Review: A Test of Wills (Inspector Ian Rutledge #1) by Charles Todd

In 1919, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge remains haunted by World War I, where he was forced to have a soldier executed for refusing to fight. When Rutledge is assigned to investigate a murder involving the military, his emotional war wounds flare. It is a case that strikes dangerously close to home–one that will test Rutledge’s precarious grip on his own sanity.

Oh dear… Another book I’d heard such good things about but found that it failed to hit the mark for me.

I think that there were fundamental issues with the characterisations in this novel that made me not give a fat rat’s arse about what happened to anyone. Rutledge himself was probably the only one I felt any vague sort of connection to, but his character doesn’t really lend himself to being liked.

As a mystery, it was slow going, taking far too long and becoming far too repetitive. There’s only so long that you want to have the detective umming and ahhing and going over the same problems over and over. In fact, this book has around 300 pages of Rutledge doing just that, with the ending and solution coming in the remaining 5 pages. That, to me, does not a good crime novel make.

Hamish, who is the voice of a soldier Rutledge executed for cowardice during WWI, that spends 99% of his time making snarky comments, could have been used far more effectively. On top of that, auditory hallucinations DON’T work like that. There are ways the authors could have made his existence more plausible or given him more purpose to the story, and perhaps they do in the rest of the series, but Hamish was pretty much useless here.

Honestly, if I hadn’t heard such good things about this series and thought perhaps the story might get a move on somewhen, I wouldn’t have finished. I’m very disappointed in the ending, which I found deeply unsatisfying. And what the hell was Bowles’ deal!? Basically, the book does this neat tidy conclusion in 5 pages, then ends with Bowles twirling his moustache and doing his very best Scooby Doo villain impersonation. It was ridiculous.

I’m going to give it 2.5 stars, because I’m hoping for the series’ sake that this first novel is just a dodgy one, but I doubt I’ll be bothered to pick up the next book. There’s way better historical crime fiction out there. And hey, I did finish it, so that is something. Where in my previous book, I finished with a “fuck YEAH!”, this one finished on a “meh.”

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