Charles Todd's critically acclaimed novels featuring Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge have been hailed by The Washington Post Book World as "one of the best historical series being written today." The New York Times Book Review calls Todd's mysteries "meticulously wrought...harrowing psychological drama." Now he stakes out new territory in this mesmerizing stand-alone novel of one woman's dark journey through family obsession, wartime secrets, and a chilling legacy.…The Murder StoneThe Great War is still raging in the autumn of 1916, when Francesca Hatton's beloved grandfather dies on the family estate in England's isolated Exe Valley. Grieving for the man who raised her, Francesca is stunned to find an unsigned letter among his effects, cursing the Hattons and their descendants. Now a stranger has shown up on her doorstep, accusing her grandfather of being a murderer.
After six superb historicals (A Fearsome Doubt, etc.) featuring Inspector Rutledge, a man haunted by his WWI experiences, Todd misses the mark in his first stand-alone, a predictable, unengaging story of family secrets. Francesca Hatton, an unworldly young woman who's been volunteering for the Red Cross in London since the start of the Great War, returns in 1916 to her family home in the isolated Exe Valley, where her beloved grandfather, Francis Hatton, is on his death bed. After Francis dies, she finds that he kept many things from her, ranging from large properties he owned and maintained to his personal relationships. Her confusion is only compounded when a wounded ex-soldier, whose days are numbered, appears and accuses the older Hatton of having murdered his mother decades earlier. Despite her adoration of the man who reared her and her five orphaned male cousins, she begins to question her faith in him. Those doubts lead her to reexamine the mysterious deaths of her parents and numerous other relatives, though her sleuthing is little more sophisticated than that of Nancy Drew. Given the masterful way Todd's Rutledge novels capture the horrors of trench warfare and the brutal slaughter's effect on those returning to civilian life, it's all the more surprising that his portrayal of the war and its scars here is superficial. Todd's many admirers would be advised to give this a pass and wait for the next entry in the Rutledge series. (Nov. 4) FYI: Todd is the pseudonym of a mother-son writing team. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from The Murder Stone by Charles Todd
Devon, Autumn, 1916
It always stood in the back garden -- what my cousins called the Murder Stone.
They teased me about it often enough.
"Put your head here, and your brains will be bashed out."
"Lie down here, and the headsman will come and chop your neck!"
Nasty little beasts, I thought them then. But they're all dead now. Lost at Mons and Ypres, Passchendaele and the Somme. Their laughter stilled, their teasing no more than a childhood memory. Their voices a distant echo I hear sometimes in my dreams.
"Do be quiet, Cesca! We're hiding from the Boers -- you'll give us away!"
But the Murder Stone is still there, at the bottom of my grandfather's garden, where it has always been.
And the house above the garden is mine, now. I've inherited it by default, because all the fair-haired boys are dead, gone to be real soldiers at last and mown down with their dreams of glory.