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Friday, 28 December 2018

‘The Black Ascot’ by Charles Todd


Published by HarperCollins,
5 February 2019,
ISBN: 978-0-06288743-6 (HB)


Inspector Ian Rutledge does what a policeman does when confronted with a hostage situation. As a direct result of this, he is given the task of investigating a cold case from a decade ago: a murder which took place after The Black Ascot, a horse race right after the death of King Edward VII.  Someone whom Rutledge believes to be credible says he has seen Alan Barrington, the chief (and really only) suspect in the murder of Blanche Richmond Thorne Fletcher-Munro. Barrington believed that Harold Fletcher-Munro had indirectly (or directly) caused Mark Thorne to kill himself. Mark Thorne had been married to Blanche at the time; Alan Barrington had hoped to be Blanche’s second husband and was not happy when Mr. Fletcher-Munro had garnered that prize. It was generally believed that the accident had been meant to kill Harold, who had instead only been terribly injured. The story gets even more convoluted as Rutledge begins poking into Alan Barrington’s life.

Of course, this all has to be done quite discreetly. Scotland Yard did not find Mr. Barrington after he disappeared. He’s been missing for ten years, and the Yard really rather hopes he’s dead somewhere else. This makes Rutledge’s task all the more difficult. Nobody really wants to bring up the past; there are other people with motives (both clear and murky) for wanting Barrington to NOT be found. And Chief Inspector Jameson has given Rutledge a deadline: two weeks to solve a very, very cold case.

As Rutledge starts asking questions, he obviously makes someone quite nervous. An attempt is made on his life, one which is made to appear as an attempted suicide. Rutledge can’t remember exactly what happened when he was shot; this makes him terribly afraid that his shell-shock (and Hamish, whose ghost continues to haunt him) has finally been his undoing. Still struggling to work out the details of the Barrington case, he must do so without the benefit of his official standing with Scotland Yard, thus compounding the difficulties inherent in the case.

Todd has been writing about Rutledge and Hamish for a long time. The Black Ascot certainly maintains the high standard Todd has set over the years. Fans of this series will not be disappointed.
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Reviewer:  P.J. Coldren

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.

P J Coldren has been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century. She reads broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. She was a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martin’s Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. She lives in Northern lower Michigan with one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs.  She says, ‘I am totally chuffed to be the Fan Guest of Honor at Malice Domestic 2019.  

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