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Hunting Shadows
Ian Rutledge Mystery #16
Charles Todd

William Morrow
January 21, 2014/ ISBN 9780062298546
Historical Mystery / England

Reviewed by Elise Cooper


Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd, the mother-son writing team, once again has Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge attempting to solve a murder case. Their books are part historical novels and part gripping thrillers that are always character based. Readers who live in the technology age should find it fascinating how the protagonists must solve the crimes by studying human character and behavior and not with DNA or forensic evidence.

The plot begins when a sniper shoots a former British captain during a wedding at Ely Cathedral. As the investigation widens a political candidate is also gunned down, with a witness claiming the shooter a monster. Because of the double murder, Scotland Yard becomes involved and sends Ian Rutledge to investigate. This tale becomes very complicated and complex as there are a number of twists regarding the suspects.

As in all Todd novels they explore different issues of the WWI era. Through the voice of a dead comrade, Corporal Hamish, shell shock, known today as PTSD, is examined along with the attitude towards snipers. Besides the subject of soldiers scarred by war readers are able to learn how young single women were doomed to spinsterhood due to the large number of men lost in the war.

The Todds stated, “We put the quote about snipers, ‘I wasn’t ashamed of what I did. It saved lives, my skill,’ because in pre Viet Nam wars snipers were not looked upon favorably. Many of the British, during WWI, despised snipers including their own. It wasn’t sporting to kill by sniping. It was not considered gentlemanly, shooting a man from ambush. The attitude was not like it is today where the sniper skill is recognized as doing a service for their fellow teammates. In fact, in 1920 snipers lied to people on what they did in the war because of the shame.”

The setting takes on an importance as it becomes vital to the plot. Through the vast descriptions, the reader feels as if they were in Rutledge’s motorcar. The creaking windmill in the low-lying Fens along with the fog and heavy rain makes the mystery eerier. The authors noted that they do extensive research including, “traveling to England at least once a year. For this book we went to the Cathedral to scope out where the sniper could hide as he killed. We wanted to find villages that were isolated which would fit into the storyline. The landscape was very important to the plot.”

They gave a heads up about their next book, due out in the summer. It will be a Bess Crawford novel, An Unwilling Accomplice. Bess is on leave from her duties in France and is asked to take a wounded soldier to the palace for a medal awards ceremony. After the ceremony her charge disappears and she is blamed. This leads to her having to prove that she is not in any way involved in the conspiracy leading to his disappearance.

Hunting Shadows is cleverly written. The reader is led down one path only to find through the many twists that there are other possibilities. The story is very riveting and informative that will keep people’s attention throughout.

Reviews of other titles in this series

A Test of Wills, 1   [reviews]
A False Mirror, No 7   [review]
A Long Shadow, 8   [review]
A Pale Horse, 10   [review]
A Matter of Justice, 11  [review 1] [review 2]
The Confession, 14   [review 1] [review 2]
Hunting Shadows, 16 [review 1 ] [review 2]

Reviewed 2014