Title: A search in the dark
Author: Charles Todd
Publisher: Recorded Books 
ISBN: n/a (digital download from audible.com)
Length: 11hrs 40 minutes
Narrator: Samuel Gillies
Following the end of the first World War Ian Rutledge has returned to his work as an Inspector with Scotland Yard after nearly dying on the battlefield. He is called to a case in Dorset where a man has been arrested for killing the woman he believed to be his wife, despite the fact his wife and two children had supposedly died during a bombing raid two years earlier. Rutledge is assigned as a trouble-shooter to coordinate with the jurisdictions involved to locate the children who were assumed to have been with the murdered woman when she was killed. His presence is not universally welcomed by the local coppers.
The slant to this book is that Rutledge has a partner of sorts: a voice in his head. The voice belongs to Hamish McLeod, a soldier that Rutledge was required to shoot during the war when McLeod refused to lead his men into a particular battle. Rutledge seems resigned to Hamish’s presence which is at times angry and taunting and at other times almost supportive of Rutledge’s ways. He copes remarkably well with the interruptions at any rate. This is the third book in a series of what is now 11 books and frankly I’m not sure where else this particular element can go as, after only a short while, the novelty value had worn off for me and I simply accepted Hamish as a normal, fairly minor character. In a way I suppose this is good as it means it’s less of a gimmicky element than it might otherwise be, but the downside is that there’s less to differentiate this book from similar books in the crowded police procedural genre.
As historical fiction goes the book is first rate. It captures the immediate aftermath of the war and its effect on both the people who fought in it and those who stayed behind. Although the book explores the psychological impact of the war in a way that a contemporary whodunnit might not have done, I don’t think that makes the exploration less legitimate and, for me, it was the most interesting aspect of the book. The depiction of the torment many people went through without the medical knowledge and social support systems that are available today is powerful and quite sobering to ponder. Of course this makes the book quite a sad one with an ending that should not have had to happen (but realistic nonetheless).
A combination of slower pacing than I like and Rutledge’s way of working things out in his mind (with Hamish’s help) led to each twist and turn of the plot being telegraphed to me slightly before it actually happened so that in the end there were few genuine surprises in the story. However the plot, though somewhat convoluted, is logical and does hang together well. The characters more than make up for the duller moments.
I’d definitely recommend this to fans of historical fiction (I have a friend who adores Foyles War and I think she’ll love this series) and those who like a solidly written police procedural with a touch of melancholy.
Audio book specific comments: A great narrator who manages the balance between performance and reading too perfection. I did find myself looking forward to getting back to this one and was quickly lost in the story each time I came back to it.
My rating 4/5
Reviewed by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise (in fact I have Kerrie to thank for the recommendation and I did enjoy the book although perhaps for different reasons than Kerrie as I wasn’t terribly taken with the whole notion of Hamish).
This is yet another book written by a pair of writers, this time mother and son (Caroline and Charles Todd). Who knew so many relatives could work productively together without killing each other? It wouldn’t happen in my crazy (but much loved) family.
There are 11 books so far in this series with another scheduled for release next year and, according to this Publishers Weekly article, the authors are starting a new seires of historical whodunnits also set around the time of WWI but this time featuring an army nurse as the investigator. The first book in this series is due for publication in September.