Todd, Charles - 'A Fine Summers Day'
The ominous signs leading up to World War I are building, including the assassination of an archduke in the Balkans and the daily newspapers are filled with the blackest of news but despite all of this a twnety-three-year-old newly promoted Inspector at Scotland Yard, Ian Rutledge is very optimistic as he hopes to propose marriage to the woman that he loves. His closest family are not so enthusiastic and believe that she is not the wisest choice. Ian's family are all solicitors but he decided that he wanted to become a policeman after university and after several years hard work at lower rankings he had finally been promoted. His new fiancée’s family are not impressed with his chosen profession, as they are all upper class and feel that he may be rather lower in social standing than them.
Chief Superintendent Bowles, his superior at the Yard has ordered him to go to Dorchester, Dorset where there had been a murder and the local man had felt that he could not cope and had called in Scotland Yard. Rutledge has his own private motor car and was able to drive there. Rutledge discovers that the deceased man died from hanging and that his relations could not understand why he would kill himself. After some detailed analysis of the circumstances and questioning all who knew the deceased Rutledge feels he cannot proceed any further and returns to London.
In London, Rutledge's new fiancée, who is the daughter of a military man is trying to persuade him that he should join up and serve his country in its hour of need as so many other young people are doing but Ian has his case to think about and can't put off solving it. There is also a background of dire political events in the daily news and many of Rutledge's fellow detectives are resigning and joining up.
Back at Scotland Yard, Rutledge hears of a cemetery that has had many grave headstones desecrated for no apparent reason and he journeys out to examine the scene which seems to be completely haphazard in the choice of headstone to vandalise. Rutledge hears of another death, in a farmhouse, where the victim had been stabbed with a pitchfork and the incident had been made to look like suicide but it was obvious that it must have been murder. He also investigates a handful of other deaths all around the country that are made to look like suicide. Back at the Yard, Rutledge's superior, Chief Superintendent Bowles is urging him to accept the evidence as suicides and get on with investigating something else. However, Rutledge is adamant that all of the suspicious deaths that over the space of a couple of weeks he has had to investigate died from the influence of a third party. It takes a lot of detailed research before the connecting factor between all of these deaths can be discovered. Once it is the book hurtles on to its dramatic conclusion.
'Charles Todd' is a pen name used by the American authors Caroline and Charles Todd. This mother-and-son writing partnership live in the eastern USA and have used their writing partnership to co-author some twenty-five historical mystery books up to the present date. This book is extremely well researched for the 1914 period and for example I was surprised at how few telephones were available to the public at that time. Rutledge is unable to telephone London from Dorchester for that reason. A national telephone service was not available until the 1920s.
This story was a prequel to the many fine stories that have been published that feature Scotland Yard Detective Ian Rutledge. I have read a couple of the earlier ones some years ago and as this one was such a great pleasure to read - with its unusual plot - that once I got past about the second page I just could not put it down until the final page. I really must buy some of the other ones. Well recommended.
Terry Halligan, England