Friday, March 13, 2015

A Fine Summer's Day by Charles Todd - The Ian Rutledge Series Just Before WWI

June – December 1914 – A FINE SUMMER’S DAY

The long-awaited story of Inspector Ian Rutledge’s last case as the shadows of World War I close in on a summer memorable for its glorious weather. And of the woman he loved and wanted to marry. A must for Rutledge fans.

 Sarajevo was a Serbian town in the Balkans, a place of no particular importane to the rest of the world. A part of the Ottoman Empire for generations, it had been annexed to the Austrian Empire through the Treaty of Berlin in 1878. Not everyone was happy about that. There had been more than a little trouble over it, and the Servs had been behind a number of bloody assassinations.

Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, had come to Sarajevo on a state visit to review troops and open a museum, for God's sake, a duty hardly worthy of the honor of having a Habsburg present for the occasion. But he loved his wife, Sophie, and only in these lackluster outposts of Empire was she given the status of an equal with him. In Vienna, in the eyes of the court, a Czech countess had no standing, and so she walked well behind him, sat far from him at table, and would never be crowned Empress when he succeeded to the throne of this uncle. He'd been forced to accept a galling morganatic marriage, which branded her as unworthy of his high estate. It was only on those terms that the Emperor would permit him to choose Sophie.
And so they were together here in in Sarajevo, she in an elegant hat and gown, he in uniform, feathers in his helmet blowing in the soft breeze, to be honored and feted side by side. Only it didn't quite work out as planned...the youngest, most zealous assassin had continued to shadow the royal couple. And now he saw his chance...
The Archduke, a smile pinned to his face despite the lack of interest along the street in this part of town, froze as someone darted out toward the carriage, a dark young man in dark clothes. Almost in slow motion he saw the raised pistol in the assassin's hand...

A Fine Summer's Day:
An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery

By Charles Todd

I am always thrilled to be asked by the publisher to read and review a new, for me, author--Charles Todd. Actually, the name represents a mother/son duo who has been writing for many years with world-wide fans...

Although the time is months before WWI, and includes the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife, as the kickoff to the rumblings that started at that time. Readers are gently led through the possible pending war, just as any of us would learn...through the characters of the book and how the war might affect their lives...and only when it actually begins is there more as individual characters consider whether family members might join and fight...

"My dear," he began, and then
with a smile, he added simply,
"will you marry me, Jean?"
She put her hand to her throat.
For an instant he thought she
was going to stay no. Or ask
if she could have a few days
to think about her answer.
In the silence, all he could hear
was the murmur of bees busy
among the flowers by the steps
and the soft movement of water
among the reeds.
And then she whispered, "Yes."
In the meantime, the lead character, Ian Rutledge is both professionally and personally taking a major role as he's considering whether and when he will ask his sweetheart to marry. Then begins to realize how many issues there will be if he does... I thought of Illya--Some of you may remember the young David McCallum who played in UNCLE many years ago and now played Ducky on NCIS... who would have done a great job as Inspector Rutledge...

Especially when he is given a case that takes a totally unexpected path leading back historically while at the same time murders are happening one right after the other in the present. And it is only Ian Rutledge that even begins to see what is actually happening...

"You've been running a quiet campaign with
an eye to discrediting Simmons," Rutledge
told him then. "You personal affairs are none
of my business, but ruining the man's chances
with Miss Barclay is abuse of your authority."
Rutledge was curt. "In my view, you and Miss
Barclay deserve each other, but what you've
also done is muddy the evidence regarding
Tattersall's death. I'm going back there now,
to do what I can to sort out truth from fallacy.
Any further use of your position for personal
gain and you'll find yourself reduced to rank
of constable, if not dismissed from the police
There is an early clue for readers, but you'll probably miss it as I did...LOL... But don't worry, Rutledge goes through the mystery step by step and you will be able to watch each light-bulb go off in his thinking...

I must say that following Rutledge's thinking is a full-time job for the reader, However, the most amazing fact that sunk in at each turn was that absolutely no forensics was being done! So when a man's footprint is found outside of a window...nothing else is done...
If Rutledge's visited the scene of a crime, there was nobody calling for a CSI team to come in, take prints, search for DNA, etc.

Even more of an issue, since Rutledge is a top Scotland Yard investigator who goes in to help when local police ask for it, is that Ian had to travel from place to place without much communication--telephones were not readily available! At least Rutledge was fortunate to have an up-to-date car for his use!

"Usually an inquiry
such as this can be
closed in the first few
days. But there appear
to be no leads in your
father's death, and
Inspector Farraday
rightly saw that the
sooner the Yard was
brought in, the better."
"Inspector Rutledge, Scotland Yard. I'm sorry to intrude, but it would be helpful to speak to Miss Clayton as soon as possible, and her brothers as well."
The young man hesitated. "I'm not sure--and they've already spoken to Inspector Farraday."
"Yes, I know. But the inquiry has been turned over to the Yard. May I ask who you are?"
He flushed a little "Joseph Minton, I help out in the shop when Mr. Clayton and his son are making these pieces." He gestured vaugely around.
"Would you ask if the family will see me?" Rutledge persisted. This was one aspect of his work that he disliked, speaking to members of the family before the shock had fully worn off. "If too much time is lost, the changes of apprehending their father's murderer are slim at best."
Minton hesitated and then went back the way he'd come...the first person Rutledge saw was Mrs. Clayton, just sitting down with the awkwardness of late pregnancy, in a chair by the window. A man--clearly her husband--and a younger woman were trying to persuade her to lie down again..."I'm grateful you're here," he said, "although I was surprised that Farraday has sent for the Yard."
..."Did he do that often? Change his mind about going to bed?"
Again Peter spoke for her. "After my mother died, he seemed to miss her most at night, and he had some trouble sleeping. The warm milk was to help him with that."

Time was much more of a time factor in conducting an investigation, no matter how much Rutledge tried to move ahead. Even then, local police might decide to act on their own and, indeed, one man, with whom Rutledge had talked and dismissed, was arrested anyway. What this did was keep him tied to the decisions made at the local level while he was also investigating other murders...and slowly realizing that there are too many similarities to the murders not to look at them together. But where was the evidence? All of those killed were fine members of their communities, with no enemies known...

Except, all of those murdered had drank a glass of milk, which was later determined to be laced with laudanum... even though none of them had been prescribed it, nor was there any evidence of its being in the home.
Rutledge is tenacious and has a mind that quickly sees patterns, while his experience and expertise allows him to know and seek out individuals who may be able to answer questions to support each hypothesis.

Days and weeks away from home are required... His sister is home alone, since they are living in their parents house who were killed in recent past.  Jean, the one he loves, is the daughter of a military officer who both talk to Ian about joining the service. His sister and Melinda a close friend are both very concerned about his proposing to Jean, thinking that she will not be satisfied being married to someone in his position. I thought the same, frankly, and found her irritating...

But then I began to see the general interaction with men and women at that time! Women were not told anything about "reality" but kept close to home activities, ignored as discussions about work, the possible war, took place!

This is an extraordinary book that will greatly satisfy history lovers, as well as historical mystery lovers. I was fixated on trying to solve the mystery, but got sidetracked with the difficulties faced by police officers in the past! We must surely give those individuals much credit for ever solving a crime!

One individual who was helping Rutledge made a statement that, I thought, was just as important today as it was as the first major war had begun:

Army men see things differently, that's all. You're a thinker, Ian, you work things out in your head, and know where you're going. Military minds rush into action. It's what's leading Europe into war right now. Clearer heads didn't prevail, and now everyone wants to teach the other fellow a damned good lesson. No one has considered the thousands if not millions who are going to die, the miles of good land laid waste, the starvation and disease and cruelty that marches in an Army's wake. For God's sake, the Austrian Emperor didn't even like his heir. Now he's willing to slaughter the Russians to punish the serbs. God help us."

I wonder if we will ever have thinkers rather than military minds leading our governments across the world...

On the other hand, while I enjoyed the book, I found the overall setting and time period  much too distracting to be able to say I loved it. Guess you might say I'm a person living in the right period of time and enjoying all the methods by which information is acquired, studied, and confirmed to prove guilt or innocence... Still Ian Rutledge is a commanding, authoritative, but wonderfully likable man who certainly pulls you into his life quickly so that we care about him and his future.

I do recommend you take a look and read other reviews. The series is well-loved by many and you just might be one of those or a new fan who would love it too!


Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.

Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvelous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great-uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.

Both Caroline and Charles share a love of animals, and family pets have always been rescues. There was once a lizard named Schnickelfritz. Don’t ask.

Writing together is a challenge, and both enjoy giving the other a hard time. The famous quote is that in revenge, Charles crashes Caroline’s computer, and Caroline crashes his parties. Will they survive to write more novels together? Stay tuned! Their father/husband is holding the bets.

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