Racing the Devil: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery

Written by Charles Todd
Review by Jeanne Greene

In November 1920, a motor car runs off a Sussex road, killing the young rector at the wheel, and prompting Scotland Yard to send Inspector Ian Rutledge to investigate. There is no telephone in the village, and the local constable rides a bicycle, so Rutledge is constantly on the road, keeping an eye out for red cars with green scratches and interviewing the villagers. Many, like the injured ex-officer and his jilted lover, the rector’s housekeeper and his (secret) fiancée, are cooperative, while others, like the rector’s taciturn replacement, force the inspector to venture farther afield. When he uncovers not one but a series of odd murders, some involving an automobile, perpetrator(s) unknown, he remembers something he heard: In 1916, a group of British officers, all with an interest in motor cars, agree to a road race after the war. When the ex-officer who was there refuses to name names, Rutledge gets a note to London. The reply is devastating—but it doesn’t tell him how a gentlemen’s agreement, made four years ago, connects to recent murders in the south of England. Finding the answer will, as usual, test Inspector Rutledge’s powers of deduction.

Racing the Devil shows us what happens when old-fashioned crime-solving methodology is used by an experienced, highly intelligent policeman with a hidden disability. Rutledge, who was injured during WWI, suffers from something like PTSD. The struggle to keep his nightmares and hallucinations secret complicates his work and, to his mind, makes a private life impossible. This adds to the excitement in Racing the Devil and makes his accomplishments remarkable. A Fine Summer’s Day (2015) explains Rutledge’s nemesis Hamish, but all the Inspector Rutledge mysteries are highly recommended.