Sunday, April 7, 2019

Review: The Black Ascot by Charles Todd

The Black Ascot (Inspector Ian Rutledge, Book #21)
by Charles Todd
Release Date: February 5th 2019
2019 William Morrow
Kindle Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062678744
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

An astonishing tip from a grateful ex-convict seems implausible—but Inspector Ian Rutledge is intrigued and brings it to his superior at Scotland Yard. Alan Barrington, who has evaded capture for ten years, is the suspect in an appalling murder during Black Ascot, the famous 1910 royal horserace honoring the late King Edward VII. His disappearance began a manhunt that consumed Britain for a decade. Now it appears that Barrington has returned to England, giving the Yard a last chance to retrieve its reputation and see justice done. Rutledge is put in charge of a quiet search under cover of a routine review of a cold case.

Meticulously retracing the original inquiry, Rutledge begins to know Alan Barrington well, delving into relationships and secrets that hadn’t surfaced in 1910. But is he too close to finding his man? His sanity is suddenly brought into question by a shocking turn of events. His sister Frances, Melinda Crawford, and Dr. Fleming stand by him, but there is no greater shame than shell shock. Questioning himself, he realizes that he cannot look back. The only way to save his career—much less his sanity—is to find Alan Barrington and bring him to justice. But is this elusive murderer still in England?

My Thoughts
The Black Ascot is the 21st entry into a very interesting series, and I see no sign of stopping anytime soon, thank goodness.  This mother-son writing team have definitely created an interesting group of characters, and to keep it up for this long is quite extraordinary.  But when you hit on something good, why change, and the stories are always personal and interesting.

Because these stories occur directly after the Great War, there is so much information for the authors on which to draw, and each story is interesting in its own right, but definitely revolves around the personal struggles and frustrations of Inspector Ian Rutledge as he continues to deal with shell shock and trying to keep a job that is his only real safety line back to this world after the war.  Constantly fearful that his superiors will discover his secret, he walks a tight line every day.  And this is what draws me back to these stories again and again; this flawed character struggling to live a normal life after devastating losses during the war, attempting to make personal relationships work, all while keeping a secret that people didn't really understand during this time period.  It can really be heartbreaking at times.

The plot, yet again, sends Rutledge around England searching for clues, but his driving around to different areas is one of the things I love about this series.  He runs into so many different, and rather quirky characters, that I look forward to his meanderings, always wondering what, and who, he is going to run into.  The procedural work is so different from modern murder mysteries considering the lack of communication and I rather like that.  I feel the authors have done a great job at maintaining authentic settings, moods, attitudes, and reactions in their work which makes me feel like I am sometimes there with Rutledge, feeling his frustration and his indignation.  He can be rather quiet, but boy, he can forceful when he wants to be and I love it when that happens.

And no matter what, the impact of the war is always there, the authors giving few explanations, just details, allowing you to judge for yourself what is happening or not happening.  There are definitely underlying themes at play, but they are subtle and require some thought; friendship, alliances, loyalty, judgement, betrayal, and so on.  

The Black Ascot may not be the best book in this series, but it definitely holds it own with an interesting plot and a lot of quirky characters.  The relationships between all the characters was a bit complicated, but I liked the twists and turns, and I definitely liked the aspect that all secrets will eventually out themselves; kind of makes me wonder what is in store for our esteemed Inspector in the future.  While this could be read on its own, I do recommend that you begin at the beginning as there are lots of relationships being built as well as names tossed around with the assumption to having read the previous books.