The Black Ascot is a historical mystery novel by Charles Todd. It is a recent installment in the series featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard. So, Rutledge is a veteran of the First World War who suffers from what was known as shell shock and has resumed his duties as a detective for the Yard. What few people know is that Rutledge is plagued by the voice of a comrade he executed for disobeying orders. That would be Hamish MacLeod who at times can be helpful as well as tormenting as Rutledge is working on another case. MacLeod’s apparent haunting is more of a psychological break instead of a supernatural occurrence. Yet, what makes this series so fascinating is that Rutledge is still a competent investigator.
The other interesting facet to this series is the glimpse of other historical and cultural references that are touched upon. In this one, Rutledge gets an unexpected lead on a case that is a decade old. During a royal horse race in 1910, known as the Black Ascot, a murder occurred and the lead suspect disappeared. Now Rutledge has learned that Alan Barrington has returned to England, which prompts him to reexamine the case. During the course of the investigation, he ends up in hospital after a suspected suicide attempt which could end his career as well as expose his deepest secret to those who do not have his best interest in mind.
I don’t know if this is the one to blow me away, however there was a lot I liked in this one. Rutledge being shaken up a bit with his condition was quite interesting. His tenacity in spite of his brokenness was once again showcased when he resumed his inquiries after he was released after his gunshot wound. There’s a somewhat expected yet welcome twist toward the end when Rutledge was getting close to the truth. A certain event was introduced that I had never heard yet is apparently to British history and culture. I didn’t mind that. The Royal Ascot was a yearly horse racing event that was quite well attended. The reader actually gets to meet Dr. Fleming who is usually mentioned in flashback or expositions reviewing Rutledge’s condition. Fleming was the one who suggested that Rutledge engage the presence in his mind so some degree rather than hope to ignore it entirely. He may have indeed saved the inspector’s life with this idea.
It’s still an engaging series, but the dynamic between Rutledge and Hamish needed a little shake-up. I try not to be too liberal with spoilers, but I think it’s still fair to say that Rutledge isn’t done yet, and I expect to enjoy the next case just as much.
Well, due to the pandemic disrupting my usual reading settings and schedule a bit, this one took a little longer to finish, however I am going to commit to adjusting and getting through my growing backlog of new reading material a bit quicker. Next up is a new Doctor Who anthology from BBC Books entitled The Target Storybook.