Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My First Review

A Pale Horse
Charles Todd
360 pp.
Wm. Morrow, pub
"Behold a Pale Horse and His name is Death" could have been the theme for this 2008 novel in the Ian Rutledge series. Ian Rutledge is a Scotland Yard inspector who has his own torments having served in the first World War and feeling great guilt over the deaths of his men and the horrific scenes he had witnessed. In earlier books, you learn of his breakdown after returning home and the loss of his fiancee whom he released from their engagement because of his, what we now call, post traumatic stress disorder.

The authors, a mother and son writing team, both Americans, use a literary device in the stories – "Hamish," a voice Rutledge hears in his head, is a Scottish soldier who served with Rutledge in France and who died there while serving under Rutledge.. Hamish is his alter ego, his advisor, admonisher and protector, who comments while Rutledge makes his way through his investigations. The voice is a Scottish burr, which helps the reader differentiate who is speaking.

The story begins as a body is discovered in the ruins of Yorkshire’s Fountains Abbey, covered with a cloak, a gas mask over the face.

Meanwhile, Rutledge is called to find a missing man, one of the War Office’s own, who lives in the shadow of The Great Chalk Horse, cut into the hillside in Berkshire. The Horse overlooks a group of cottages which were originally built to house lepers and now house various inhabitants who choose to live alone with their stories and secrets, lepers symbolically.

Is the man found in Yorkshire linked to this group of people? In the narrative, scenes of trench warfare and gassing during the Great War are relived by Rutledge as the missing man had a part in creating the chemicals for the Allies. Rutledge doggedly investigates all the leads as he tries to put all the stories together.

I thought the first chapter, after reading the whole book, seemed out of place, introducing several characters that are not seen again, but still the book is well written and I am adding it to my Reading Challenge, Europe. And later, I plan to return to the other books in this series.

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