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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rutledge rides again
Charles Todd, for those who aren't familiar, is a mother and son team of writers who live in the Eastern U.S., and are both of them apparently fervent Anglophiles. They have, for the last decade or so, been collaborating on a series of mysteries chronicling the adventures of Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard. As far as a British mystery series is concerned, these...
Published on December 26, 2007 by David W. Nicholas

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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not todd's best rutledge mystery
The Inspector Rutledge series from Charles Todd are 3-star and 4-star works: none rises to the level of greatness, none descend to 2-star level. They are decent reads. Pale Horse rates 3 stars: decent, but not memorable, worth keeping rather than donating to your local library. There's no groundbreaking here, nothing we haven't seen in the other Rutledge mysteries...
Published on December 31, 2007 by David W. Straight


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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rutledge rides again, December 26, 2007
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This review is from: A Pale Horse: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) (Hardcover)
Charles Todd, for those who aren't familiar, is a mother and son team of writers who live in the Eastern U.S., and are both of them apparently fervent Anglophiles. They have, for the last decade or so, been collaborating on a series of mysteries chronicling the adventures of Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard. As far as a British mystery series is concerned, these books are very conventional in their structure and setting. Rutledge is almost always somewhere out in the rural British countryside, attempting to discover who killed someone in rather murky surroundings. The similarities to Richard Jury or Adam Dalgliesh are very obvious. There is one significant difference, though, and it's what makes the series stand out: the books are set in the period just after the First World War, and Inspector Rutledge is a veteran of said conflict. Even more unique, he's haunted by the ghost of one of his subordinates, a corporal whom Rutledge had to shoot and kill after the man panicked and tried to run away during a battle. The dead man doesn't blame Rutledge for the incident, not exactly anyway, and serves as a sort of alter ego for Rutledge. You're never entirely certain whether Hamish MacLeod's ghost is really there, or merely a figment of Rutledge's imagination, given that he was horribly scarred psychologically by the war.

In the current episode, Rutledge is first sent to a hamlet of cottages in rural England to find a single man who lives in one of them. The War Office wants the man found for some reason, though they won't tell Scotland Yard why. Rutledge has no luck, really, and is then recalled and sent in a different direction to look into a killing in another rural setting. The two incidents are of course connected, and Rutledge must settle things as further killings occur, and the plot becomes more tangled.

Todd is best with the rural atmosphere of England 80 years ago, and this is one of the better entries in the series. The evocation of the drawing of a horse on a hillside near the cottages is especially spooky. Altogether a good book.
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48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not todd's best rutledge mystery, December 31, 2007
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David W. Straight (knoxville, tennessee United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Pale Horse: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) (Hardcover)
The Inspector Rutledge series from Charles Todd are 3-star and 4-star works: none rises to the level of greatness, none descend to 2-star level. They are decent reads. Pale Horse rates 3 stars: decent, but not memorable, worth keeping rather than donating to your local library. There's no groundbreaking here, nothing we haven't seen in the other Rutledge mysteries. There's an unidentified corpse, some less than professional police work (not by Rutledge), time spent in village pubs by Rutledge speaking to local residents.

There are some things which don't feel quite right. Rutledge spends a great deal of time driving back and forth between London, Yorkshire, Berkshire, and Wales, often late at night. Most other series involving Yard inspectors seem to emphasize travel by train. Yorkshire is 200-plus miles from London, and in 1920 there were no motorways. I would think that few petrol stations would be open late at night. Finding your way around at night would not be that easy, and 6-volt headlights (unlike the current 12-volt systems) did not allow a good rate of speed. Motorcar breakdowns were much more common: cars were not designed for sustained long-distance travel. I often found myself thinking about all this driving rather than the mystery at hand.

The story itself seems rather slow at times, and the denouement seems somewhat anticlimactical as well as centering on some improbable coincidences, and there were some large potholes in the story road, so to speak, that were left unfilled-in. If you haven't read Todd's stories, try some of the other works first. For alternative period pieces--mysteries set just after WW I, try also Winspear's books, and in particular, Airth's fine River of Darkness.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Like the pale horse of the Apocalypse, on his back rode Death", April 12, 2008
This review is from: A Pale Horse: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) (Hardcover)
This slow-paced mystery is set in early twentieth century England. The protagonist is Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard, a man haunted by the ghost of a soldier named Hamish MacLeod, whose voice is his constant companion, conscience and advisor within his head.

The story begins with a group of schoolboys experimenting with alchemy by moonlight in the ruins of an abandoned Abbey. To their horror, they discover that they have apparently raised the devil himself, and swearing each other to secrecy, they run off into the night. The next morning, the body of an unidentified man is discovered in the ruins, dressed in a hooded cloak and gas mask, and next to his foot is a book on alchemy, property of the schoolmaster Albert Crowell.

Thus begins a long investigation into the identity of the dead man, the interrogation of the schoolmaster as a murder suspect, a couple of false trails, and the uncovering of a big cover-up by the British War Office. Along the way, sub-stories relate the circumstances leading to the death of Hamish and also the love life of the Inspector's sister Frances.

The trail takes Rutledge to a group of tiny houses in Berkshire, his job being to observe a man named Gaylord Partridge. The tourist attraction in the area is a huge figure of a horse, cut into the chalk in prehistoric times, and preserved in perpetuity galloping tirelessly along the hillside. Under the pretext of doing some horsing around on the cliffs, Rutledge learns that Partridge has disappeared, as he has been known to do on occasion, and that the occupants of the cottages all have secrets they'd rather keep hidden.

Amidst conflicts with the War Office, his own office politics and local law enforcement, Rutledge painstakingly pecks away at the armor of the residents of the Tomlin Cottages, and things start heating up both literally and figuratively when arson and murder go hand in hand.

A solid read, except for a few questionable plot contrivances, and packed with local color, this story starts off on a high note, and hastens to increase the pace as it wraps up at the end, but dallies too long in the middle for short attention spans.

Amanda Richards, April 13, 2008
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Weaker than their previous books., February 1, 2008
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This review is from: A Pale Horse: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) (Hardcover)
Having read all of the Charles Todd books, I have to say that this one was disappointing. Rutledge is still an appealing character, but the rest of the cast is sort of anonymous and interchangeable. Too many characters, too lightly sketched. At one point I actually couldn't remember who one of the female characters was, and the pair of sisters who are prominent in the plot were confusingly alike. The men really blurred together in my mind, except for the vindictive policeman. When the body count began to rise, I literally couldn't remember which victim was which.
So while I like the series very much, I'd like to see them advance Rutledge's personal life a bit and develop the characters into more distinct individuals. A friend of mine who also reads these novels said she thinks that Rutledge is stuck in neutral, and I have to agree.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars haunting post WWI police procedural, December 26, 2007
This review is from: A Pale Horse: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) (Hardcover)
In 1920 five kids arrive at abandoned Yorkshire's Fountains Abbey with an alchemy book they stole from their school. They plan to perform a ritual to raise the devil, but instead flee in fear leaving behind the purloined tome. The next day a corpse wearing a gas mask is found near the book.

Scotland Yard sends troubled Inspector Ian Rutledge to identify the victim as the War Office has an interest in the body too. Although the Great War to end all wars may be over, Ian still suffers from battle fatigue feeling guilty for what he did and saw. His inquiries of the nearby villagers are met with suspicion as each seems to have something to hide. The alchemy book belongs to a conscientious objector schoolmaster, but he also offers little. As deceit seems the norm, Ian struggles to learn the truth while the pale horse of the Apocalypse reminds the shell shocked detective that death is the final frontier.

A PALE HORSE is a fantastic whodunit due to the mentally battered hero whose only respite from the ghost that disturbs him is investigating as this is what he did before he became an unrecognized war "casualty". The story line is fast-paced, but totally owned by Ian even as the audience obtains a deep look at an English village still reeling from the war. This haunting post WWI series remains one of the best historical police procedurals on the market today.

Harriet Klausner
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Pale Horse, May 13, 2008
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egreetham (Massachusetts) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Pale Horse: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) (Hardcover)
Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge, a man who is literally and figuratively haunted by his experiences in the first world war, remains an appealing hero. However, as the Inspector Rutledge series lengthens, several basic elements of the stories really need to find some resolution.

In "A Pale Horse," the Scotland Yard inspector is charged with determining, on behalf of the army, the whereabouts of a mysterious man named Partridge who lives in an isolated cluster of cottages near the famous White Horse--an outline carved into the chalk hillside in prehistoric times. He returns to London, only to be sent to assist the local police in a death in Yorkshire. Is the dead man in Yorkshire connected with the missing man in Tomlin? No prize for giving the correct answer. And certainly coincidences are aplenty here, oppressively so.

The first section of the novel is chiefly devoted to the story of the obsessively vindictive Inspector with whom Rutledge deals in Yorkshire. This portion is never satisfactorily joined to the main action of the book, which centers on the area near the white horse and the village of Tomlin. A subplot involving Rutledge's sister Frances moves fitfully through the work (involving yet another coincidence), only to be dealt with in a very cursory fashion at the end. A female character who has figured in another Rutledge novel makes a few brief and enigmatic appearances in this one. Perhaps these latter issues will be dealt with further in a subsequent series entry, but when this happens too frequently, it doesn't so much interest the reader in reading the future novel, as much as make him or her irritated at the present one. The book rolls on to its conclusion without particularly drawing us in to care very much about any of the characters, with the exception perhaps of the Tomlin blacksmith Andrew Slater, who is nicely fleshed out.

The single biggest problem in the series as it stands is Rutledge's relationship with his personal ghost, Hamish, the spirit of a man Rutledge was compelled to execute by firing squad during World War I. Hamish functions as scourge, advisor, and, on occasion, companion. Todd has developed this mechanism very thoughtfully, but it is beginning to wear thin. I feel like strangling Hamish myself. Will Rutledge ever be able to exorcise Hamish? Will Todd choose to open up the novels by resolving this issue and taking Rutledge in some new direction? I hope so.

I'd also like to see Rutledge turn the tables on his ever hostile supervisor. Bowles's enmity is growing tired as a device for maintaining Rutledge's status quo.

If you already are a Rutledge fan, "A Pale Horse" offers the usual very good entertainment of the atmosphere of post-world-war England, nice local color, good page-to-page writing, and an engaging hero. But if you haven't read any of the series before, I'd go back and start at the beginning. The early novels have a freshness and an inspiration this one lacks.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An interesting idea that has gone astray, March 8, 2008
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This review is from: A Pale Horse: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) (Hardcover)
The weakest of all the books. Does the author not know the law? Rutledge knows the identity of the murder victim (and has proof from independent identification of the sketch) and yet allows another policeman (Madsen) to hold an innocent man who could not have killed him (a phone call would have fixed this problem)? By sleight of hand, the innocent guy is then charged with a murder of a missing man(Shoreham)when no body has been found or whether he is really missing? What a major flaw! The book gives great evidence of being hurriedly written. What a big disappointment--this flaw is so major that I stopped reading at the halfway point.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too slow, too many characters, too many unnecessary subplots, March 18, 2011
This is the 10th installment of the inspector Rutledge series, which started with "A Test of Wills" in 1996. The series, which features Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard, is set in England just after the First World War. The author, Charles Todd, is actually two Americans - David Todd Watjen and his mother, Carolyn L. T. Watjen. As usual, the Todds do an excellent job of portraying England after the Great War and the affects that the war had on the country.

Rutledge is sent to two rural areas, Yorkshire and Berkshire, to investigate a murder and a missing person. He encounters more murders, fires, car chases and confessions. Unfortunately, even with all of that action, the pacing is much too slow. There are also too many characters to keep track of and there are a few unnecessary subplots that serve no purpose. When I finally reached the end, it did not make a lot of sense. When I went back and dissected the plot in my mind, I found that the connection between the first murder, the missing person and the subsequent murders were because of one enormous coincidence. There were also many other actions of the characters that just did not ring true.

Because of the local color and because I've enjoyed the previous books in this series, I'm being generous in giving "A Pale Horse" 3 stars. Hopefully, the Todds will get back to their original form in the next installment.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. Revelation 6:8, December 13, 2008
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This review is from: A Pale Horse: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) (Hardcover)
Did you know that there is a 3000-year-old, fabulously minimalist horse, carved into the chalk in the hills of Berkshire, England? And that it is longer than an American football field? I sure didn't and that's just one of the reasons to read this or any book by Charles Todd. Every book is a careful mixture of British police procedural, World War I history, and British countryside arcana.

This book starts with a murdered body that is carefully staged in an abandoned abbey in the Yorkshire countryside. Although this body is wearing a gas mask, he is found to have died by gas-induced asphyxiation. Meanwhile, Inspector Ian Rutledge is called into the office of his archnemesis, Chief Superintendent Bowles, in the middle of the night and dispatched to Berkshire, where the War Office has misplaced "one of their own". The enigmatic, disappeared man was last seen at his cottage, which is tucked into the hill below the Chalk Horse. And we're off!

The story bounces among London, Yorkshire, and Berkshire and the gas-mask man, who may or may not have something to do with the disappearance of Partridge, the War Office's missing man. And all along, we get so much local color! We also get some insights into the many people who returned from World War I with hideous physical damage and worse mental damage. The conscientious objectors in this war were assigned to battlefield duty as ambulance drivers and medics, so they didn't fare much better. The countryside is littered with injured souls, not the least of which is Rutledge, who still carries the voice of Hamish, the dead Scottish soldier in his head.

This is 10th book from the mother/son team of Charles Todd, nine of which feature Inspector Rutledge and the ghost of Hamish, who is a fixture in the mind of Rutledge ever since he was forced to execute Hamish for cowardice in the middle of a raging battle in France. This is a special literary device and it works because Todd doesn't overuse it. There is something in me that does not wish to see Rutledge heal to the point where Hamish disappears. By now they seem to be two necessary halves of a whole. And this is another great entry in the continuing saga.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good mystery, January 20, 2014
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Good book good series. I am never disappointed in one of these books. Would recommend the Bess Crawford series too.
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