by Charles Todd is a vintage novel. This mother/son team returns
to the scenario that made them so well read. They have an
action packed plot with characters that are intensely well
liked or disliked. As in all their books, many of the characters
bear the internal and external scars of the War. World War
I becomes a reality with its impact on the English society
The setting places a prominent role in the book because it
adds to the powerful plot. The Todds noted, "We wanted
to write a story around this setting. As we came up with a
plot it was like solving a puzzle, putting in what fits and
taking out what doesn't."
The book begins with a group of English officers promising
to return after the war to meet in Paris to race their motorcars
to Nice. In 1919 that promise becomes a reality until serious
mishaps mar the reunion when two vehicles are nearly run off
the road. Nothing comes of it until one year later when another
mishap with a car kills the rector of a village of Burling
Gap in the South Downs. After the local constable asks Scotland
Yard for assistance, Inspector Ian Rutledge is sent in to
investigate. He uncovers a possible connection between the
deaths of the rector and those in the race. He has to put
the pieces together to find out who was the intended target,
was it mistaken identity or was the rector the intended victim?
The theme explores why a perfectly normal human being will
resort to murder. "As we wrote this novel we wondered
what has changed them so drastically in their life that they
see no other way out but to kill another human being. It goes
back to one of the seven deadly sins. It was fun to write
how the different interactions and relationships of the characters
intertwined depending on their life experiences."
Each character in the book whether main or a supporting was
extremely well developed and played an intricate role in the
plot. The antagonist is very evil as he lurks in the shadows.
This faceless killer is willing to strike again as he attacks
Rutledge to stop him and kidnaps a child. Rutledge realizes
he will need all his skills to stop the murderer before other
lives are sacrificed.
The female characters show the reality of how the Great War
affected society. Jen, a teenage girl, had to grow up way
too fast after having her brothers killed in the war. She
lost her childhood as she helped her mother tend to the land
of a retired Captain, an aristocratic employer. He broke off
his engagement because of war injuries and his former fiancé
had no other suitors. Ginger the dog showed how animals can
read people and their loyalty is a trait to be admired. A
cameo appearance by Melinda Crawford fits perfectly into the
The Todds commented, "England lost an entire generation
of men who either died or were severely wounded. Many women
ended up as spinsters for the rest of their lives, while others
never remarried. If you look at the registries there are entire
lines of titles that ceased to exist because there was no
one to pass it on to."
When asked the importance of dogs, the authors said that it
was a way "for us to speak with a person in England.
Since the culture will not allow you just to go up to someone,
we were able to do it if they had a dog. We started a conversation
by talking to the dog, telling it how cute it was. The next
thing you know they are telling you about their great uncle
and how they suffered in World War I."
Racing The Devil is a gripping novel that readers will
not want to put down. The many twists and turns add to the
gripping plot. Readers will see the many sides of Rutledge
as he helps solve the mystery. This psychological thriller
includes murder, fear, and suspicion, all set up by a chance