Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Black Ascot by Charles Todd

First Sentence:  Ascot this year was very different from Ascots of the past.
Inspector Ian Rutledge saves the life of a man who is suffering from shell shock and threatening to commit suicide.  In turn, the man gives him a tip that Alan Barrington, a man who was suspected of committing murder during the Black Ascot horse race 10 years previous, is back in England.  When Rutledge's own sanity is called into question, after many years of hiding his suffering from shell shock, he realizes he must solve the Black Ascot murder case or lose everything important to him.
Todd balances the personal and professional sides of Rutledge very well, showing that his approach to the law is sympathetic, but not weak or naïve.  He also doesn't make assumptions or jump to conclusions.  The explanation of Hamish is succinct but sufficient enough to understand Ian's tendency for self-imposed reticence toward becoming close to others.  One finds it sympathy-inducing while being drawn to the character.
An encounter with a female journalist, and a suspenseful nighttime adventure, truly sets the story on its way, yet Todd is also very good at creating a vivid sense of place—"He stopped in front of a handsome three-story building that spoke of Empire, a baroque gem between two staid brick edifices that spoke of Understated Wealth. … The knocker on the door was heavy brass and made a satisfyingly substantial sound as it struck the plate beneath."
 No matter the war, the impact and damage to those who fought, visible or not, is always there, and Todd's offering something of an explanation is very well done and quite moving:  "He won't tell me about his war."  "None of us do.  It isn't something to share, you see."  "What we've seen, what we've done, ought to stay in France.  But it didn't, it came home in our memories.  They aren't memories we want you to know. You are the world we fought for.  Safe and sane and not ugly.  Better to keep it that way."
There is an unexpected and dramatic twist, with various scenarios and conjectures presented by Ian, that allows us to see his thought process.  With the help of Ian's friend Melinda Crawford, the pieces begin to fit and the circle closes. 
One may be somewhat conflicted about this book.  The relationships of the characters involved in the murder are a bit complicated and can become muddled.   There is a lot of to-ing and fro-ing which gets a bit tiresome, but we are taken along on every step of the investigation as it happens up until the end where some information is withheld from the reader.  Although perhaps not the strongest book in the series, it is several of the characters which make it particularly enjoyable.
"The Black Ascot" concludes very well and with an explanation which makes everything clear.  This is such a good series, and one to continue reading. 
The BLACK ASCOT (HistMys-Insp. Ian Rutledge-England-1910/1921) - VG
      Todd, Charles – 21st in series
      William Morrow – Feb 2019

1 comment:

  1. I really like the way this series (and their other series) captures the post-WWI atmosphere. In my view, they've really 'done the homework,' and convey place and time (and character) quite well. Glad you enjoyed this.