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A TEST OF WILLS by Charles Todd


by Charles Todd

Pub Date: Aug. 16th, 1996
ISBN: 0-312-14431-8
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

 Returning from the Great War in 1919, Inspector Ian Rutledge is dispatched to the Warwick village of Upper Streetham to track down the killer of Colonel Charles Harris, shot from his horse but mysteriously landed on his chest. Except for heavily alibied malcontent Bert Mavers, no one seems to have anything bad to say about the squire: certainly not his loyal business manager Laurence Royston, his ward Lettice Wood, or her fiancÇ Captain Mark Wilton, who insists that his recent colloquy with Harris was anything but a quarrel. Besides, Rutledge's local colleagues tell him, how much stock can they place in the story of the quarrel, which depends entirely on the testimony of Daniel Hickam, half- mad from shell shock? As Rutledge pokes sedately among the embers of Harris's manse and the neighboring households--the investigation proceeds slowly, slowly, through endless conversations with nary a hint of violence before the suspects' secrets tumble out in the closing pages--he wrestles with a secret of his own: his agonizing case of shell shock, which has cursed him with the nagging specter of Hamish MacLeod, a corporal whose only return from the war has been inside Rutledge's head. The 20th century hasn't happened in Upper Streetham, which seems to have been cast out of Rebecca, or in first-novelist Todd's deeply old-fashioned storytelling, which eschews the slightest impropriety in favor of the patient subtlety and circumlocution that held readers in thrall 70 years ago. A feast for the like-minded.