Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries (Series Premise)
Ian Rutledge and Hamish
Written by Charles Todd (a mother-son writing team)
Victorian mysteries that take place, primarily, in England
Warning: The following series premise contains minor character development spoilers that are revealed in tidbits throughout the series. However, I have only revealed what I felt was necessary to give a complete and accurate overview; I promise there is plenty here that is left unsaid.
This series centers around Ian Rutledge, a shell-shocked veteran of World War I. Rutledge was on the front in France when a young Scottish soldier, Hamish, refused his order to lead the men over the trench. Rutledge was left with no choice but to execute Hamish for insubordination.
Just as Rutledge pulls the trigger to shoot Hamish, a shell explodes where the soldiers are standing….burying Rutledge for an unknown length of time with Hamish’s corpse. Rutledge is found, completely dazed, wandering in France unaware of who he is, where he is, and why he is there.
Brought home to a mental institution, Rutledge slowly begins to recover his memory and a tentative grasp on his sanity. But he is “haunted” by the incessant hallucination of Hamish, who is always, always speaking in his ear.
While in the mental institution, Rutledge’s fiancée, Jean, leaves him for another man.
Thus, when he is finally deemed healthy enough for release, Rutledge is thin and drawn and returns to Scotland Yard (where he had left a “brilliant career,” according to A Test of Wills) to shuffle paperwork in a cubicle.
Rutledge, however, has been returned to Chief Inspector Bowles, a petty man who (possibly) resents Rutledge because he could not serve in the war himself. Bowles is all too willing to assign the obviously still-fragile Rutledge to a murder case.
Rutledge drives his own motor car, also partially in response to his shell shock. For Rutledge, Hamish sits behind him in the passenger seat, though during long drives it takes the inspector no small amount of will to not look in the rearview mirror—he is terrified of seeing Hamish sitting there; the voice is so real, the person so vivid to Rutledge, that this is a very real possibility for Rutledge. It is a constant reminder of just how fragile his hold on sanity is.
Lonely, tormented, and clinging to his job, Rutledge knows that it would only take a minor slip—asking someone not to sit in the car on Hamish, or answering Hamish aloud—to be fired or, worse, sent back to the asylum. Hamish, for his part, acts as a rather sadistic guardian angel for Rutledge; he will not allow Rutledge to die and thus find peace.
As the series progresses, so too do Rutledge and Hamish in their respective ways. Rutledge finds—very, very slowly—that he is beginning to heal. Hamish remains unrelenting, but several of the books give us additional insight into his life.