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by Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2006
352 pages
ISBN: 006078671X

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New Year's Eve 1919. The Armistice was signed a little over a year ago, but in the hearts and minds of its survivors the Great War is still raging. In dank, damp, and foggy London, Inspector Ian Rutledge is attending a New Year's Eve party at which the after-dinner entertainment is that newly-fashionable rite, the seance, conducted by a popular medium, Mrs Channing.

Rutledge is panicked at the idea, as he hardly needs a medium to raise his dead and he fears that in the charged atmosphere of the seance he may reveal his secret -- that his constant companion is Hamish, a man for whose unwarranted death at the Front Rutledge was directly responsible.

Beating a hasty retreat with the excuse of pressing Yard business, he comes across a brass cartridge casing on the front steps, one painstakingly engraved with a design of poppies. This casing will prove to be only the first of several that will turn up in seemingly impossible places as Rutledge pursues his inquiries into an attempted murder in the village of Dudlington.

Dudlington is remote, even danker and foggier than London, and puzzlingly unfriendly to the investigation into the attempted murder of a police constable, shot in the back with an arrow as he exited a reputedly haunted wood. As Rutledge attempts to solve the case, he is never quite sure if he is hunter or quarry.

This is, I believe, the first in this series to acknowledge its joint authorship -- 'Charles Todd' is in fact Charles Todd and his mother Caroline. It may be my imagination, but I sense a subtle shift in the mood of this book and especially of its hero as compared with certain of the earlier novels. This Inspector Rutledge seems just a bit more normal, quite a lot less hysterical, and much less given to italics. Even Hamish appears to be softening his Scots accent.

The first books in this series were rightly acclaimed for their original approach to the historical novel and especially the Great War, but in my view rapidly became formulaic and repetitive. A LONG SHADOW still retains many of the tics that grew so irritating over time, but I do detect a glimmer of hope that Rutledge's mood is about to soften, that he may find love, and that the War will finally be over.

Reviewed by Yvonne Klein, February 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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