Saturday, March 6, 2021

Review: A Fatal Lie by Charles Todd

by Charles Todd
Release Date: February 16th 2021
2021 William Morrow
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062905574
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

A peaceful Welsh village is thrown into turmoil when a terrified boy stumbles on a body in a nearby river. The man appears to have fallen from the canal aqueduct spanning the valley. But there is no identification on the body, he isn’t a local, and no one will admit to having seen him before. With little to go on, the village police turn to Scotland Yard for help.  

 When Inspector Ian Rutledge is sent from London to find answers, he is given few clues—a faded military tattoo on the victim’s arm and an unusual label in the collar of his shirt. They eventually lead him to the victim’s identity: Sam Milford. By all accounts, he was a good man and well-respected. Then, why is his death so mysterious? Looking for the truth, Rutledge uncovers a web of lies swirling around a suicidal woman, a child’s tragic fate, another woman bent on protecting her past. But where among all the lies is the motive for murder?  

My Thoughts
A Fatal Lie is the next entry in the wonderful Inspector Rutledge series, and despite this being the twenty-third book, it is still going strong.  This entry takes us into Wales, a small peaceful village, at the foot of a major aqueduct, and I found the story to be rather intriguing.  As always, there were a lot of twists and turns, many red herrings, fascinating motives, and I was not sure until the end as to what was going on, having changed my mind quite often throughout the book.  I love it when an author (or authors, in this case, as Charles Todd is a mother-son writing duo) I have read so frequently is able to still to do this, despite being familiar with their writing.  

First of all, I adore Inspector Rutledge as a main character.  I have followed his journey since the first book was published all those years ago and I have enjoyed his character development and his growth over the years.  For those readers not familiar with this series, Rutledge suffers from shell shock, although I will not share too much about the details as it is revealed as you go through the books, but he has to keep it secret from his superiors or he could love is job.  He spends a large amount of time worrying about others discovering his secret as he slips into episodes quite frequently and is never sure that he would be along when he does.  I am fascinated by how the authors have approached this situation and have always thought they dealt with it honestly, but with sympathy, allowing the reader to empathize with Rutledge without feeling sorry for him.  I have become protective over him as if he was one of my own children, if that makes any sense.
You would think by the twenty-third book you would become familiar with the writing style and catch on far more quickly to who was responsible for the deed, but despite having read every book, plus the Bess Crawford books, this one sort of stumped me.  I enjoyed the journey, knowing it would be twisty, and loved the descriptions of the towns and villages in the area.  I even looked up the aqueduct online as I couldn't quite picture it, and it is quite a feat of engineering.  After seeing the pictures, I totally understand why Rutledge was afraid as he walked across the thing.  The mystery was quite convoluted and I even wondered, at times, how the authors were going to pull it off as it seemed like there was just one dead end after another, but they managed to do so, and quite credibly too. 
The authors have this type of writing style that doesn't just immerse you into the mystery, but makes you care about the characters even if you are not fond of them.  There were times when I was hoping it was not so-and-so because their lives were already so difficult. There is always a lot of information given about how people are coping after the Great War and I always enjoy that aspect of these books, especially as I teach history.   

A Fatal Lie was a book about betrayal, honesty, trust, and family, and what happens when you break that trust.  I like how the authors delve into the emotions of the mystery / case, and really focus on how the murder affects everyone, not just the person's immediate family.  There was definitely something behind the scenes going on though that I couldn't quite figure out, something that had to do with Scotland Yard, but it looks like we will have to wait until the next instalment before we find out more about that.  While you don't necessarily have to start at the beginning to enjoy this book, you will get a more well-rounded idea of what is going on with Rutledge and the people he loves if you start at the beginning.  Happy reading!!