First Sentence: It was a way of daring Fate.
Inspector Rutledge receives a call sending him to a village in Sussex where the local rector apparently lost control of the motor car he was driving and was killed. There are more questions raised than answers found: the rector wasn’t driving his car, nor had he asked the owner’s permission, and his death wasn’t a result of the accident itself. The further Rutledge digs, the more he believes the rector’s death was a case of mistaken identity. So who was supposed to die, and why?
The ability of Todd to place one immediately within a scene is such an admirable skill. Beyond that, the very effectively conveys the effects of war on those who served—“There are those who came home to forget, hoping to outrun the past. I’ve seen them, drinking too much, dancing all night, brittle, seeking oblivion. The rest of us haven’t found our place yet. It isn’t a world we recognize, and we don’t feel we’re a part of it.”
Todd excels at providing small details of both events and characters without those details being overdone or intrusive. Once gets to know even the minor characters of ever social strata and each is so distinct, that there’s never a sense of needing a cast of characters to prevent one from being confused. There is a lovely connection between Rutledge’s friend Melinda Crawford and Bess Crawford of Todd’s other series. Melinda is also a delightful character and provides a bit of lightness to the story. It’s nice to have a character who knows Rutledge personally and refers to him by his first name—“Do sit down, Ian. It’s not your fault that you inherited your father’s height, but I’m getting a pain in my neck looking up at you.”
For those who follow the series, the voice of Hamish, the soldier Rutledge had to shoot for cowardice, is still here, but Todd gives us well-done new characters as well. He provides plenty of background details that add dimension and explanations to Rutledge’s actions, such as his transition from a bicycle, to trains, to finally owning his own motor car, although one does wonder at his always being able to find petrol so easily.
“Racing the Devil” has a very effective escalation of suspense, and well-done plot twists with the case being solved by sheer dogged pursuit and a bit of luck.
RACING THE DEVIL (Hist Mys-Insp. Ian Rudgledge-England-1920) – VG+
Todd, Charles – 19th in series
William Morrow – February 2017