Merrimon Book Reviews

Spanish flu ward, 1918

An aerial view of the Somme battlefield in July, taken from a British balloon

Troops "going over the top" at the start of the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

From Merrimon Book Reviews
The Red Door
The Red Door by Charles Todd
by Charles Todd

A woman prepares for her husband's return from World War I, painting the front door red,  but he never returns.  On the anniversary of his return to Scotland Yard, Inspector Ian Rutledge is called to investigate the case of Walter Teller, a man who has gone missing during his treatment at Belvedere Clinic.  He suffers from a mysterious disease  that leads to increasing paralysis, but even more odd is his sudden reappearance and the sudden disappearance of an illness.  The Teller family gives conflicting reports, prodding Inspector Rutedge to look more deeply at the case.  Solving the case leads Rutledge to the woman behind the red door, an isolated woman with no known enemies, but whose bludgeoning death appalls Rutledge.  The more Inspector Rutledge investigates the Teller case, the more family secrets and even lies create troubling questions.  When the prime suspects end up meeting their deaths, is it by accident or design?  Inspector Ian Rutledge feels determined to seek justice but can he solve all the disparate clues before  it is too late?

As twelfth in the Ian Rutledge series, THE RED DOOR may make an unsettling start to newcomers to the series like myself, coming to his book fresh from Charles Todd's Bess Crawford series in A DUTY TO THE DEAD.  Primarily, the question of Hamish's identity leaves a reader new to the series puzzled initially.  Who is he?  What is his role in the unfolding story?  As the voice of a fallen soldier inside of Inspector's head, one feels the effects of the Great War linger on after the armistice.  Indeed, as more details emerge later in the book not only about Hamish but also the case itself, World War II and its aftermath become pivotal elements to the richness of this historical mystery. While the seeming disconnectedness of Hamish might cause new readers to pause and re-read certain sections in the beginning, the developing mystery makes the effort well worth it for readers who crave a mystery with enough richness and intricacy to keep one guessing until the final connection is finally unraveled.  Twisting and turning, the clues lead one way until the next clue or corpse is discovered.  THE RED DOOR does not present a straightforward line from murder through clues to the culprit.  Instead, THE RED DOOR creates an interconnected nexus to thrill mystery lovers who enjoy a true puzzle in which the whole emerges only with the final pieces.

In this historical mystery, mother and son writing team
Charles Todd evokes the desolation of World War I in ways history books often do not, especially as THE RED DOOR focuses on the time period immediately afterwards.  The war itself might be over but not in the mind of the characters.   The war and its aftermath change even the personal lives of the characters and their children.  Inspector Ian Rutledge himself struggles with his memories and past actions as do those he investigates.  His pursuit of justice even in the face of a possible easier route creates some of the most moving passages in the book.  Above all, THE RED DOOR is a historical mystery which evokes the power of the past on multiple levels, not only in the setting but as the heart of the story.  While THE RED DOOR differs from the Bess Crawford series to date in narrative style and in tenor, both fulfill a craving for viewing WWI through a new, rich fictional perspective.

Publisher: William Morrow (December 29, 2009)
An Inspector Rutledge Mystery
Author website
Other Inspector Rutledge Mysteries: A Test of Wills, Wings of Fire, Search the Dark, Watchers of Time, Legacy of the Dead, A Fearsome Doubt, A Cold Treachery, A Long Shadow, A False Mirror, A Pale Horse, A Matter of Justice
Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
Courtesy of Amazon Vine
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