Charles Todd Signing By Mary Ann Smyth January, 2008
I jumped at the chance to attend a book signing the other night for the mother-son team who write under the name Charles Todd. The authors, who live on the east coast of the United States, created the acclaimed post World War I series starring Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge. The Inspector is one of the most unusual protagonists in modern mystery fiction. Having suffered greatly in the trenches, he returns to work haunted by the ghost of Hamish MacLeod, with whom he served in France - a most unusual partner-in-crime.
The Ian Rutledge series gains more readers for every book released from their collaboration - ten, so far, A Pale Horse being the most recent. If you have not read any Charles Todd books yet, you're in for a treat. I advise starting with the first, A Test of Wills and working your way forward. But, while these books are not standalones, any one of the series can still be picked up out of order and thoroughly enjoyed.
Caroline and Charles Todd were charming and gracious hosts for the signing and answered many, many questions. They expounded on the fact that they don't outline their plots but rather let each run its course. They handle their characters in the same way. As personalities grow, the Todds allow their characters to do what they want, not what the writers direct in advance. When starting a new book series, they choose a small village or town in England that might have looked about the same just after World War I. From there, they locate a good spot to find a body and start writing. At that stage they often don't know the victim's identity, nor are they sure who will end up as the guilty party.
It was easy to see how their collaboration works, just by watching how each handled fans' questions. The handheld microphone passed between them with hardly a nod to each other. The Todds spoke flawlessly, and with humor, about their writing and how they accomplish the finished product. Their approach works well for me, because Charles Todd has become one of my favorite authors. I look forward to their next novel and hope that some day I'll see the series come alive on TV or the big screen. The only jarring note in the signing was caused by two men behind me who persisted in talking almost the whole time. How disconcerting and rude!
Note that, in addition to the Ian Rutledge series the Todds have also written a standalone gothic mystery, The Murder Stone, starring Francesca Hatton. After losing her five male cousins to the war, Francesca inherits the isolated Exe Valley family estate in Devon - the inheritance accompanied by a last request from her grandfather to dispose of an unusual white stone in the garden - the Murder Stone. Don't miss any of Charles Todd's excellent historical mysteries!Note: Find out more about the authors and their novels at CharlesTodd.com, where you can also read An Interview with Inspector Ian Rutledge, March 1920.
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