Wings of Fire, by Charles Todd

Is it bad that this is the second in a series and I haven’t read the first one yet? My mom says no, and I certainly didn’t have any problems understanding the character or the plot. Also, slight disclaimer, my aunt has met Charles Todd, a mother-son writing team who live near her. (I haven’t, though.)

The detective in the series is one Ian Rutledge, a veteran of the recent Great War who suffers from shell-shock and a seemingly permanent mental companion – the voice of an executed Scottish soldier who provides constant commentary on Rutledge’s thoughts and actions.

Wings of Fire starts with a prologue that establishes the potential crime(s) and most of the relevant individuals. When the story proper begins, Rutledge is sent down to Cornwall to investigate the probably-not-suspicious deaths of three siblings. One of the siblings was a renowned poet, and it’s her poetry that eventually triggers Rutledge’s ideas of what’s happened.

Apart from a few dialogue tics (“Get on with it, man!”) and some understandable yet frustrating character motivations (next paragraph), it’s a compelling book. I opened it on my Kindle-for-PC app and just sat there, reading, for a few hours until I’d finished. I am, apparently, fascinated by cold case/family secret stories, and that is what this is from the very beginning.

The one thing that did make me want to slap a character upside the head was Rachel’s attitude to the Scotland Yard investigation. It’s explained, and it’s understandable, but seriously: you ASKED Scotland Yard to come. Did you really think that they’d come and NOT ask questions? Argh.

Apart from that, Rachel was sweet and I could see why Rutledge started falling for her. Susannah was a bit of a cipher, but Rachel was mostly lovely. Olivia was very well-done, too – for someone who died before the book even started, she was a very well-realised character with enough ambiguity to make suspicions reasonable.

And that’s another thing that Charles Todd did well: Olivia’s poetry. It’s described as amazing, powerful, life-changing, every superlative you can find, and the excerpts we’re given actually live up to that – something very difficult to do. It made me feel like the poems actually did exist outside the book, and made me want to read them. Good for Charles Todd.

I will definitely go back and read the first book in the Rutledge series, and, while I probably won’t push to read all new books on publication day, I certainly won’t pass them up when they come my way.

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