A Test of Wills
by Charles Todd
Category: Fiction / Historical
282 pages; ISBN: 0-7472-5737-X
Rating: 8/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Nigel Utting
It is 1919, and Inspector Ian Rutledge, shell-shocked and psychologically damaged, returns to Scotland yard to resume his career. In a desperate gamble to salvage his sanity, Rutledge accepts his first assignment: a contentious case involving the murder of a highly-respected Army officer in a quiet Warwickshire village.
In sleepy Upper Streetham, Colonel Harris, a survivor of two wars, is violently murdered whilst on his regular morning ride. The prime suspect is Captain Wilton, recipient of the Victoria Cross from the King`s own hand, and a friend of the Prince of Wales. Knowing full well that the police officer who proves Wilton to have been the murderer will have effectively destroyed his own career, Scotland Yard sends Ian Rutledge to investigate the case.
Desperately concealing from his superiors the fact that he is suffering from shell-shock, and with only a faltering grip on his own sanity after the carnage of the Great War, Rutledge soon realises the role which he has been assigned - that of scapegoat. More disturbing still, he discovers that the prime witness is a man much like himself: shell-shocked, war-damaged and shunned by the community for "lack of moral fibre", "a drunken, half-mad coward".
From here on, the author teases out the passions, suspicions, the hidden stories of the village`s inhabitants. All of this is set against a well-crafted background of country life in the second decade of the century, complete with the outlook, attitudes and social hierarchy of the time. The innocence of 1914 has gone for ever, and the world is struggling with the aftermath of war. Rutledge`s character is believable, as is his relationship with the local policemen.
One of the hallmarks of a satisfying thriller is the quiet, almost unnoticed, introduction of facts and characters whose importance only surfaces later in the story. There are sufficient such introductions, all expertly developed, to make this book a thoroughly good read.
The ending is satisfying, and the identity of the murderer is wholly unexpected.
Recommended. Look for further books by this author.
Buy A Test of Wills at amazon.co.uk
Buy A Test of Wills at amazon.com