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Tuesday 20 March 2018

‘Racing the Devil’ by Charles Todd

Published by William Morrow Reprint edition,
25 January 2018.
ISBN: 978-006238622-9 (PB)

It all begins on the eve of the Battle of the Somme offensive during WWI when a group of officers gathered in a barn to relax before facing the carnage to come.  As they parted, the men agreed to meet in Paris a year after the war’s end and race each other to Nice.  And so, it comes to pass as they come together at the Ritz in 1919.  All but one makes it to southern France. The lone driver, Standish, is forced off a narrow road, crashes, and ends up in the hospital, his car wrecked and he having sustained multiple injuries and the loss of one hand.

A year later, back in England, a rector driving Standish’s auto suffers the same fate, forced off the road and crashing, but less fortunate, since he suffers a broken neck and dies.  In investigating the death, Inspector Rutledge determines this was no accident, but a case of murder.  The question, of course, to be answered: are the two “accidents” related?  As Rutledge plows slowly through his inquiries, further events broaden the investigation until he pieces all the elements together to solve the mystery.

This novel is the 18th in this fine series, one of two (the other features Bess Crawford, who makes a cameo performance in Racing the Devil) by the mother-and-son writing team authors.  Each series takes place in a historical time period, not only presenting the reader with accurate descriptions of the period (for instance, in this novel, automobiles just making their appearance on the scene) but first-class mysteries as well.  Also in this effort are graphic descriptions of the horrors of the trenches in the Great War.
Reviewed by Theodore Feit

Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.
Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvellous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great-uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.
Charles's love of history led him to a study of some of the wars that shape it: the American Civil War, WWI and WWII. Charles had a career as a business consultant. This experience gave him an understanding of going to troubled places where no one was glad to see him arrive. This was excellent training for Rutledge's reception as he tries to find a killer in spite of local resistance.
Caroline has always been a great reader and enjoyed reading aloud, especially poetry that told a story. The Highwayman was one of her early favorites. Her wars are WWI, the Boer War, and the English Civil War, with a sneaking appreciation of the Wars of the Roses as well. When she's not writing, she's traveling the world, gardening, or painting in oils. Her background in international affairs backs up her interest in world events.
Writing together is a challenge, and both enjoy giving the other a hard time. The famous quote is that in revenge, Charles crashes Caroline's computer, and Caroline crashes his parties. Will they survive to write more novels together? Stay tuned! Their father/husband is holding the bets.

Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.

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