but also how the investigator uses his intuition and knowledge to determine the truth. There are no forensic miracles in Rutledge’s 1920, he solves his case with brains and a LOT of legwork.

We follow, and we see everything he sees, both about the case and about life in the Fen country at a time when the old customs were breaking down, but had not yet broken.

Even though Hunting Shadows is the 16th book in this series, it is also a great place to start following Inspector Rutledge’s cases. This is a mystery to savor, and I’m glad there are lots more to read.


The publisher has generously offered 3 hardcover copies of Hunting Shadows in this giveaway! This giveaway is open to the US and Canada. To enter just fill out the Rafflecopter.
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To read an excerpt from the first chapter, check below the fold.

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