A Fine Summer’s Day

Written by Charles Todd
Review by Sarah Johnson

This 17th novel in the Ian Rutledge mystery series follows the successful pattern used in many of the previous books. An inspector at Scotland Yard, Rutledge puts considerable mileage on his motorcar, driving all over England interviewing villagers while cunningly assembling clues to track down a killer. His presence is alternately welcomed and resented by the local police, and his wits prove to be as sharp as ever. The difference? This entry turns back the clock six years, just prior to the wartime service that will leave him a haunted, shell-shocked veteran.

In this prequel set in June 1914, Rutledge is just 23, a young policeman with a bright future in the Yard – if he can endure the Chief Superintendent’s antipathy. He’s naïve when it comes to women, though. Newly engaged, he thinks his pretty fiancée Jean Gordon will make him happy, while his sister and friends are doubtful. When he gets called to investigate a hanging in Yorkshire, he finds himself befuddled. The dead man was a successful furniture maker with no known enemies. Before long, Rutledge is assigned to investigate two other murders in different corners of the country, and the victims have similarly unblemished reputations.

Readers are shown the perpetrator at the beginning, but even after Rutledge figures things out, there’s still plenty of mystery left. The story becomes an exciting cat-and-mouse thriller as he pursues his man while determining the “how” and the “why.” Tension and atmosphere are added via Britain’s increasing slide towards war, Jean’s pressure on him to enlist, and his need to clear an innocent man before it’s too late. Despite one outlandish coincidence, this is a suspenseful mystery that grips one’s attention until the end.