Maybe it's me; perhaps my more recent bent towards cozies in general or new loves Tana French and Denise Mina were dampening my enthusiasm for Rutledge.
Perhaps it was Rutledge; surely he must heal at some point but, if he does, what of Hamish? But no, Rutledge on his own would be fine, too.
Regardless, I'm not one to give up on friends -- erm, fictional characters, ehem -- easily, so I was relieved when the standard vignette Todd opens all the books with completely captivated me. The setting -- pre- and post-World War I Maderia, Spain -- was fascinating, and it occurred to me maybe Rutledge (or rather, his readers) just needed a change of scenery.
Alas, it wasn't meant to be. I kept waiting for Rutledge to travel to Spain to investigate the prestigious French family, vintners with pedigree and relatively few secrets but plenty of the resentments and slights found in families the world over. As always in a Rutledge book, people's motivations are never quite clear and often result from complex emotions which, in my view, lends them more credibility than suspects tend to have in this genre, but we only got to see most of them in retrospect.
Despite this, I did enjoy the actual mystery, which was the lesser-used variant on the standard found-body formula (not a complaint; obviously, I love mysteries) of needing to deduce who the found body is in the first place. I must admit there's a nice little twist there.
Yet while this was a good read I'm forced to confess it wasn't a favorite, and for a rather shallow, superficial reason, too. I didn't like who the villain turned out to be -- sure, it was the less-expected suspect, and fit well into a the physical-combat climax (which was exceptionally well-written for an action scene that very easily could have been confusing and muddled), but I just plain didn't want it to be that person. The person who I did want it to be, granted, would've been obvious, but also in my opinion more compelling because of its plausibility.
The character development was strong, however. Rutledge's sister, specifically, has a bit more of a character-driven presence in this novel and I enjoyed that very much. And Rutledge does seem to be slowly but surely healing from his broken heart, though he is still very much a wounded man. Rutledge has a new boss I'm interested enough in to read more to suss him out and there's a new character with a background in intelligence, always a nice device in these kinds of series.
So, for now, I'll keep reading the series, though it may have bumped down in my rotation a few notches.