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A Test of Wills | [Charles Todd]

A Test of Wills

Ian Rutledge returns to his career at Scotland Yard after years fighting in the First World War. Unknown to his colleagues he is still suffering from shell shock, and is burdened with the guilt of having had executed a young soldier on the battlefield for refusing to fight. A jealous colleague has learned of his secret and has managed to have Rutledge assigned to a difficult case which could spell disaster for Rutledge whatever the outcome. A retired officer has been murdered, and Rutledge goes to investigate.
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Publisher's Summary

Ian Rutledge returns to his career at Scotland Yard after years fighting in the First World War. Unknown to his colleagues he is still suffering from shell shock, and is burdened with the guilt of having had executed a young soldier on the battlefield for refusing to fight. A jealous colleague has learned of his secret and has managed to have Rutledge assigned to a difficult case which could spell disaster for Rutledge whatever the outcome.

A retired officer has been murdered, and Rutledge, fighting the torment of his illness, goes to investigate. As he digs into the lives of the villagers, the witness who disturbs him most is a war-ravaged ex-soldier who chills Rutledge with the realization that he could become like this man.

©1996 Charles Todd (P)1999 W.F. Howes

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (192 )
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4.0 (164 )
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  •  
    Carol Massachusetts 01-02-13
    Carol Massachusetts 01-02-13 Member Since 2010

    Classical history buff, but find most of history fascinating. Love books, ballet, and basketball.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Difficult to follow the narrator"

    Inspector Rutledge returns to his position at Scotland Yard after long and horrendous combat service as an officer in World War I. He has been damaged in soul and psyche, and in ways that make him one of the most fascinating detectives in the genre. This first book in the series is truly special, well written, compelling, and different.

    Unfortunately, I cannot recommend listening to this narration. Even though I've read the book (albeit a number of years ago), I found myself totally confused almost from the beginning as to which character was speaking. We become so used to narrators who handle multiple-character dialog well (even if they don't always sound like we think a beloved character should) that it's a shock to listen to someone with this little skill at voice differentiation. In scenes where Rutledge is conducting interviews, it's almost impossible to follow the flow of questions and answers and the vital information (the plot is fairly complicated) that emerges from these interviews.

    There's nothing "wrong" with Giles's voice, he just doesn't use it well. Read the book, skip this audio.

    23 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    teddy Roslindale, MA, United States 02-20-13
    teddy Roslindale, MA, United States 02-20-13 Member Since 2012
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Samuel Giles is not Simon Prebble"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    We started listening to the Ian Rutledge series in the middle, so going back to the beginning for context has been helpful. As a rule, I enjoy mysteries with complex plots that may not have tremendous amounts of actions. I do think the latter books are better written but one might expect that as a series develops.

    Simon Prebble is a far better narrator, however. Samuel Giles is rather flat and it is difficult to distinguish voices. I am hoping he isn't used for future Rutledge novels.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Samuel Giles?

    Simon Prebble


    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 11-24-12
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 11-24-12

    trying to see the world with my ears

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    "Good to meet Hamish at the beginning"

    You can count on novels in this series to be solid historical police procedurals without egregious gore, violence, sex or language -- but this one still just misses a four star rating from me. Some of the plot elements didn't flow well, some of the language just a little too modern, and perhaps the novel is longer than it needed to be --but still, this is strong as a first novel in a period series.

    Although we learn a little about Hamish in each subsequent novel, it was interesting to meet him (it?) in the first. I am accustomed to the talented Simon Prebble as narrator of later instalments, but I preferred Samuel Gilles as Rutledge (and usually I don't like Gilles).

    If you're new to this series, it's worthwhile starting here, and if you're already a fan, meet Hamish again for the first time.

    17 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathi 01-30-14
    Kathi 01-30-14 Member Since 2010

    Love books! Classics and lighter fiction, mysteries (not too violent please :-). And selective non-fiction--whatever takes my fancy.

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    "Good early work in series"

    I believe this might have been the first of the Ian Rutledge series--which has gone on to become most excellent in every respect!

    In this book, Rutledge comes back after the Great War and takes back the place he gave up at Scotland Yard to enter the military. He has come back with shell shock (something he does not want his fellow detectives to know, which largely manifests as his hearing the voice of a dead comrade.) He has also faced the devastation of having his fiance break off their engagement because she cannot now bear to be married to him, suffering as he is. Getting back to work is a big challenge for him, so he desperately hopes to succeed.

    However, his superior dislikes him, and sends him to handle a murder that could end his career--before it even gets going again, due to the extreme sensitivity of people involved. When Rutledge gets to the town where the murder has occurred, he has to face people who have also been involved in the war, and try to decide whether a highly respected war hero has committed a murder. This will bring up a lot of personal pain and memories for Rutledge, that he has to manage, even while handling a complicated case.

    Having read all the books in the series, I can see a few things in this early work that seem to have changed in later ones, such as occasionally shifting to separate thought processes or dialogues between other characters--showing their point of view in that way. In later works it seems that CT gets away from that style, going more to the reader gaining the perspective of other characters through inference from events--much as Rutledge himself has to do (which I personally prefer).

    All of this series is among the best out there (in my opinion). I have read all of them (including the Bess Crawford series which Todd has also written. ) The narrator is quite good--with only the comment that it is hard to tell the difference between speakers--but that largely was no problem at all. HIGHLY RECOMMEND anything by Charles Todd. This early book is not quite up to their style and skill that will soon emerge--but well worth reading.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marie Woodville, TX, United States 12-01-12
    Marie Woodville, TX, United States 12-01-12 Member Since 2004

    I love mysteries in the style of P.D. James, Rex Stout, Elizabeth Peters, Dave Duncan, etc. I love sci fi written by Issac Asimov (the robot books), Douglas Adams, Jack McDevitt (Alex Benedict series) and Susan Collins. I love fantasy written by Terry Pratchett, and Kim Harrison. I love Kate Morton. I don't like graphic descriptions of violence.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "First of the series"
    Any additional comments?

    In this first novel of the series, Rutledge is just returning from fighting in the Great War to his job as an inspector for Scotland Yard. This is his first case since his return, and he is left shattered by his war experience. I started this series in the middle because the first books were not available from Audible at that time. I really like the series (and it just keeps getting better). This first book in the series is good, but, beyond that, it answered a couple of question about characters in the series that had disturbed me. I never understood how Rutledge could have sentenced Hamish to death. I also never understood why his Scotland Yard supervisor resents him so much and tries to set him up for failure. Both of those things are mentioned in the later novels but not really explained. These novels have no overly graphic descriptions of torture, rape, violence or sex -- just ordinary characters who behave as you would expect them to under the circumstances and a mystery to be solved, while Rutledge struggles to regain his sanity. It is a series I highly recommend.

    14 of 18 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Linda PITTSBURGH, PA, United States 10-16-13
    Linda PITTSBURGH, PA, United States 10-16-13 Member Since 2008
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    "Glad these early ones were added to Audible"

    I too was glad to hear the 1st book. It makes understanding the later one easier. The narrators strong Scottish accent bothered me a bit. Only Hamish is Scottish.
    The mystery is very well developed and enjoyable. The story could have been shorter.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Polly Philadelphia, PA, United States 08-27-14
    Polly Philadelphia, PA, United States 08-27-14 Member Since 2010

    An avid reader, demanding of the story, characters and narrator. Mysteries and historical fiction are my favorites.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Confusion of Characters and Plot"

    I really expected to like this book because one of my favorite Audible.com reviewers did. However, I can't recommend it.

    There is one well-drawn character in this book, and that is Hamish, the Scottish soldier who "haunts" main character Ian Rutledge. It is a brilliant and effective technique for author Todd to use, and I applaud him. However, I couldn't distinguish between any of the female characters or most of the male characters. I never developed any real picture of them, never developed opinions or attachments or interest, and was often confused. ("Which character said/did that?") I am not sure if a different narrator would have made a difference, but I doubt it.

    And, the ending. Wow. It was out of left field, in a way that made me roll my eyes. I won't spoil it for you, but I'll say that what Todd wants us to believe is outrageous and unlikely in the extreme. Puleeze.

    Don't bother.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    t 10-03-13
    t 10-03-13

    medcu5

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    "return"
    Would you try another book from Charles Todd and/or Samuel Giles?

    I'm not sure how the story is... I suspect a bit dry. The performance was really tough to listen to and prompted me to ask whether I could return/exchange the book after the first 20-30 min. I won't finish it.


    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Todd 02-19-13
    Todd 02-19-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Good, , worth the credit"
    Any additional comments?

    I like historical Fiction. This book was good but not great, , i am going to try another in the series before I make my final decision. It is worth a credit and i did not figure out who did it so kept me guessing :)

    4 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul McMahon Fremantle, Australia 06-03-13
    Paul McMahon Fremantle, Australia 06-03-13 Listener Since 2007

    mcmap

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    "Belaboured - no one to care about"

    The narrative starts with a sort of spoiler, which has nothing to add to the plot, but sets one’s thinking down a line that isn’t born out in the text and steals some of the potential for enjoyment; a pointless addition one might say. Miss the first 5 minutes (including the Audible intro) and do yourself a favour. This start brackets the first real line of the drama and so removes the impact of that line; so missing it out isn't a problem. Unfortunately it is also in the Publisher’s Summary.

    You can go back to the beginning after the final word, if so inclined.

    The text seems an exercise in filling in space between five or six set pieces of action / discovery. To help in this endeavour is a contrivance called “Hamish” which adds nothing to the development of the narrative; although I can see what it was meant to achieve.

    I didn’t find anyone to care about in the cast of characters. It may be the extreme nature of the accents of England was a factor - I’m an Australian - although this hasn’t been a problem in other accent rich books.

    The reading is probably quite good, if the emphasis on accents being broad were necessary, but the cadence was somewhat tiresome in its uniformity. I found it didn’t promote interest.

    I did persevere until the end.

    4 of 10 people found this review helpful
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  • tinyNorman
    Wisconsin
    1/25/14
    Overall
    Performance
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    "Excellent first in series."

    I really enjoyed this story. The mystery unfolds slowly. The plot twists are developed in a believable way. The ending seemed a little abrupt, but this is a good start to a great series. The main character, Ian Rutledge, is an appealing, believable character, with an interesting back story. I look forward to more books in this series.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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