Rating: 3 stars
A dangerous case with ties leading back to the battlefields of World War I dredges up dark memories for Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge in Hunting Shadows, a gripping and atmospheric historical mystery set in 1920s England, from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd.
A society wedding at Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire becomes a crime scene when a man is murdered. After another body is found, the baffled local constabulary turns to Scotland Yard. Though the second crime had a witness, her description of the killer is so strange it’s unbelievable.
Despite his experience, Inspector Ian Rutledge has few answers of his own. The victims are so different that there is no rhyme or reason to their deaths. Nothing logically seems to connect them—except the killer. As the investigation widens, a clear suspect emerges. But for Rutledge, the facts still don’t add up, leaving him to question his own judgment.
In going over the details of the case, Rutledge is reminded of a dark episode he witnessed in the war. While the memory could lead him to the truth, it also raises a prickly dilemma. To stop a murderer, will the ethical detective choose to follow the letter—or the spirit—of the law?
When I first started reading this book, I was really excited because the premise sounded very promising. And for the first couple chapters, Hunting Shadows had me hooked. However, this book overall was a big disappointment for me.
Normally, I really enjoy reading books like this. I love murder mystery novels. I love these reads because they take a look into the justice system and how the law works. And while these books aren’t an accurate representation of what our system is like, they do paint an interesting picture and give the reader a better understanding of the process investigators have to go through in order to catch the bad guy. They move quickly, leaving no question unasked.
But this book just didn’t sit right with me. Having not read the first fifteen books in the series might have something to do with it. However, I think the pace of the novel was another problem I had with it. I just couldn’t get into reading this book because it was too slow. It started off climatic and then dropped the reader down to a slower pace. The reader briefly gets an insight into the killer’s head only to be dropped into the story where they don’t get to see the killer until the last few pages of the novel. And when the killer is introduced, the reader becomes disappointed because he isn’t what the reader expects.
Another problem I had with Hunting Shadows was the time period. I know the novel was supposed to take place in the 1920’s, but I really didn’t like the time period in this story or the setting overall. It was just okay. Didn’t add anything to make this book any more interesting for me and want to continue reading.
I also didn’t like the main character Rutledge. Not having read the rest of the books in this series might have something to do with it, but I also think part of it is because I just couldn’t connect to his character. For a Scotland Yard inspector, he wasn’t too bright. Some of his actions throughout the novel didn’t make sense to me. For example, the man he suspects to be the killer he takes him along with him while he continues his investigation into these murders only to discover that he actually isn’t the killer. And even after the guy is obviously in the clear, he still suspects him until he is able to find the murder weapon. Rutledge isn’t the inspector I was expecting to be the main character in Hunting Shadows and that really disappointed me and made it harder for me to continue reading this book.
However, there are some aspects of Hunting Shadows I did enjoy. The beginning of the story really got me interested in continuing to read this novel, despite how it all turned out. The reader gets to see into the killer’s head as he spots his first victim and sees how he reacts to seeing that character.
Another aspect of this book I enjoyed was how descriptive Todd is of the setting. While I didn’t enjoy the time period in this story, Todd definitely knows how to create atmosphere in a novel. The reader sees this throughout the book starting with when Rutledge gets lost to when Rutledge goes to find the murder weapon.
Even though I was overall disappointed in how Hunting Shadows turned out, I still give it three stars because Todd knows how to get the reader hooked at the beginning of a story and can create atmosphere that can mess with the reader’s emotions. This book was an okay read, but not one I’ll be reading again anytime soon.
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