Sunday, January 19, 2014

Breaking News--Scotland Yard Detective Solves Mysterious Deaths at Downton

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I've just finished reading Charles Todd's latest Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery, HUNTING SHADOWS. It hits the bookshelves on Jan. 27 but I was lucky enough to get an early copy. And I loved it! So I called Caroline and Charles to tell them that, and to ask them to join us here on JRW to talk about the book. Then we wandered into a discussion about the new season of Downton Abbey, and before we knew it, we were off and running as authors sometimes do when they get together. 

HUNTING SHADOWS opens with Rutledge driving through a heavy mist. He's on his way to Ely to look into two murders. Each of the victims was killed by a single rifle shot, and in the chaos the shooter gets away unseen—except for a lone witness who swears the shooter was a monster. Scotland Yard has been sent for since one victim is an Army officer and the other was standing for Parliament. On his way to Ely, in the Cambridgeshire Fen country, blinded by the mist, Rutledge nearly plunges into one of the many drainage ditches that over the centuries have turned this watery land into fertile farm country. That sent us off on a tangent, remembering Matthew dying in that awful car crash in the last season of Downton Abbey as he was on his way to tell the Earl that Lady Mary was fine and the Grantham succession had been secured by the birth of little George. 

CAROLINE: And then I mentioned to Deborah that Julian Fellowes had skipped the next six months, during which there must have been an investigation into Matthew's death, his rate
of speed, the condition of his motorcar, and of the other driver. An inquest would have been held before Matthew's death would have been declared an accident.

CHARLES: But I'd never seen a constable walking the village streets. Yes, some burly policemen came to take Bates away on a charge of murder, but they were from York. Who then investigated the accident? Since it was the Earl's heir, I can't believe that the inquiry would have been left to the local constable. Had the Chief Constable sent someone from York? Or even Scotland Yard? 

DEBS: And at this point in the conversation, I asked, what if Rutledge had made a wrong turn in the mist and found himself in Yorkshire instead? And because he was the man on the spot, London put him in charge of the investigation? What would he have thought about the Abbey as he came up the drive to the front of the house?

CAROLINE: Rutledge has always been interested in architecture. And the Abbey--actually Highclere Castle--is a very handsome place. I think he'd have been intrigued because it's actually a smaller house that was expanded by a false fa├žade. He'd have wanted to know

CHARLES: It had to be Rutledge of course--Duncan Kincaid wasn't around in this timeframe.
DEBS: There would have been black mourning crepe on the door as he pulled up in front of the house.

CAROLINE: And of course Carson would have answered the door. And probably looked down his nose at Rutledge, who wasn't an Earl or Duke or even a minor Lord. But he'd have been gracious and taken Rutledge to that fabulous library where the Earl usually attends to his affairs.

DEBS: Who would have fallen under suspicion? The Earl himself, of course, because if Matthew died, it was likely he'd have management of the estate again. 

CHARLES: I don't want it to be the Earl. He's the strength of that family, the one who holds it all together, even if Julian Fellowes did let him lose most of his money in unsound investments. 

CAROLINE AND DEBS: No, we have to agree there. He's one of our favorite characters. But we will let him be under suspicion for a little while, as long as he's cleared.

DEBS: Of course Lady Mary would be under suspicion. After all, she left Matthew in Scotland to come back to Yorkshire to have her son. Perhaps she was tiring of him and his meddling in the estate. She's always been the one closest to her father. 

CAROLINE: It was a tradesman's van that ran him off the road. Could it have been the butcher in Thirsk who had longed to marry Mrs. Patmore for her cooking? He would have had just such a van.

DEBS: Rutledge will definitely have to question him. And he'll have to ask Mrs. Patmore if she thinks the butcher was capable of such a thing as a way to get back at her for dashing his hopes.

CHARLES: There's Branson, we can't forget he's the estate manager now and might prefer to work with the Earl rather than Matthew. Or maybe he's a little jealous of Matthew as the favorite son in law.

DEBS: I can't think of any reason why Cora or Lady Edith or God forbid, the Dowager, had any reason to want him dead. That leaves us with the rest of the staff.

CHARLES: Certainly not Carson, who is so fond of Lady Mary. He wouldn't do anything to hurt her. Nor Mrs. Hughes, who is a good Scot, sharp, but with a kind heart.

DEBS: It's too bad O'Brien was in Scotland. It could have been her--meddling again.

CAROLINE: I'd certainly like HER for a villain. Which reminds me. What about Thomas?

DEBS: Hmmm. He's always plotting, isn't he? Wait--I just saw Rutledge going into the housekeeper's parlor with Mrs. Hughes. He can't suspect her! Can he?

CAROLINE: Hurry, we can listen through the grating on the wall just outside her room. Shhh. There's a clink of china. She must have offered him tea! If it were anyone else, I'd think Poison.

"Well, now, Inspector. You've spoken to every soul in this house. Have you got even a clue as to who murdered poor Mr. Matthew? Whoever he is, he's a black-hearted villain to leave Lady Mary and the bairn without a husband or father."

"It's been a hard case to crack," Rutledge agreed. "And the reason I've come to you is that I've heard several people mention a fellow up from London. Is that a reference to Mr. Carlyle, the newspaper magnate? Was he still jealous of Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley?"

"Oh, bless you, no, Mr. Rutledge. We've seen neither hide nor hair of Mr. Carlyle for some time. No. A fellow up from London... Oh, I see where you went wrong. It's that fellow Fellowes. My goodness, I should have thought of him from the start. He's Baron Fellowes, now."

"A friend of the family?"

"You might say that. I'd call him a great meddler. He was here, staying at the Abbey when Mr. Matthew was killed. He CLAIMED he was out walking the hills, thinking. But I wouldn't have put it past him to waylay Mr. Matthew. He always had a fondness for Lady Mary, in spite of putting that Turkish gentleman in her way. Jealousy, that's what it was! And I just thought--he was here as well when Lady Sibyl, the youngest daughter of the house, died in childbirth. It was his idea to let that fancy doctor from London tell everyone that nothing could be done to save the poor lass. And she died. If our doctor had had his way, she'd be alive still, and that pretty little thing upstairs wouldn't be motherless."

Standing there by the grill we heard a chair scrape across the floor, and we scampered away before we were caught. But we heard Inspector Rutledge say, "Thank you, Mrs. Hughes, you've been a great help. I'm on my way to London now to apprehend that man. For murdering Mr. Matthew and letting Lady Sibyl die. Baron or not, he will hang for what he's done!"

"I can't think of a better fate for him," Mrs. Hughes said firmly as the door to her parlor opened and Rutledge came out.

DEBS: Thank you, Caroline and Charles, and Inspector Rutledge. I'm sure we all feel better knowing that the man responsible for the tragic deaths of Matthew and Lady Sybil will be brought to justice. 

And what about you, REDS and READERS? Do you think the mysterious Mr. Fellowes should be allowed a "Get Out of Jail Free" card?

We hope everyone is enjoying their Yorkshire puddings and looking forward to British telly, and we want to send out a special HURRAH to Dame Maggie Smith, who just won a SAG Best Actress in a Drama Award for her portrayal of the Dowager Duchess!!!


Joan Emerson said...

I’m looking forward to reading “Hunting Shadows.” As for giving Fellowes a “get out of jail free” card . . . oh, my goodness, no . . . .

Edith Maxwell said...

What a delightful imagining! Thanks for starting my day off with a smile.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Oh you guys are amazing! thank you Caroline and Charles and Debs...

But I'm surprised you're so fond of the Earl. He's turned into such a dweeb in our opinions. he and his wife seem dense as fence posts--never noticing the evil right around them:).

What a delightful way to prepare for the next episode! and YOUR book!

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Dear Caroline and Charles (if I may) — how wonderful to "meet" you! (Fanning myself now, having a fangirl moment....)

Karen in Ohio said...

A hanging offense, indeed! Well done, solving the crime.

Hallie Ephron said...

Such fun reading this! It's a sort of WHAT IF Downton Abbey had been produced by Masterpiece Mystery. I love imagining Rutledge on the scene...

Which had me wondering, what if the detective had been Cordelia Gray? Or Inspector Morse? Or (yikes!) Hetty Wainthropp. Gives me a headache just imagining it.

Welcome to Jungle Red, Charles & Caroline!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

This is the best thing I've ever read! You all are marvelous, hilarious, and wonderful!

Thank you you thank you, dear Todds and Debs..I am your biggest fan! And I cannot tell you how much I adore Rutledge. Well, actually, I HAVE told you, with much delight..

And cannot wait to read Hunting Shadows.

(And yes, I must agree, Lucy, the Earl does seem a bit of a post. And I will never forgive Edith.)

Kris Holtan said...

I am anxiously awaiting my pre-ordered copy to land on my Kindle. I adore Ian Rutledgeand have the entire series on Kindle!

Kaye Barley said...

Oh, what fun - gotta go read it again . . .

(and very much looking forward to "Hunting Shadows!")

Deborah Crombie said...

We had so much fun with this, I can't tell you.

Hank and Lucy, turning Robert Grantham into a dolt is another crime we lay at Mr. Fellowes feet!

And I should have said again how good Hunting Shadows is--Mr. Fellowes should take writing lessons from the Todds:-)

Caroline and Charles are on their way to NC today but will check in when they can.

Kathy Reel said...

What fun! The three of you gave us all a jolly good start to the day. Hang that Fellowes meddler/murderer. Hehehe

Another pair of authors I was delighted to meet and hear speak at last year's Bouchercon, Charles Todd and Caroline Todd were so interesting and gracious. One of my series reading goals this year is to catch up on Ian Rutledge.

Anonymous said...

Pooh, it was Matthew Crawley's evil twin, one Dan Stevens, whodunit.

storytellermary said...

Well done! Perhaps Downton Abbey needs two new writers to help make sense of it all ;-)

Kristi said...


Was lucky enough to score an ARC of Hunting Shadows and found it FABULOUS! I love Bess Crawford but hadn't been an Inspector Rutledge fan until now. So evocative -- just a marvelous book.

As for DA, I can easily see Rutledge called in to help with a murder I would like to see committed in the new season...!

Sharon F said...

Logic tells me I must give JF a pass in the matter of Matthew's death. As was pointed out, the guilt there must be laid at the foot of the evil twin Dan Stephens.

BUT he must have been complicit in the death of Sybil as well as the atrocity which occurred last week. That may have been the last straw for me.

Tonight I'll be waiting until time for the return of Sherlock before I switch to PBS tonight.

Can't wait for the new Rutledge book! I have a Christmas gift card to use at my indie mystery bookstore.


Deborah Crombie said...

Caroline and Charles are having trouble accessing Blogger, so here I quote Caroline's text message:

"It has been so much fun reading all the comments--wasn't Deborah clever to come up with this idea? I can't tell you how much we laughed as we worked on it--to the tune of a dog's constant comments with a squeaky toy!

Glad you are enjoying Hunting Shadows--we are already hard at work on next year's Rutledge and that's been exciting!"

And Debs says, "The piece was 95% Caroline and Charles, as it should be! And yes, Dax has a new toy, a Kong Wubba, and it does squeak:-))

Nancy said...

What fun! This is a great post!
(and, one of my Labs loves his Wubba Kong)


Anonymous said...

What fun! You all are so clever and obviously imaginative. Perhaps the backstory of the accident will someday be dramatized on Downton Abbey.

I, too, was fortunate enough to win an ARC of Hunting Shadows through Goodreads, and finished reading it just a few days ago. Rutledge is one of my very favorite characters, and this book was fantastic. It was also really interesting to learn more about the fens, and to feel the closeness of the mists and fogs. Very atmospheric, with such fascinating characters.

Thank you, Charles and Caroline, as well as Debs, for many hours of enjoyment.

Gail in Seguin

Caroline Todd said...

I think we might make it in this time. Just wanted to say that doing research in a and around Ely Cathedral and the Fen country was really interesting. Climbing up to the towers was exhausting work but walking around in that cathedral is still a thrilling experience, no matter how many times you go there. I could imagine going to a wedding there. Learning about the Fens of a hundred years ago was fascinating. All the fish and birds that used to live in the marshes, how people earned a living--even the size of the rats--and so on were just amazing to read about in old books.

S said...

What a fun post. Thanks for getting us speculating right along with you. I'll have to but Inspector Rutledge on my reading list.

martisima said...

Exactly what I could expect from these geniuses. Thanks for making my day! I needed it...

Caroline Todd said...

It's getting on toward time here on the east coast to think about dinner now and washing the dishes and settling down for Sherlock, then DA. This has been such a fun day reading all the posts! Wasn't that chance to win an ARC a great idea? I hope Morrow does it again. The new Bess is scheduled for July so mark your calendars just in case. Deborah is to be congratulatedon starting a lively discussion this Sunday. And as many of you know, we're fans of Duncan & Gemma. When the three of us get together-- for oysters usually--the conversation is always lively! Meanwhile hope your YPs were delicious!

Reine said...

We are getting ready to watch—first supper. We are on Mountain Time here, so I am very jealous of everyone getting to watch it sooner. Shame on me.

Debs, Caroline & Charles today's blog post was a huge lot of fun! Thank you! xoxoxo

Francine Miller said...

What fun to read. Could just imagine Mrs. Malory or Dorothy Martin listening in while you enjoyed a cup of tea.