Top critical review
Reviewed in the United States on February 25, 2021
A major problem for book reviewers is how to judge a book. Do we rate the writing, the plot, the characters? Is a series book judged and rated differently from a standalone novel? Those were problems with “Charles Todd” (the mother-son writing team), and their newest Ian Rutledge book, “A Fatal Lie”. The book is the 23rd book in the series.
Can and do authors ever get sick of their characters? I’ve read many series books over the years and I can only think of one author - Sue Grafton - whose final book was as well written as her first. “A Fatal Lie” is indifferently written with Inspector Rutledge “of the Yard” being called in to investigate one murder, then two more, in Wales and surrounding area in England. Most of the book consists of Rutledge driving from town to town, talking to possible witnesses in the case. Most are natural liars and the poor Inspector can’t trust anybody’s account of the crimes, which seem to center around the kidnapping of a red headed little girl. Who were the child’s parents and what has been done to retrieve her? There’s endless driving around in cars and on motorcycles. I think the book’s plot skidded out of control early on, and by the end, I lost interest in both plot and characters.
But another way to judge a series book is to enjoy the continuation of the main character’s progress through the years. To read series books is to return to old friends and catch up with what’s going on with them. And in this respect, the Todds’ have done well. I’m giving their book 3 stars, which is a combo of a 4 for their bringing up to date characters we’ve missed since the last book and a 2 for indifferent writing.