Todd, Charles [A joint pseudonym] (David Todd Watjen)

views updated

Todd, Charles [A joint pseudonym] (David Todd Watjen)

PERSONAL:

Son of Caroline Todd (an author); married (divorced). Education: Holds a bachelor of arts and a culinary arts degree. Hobbies and other interests: History, old movies, English authors, golf, sports, animals.

CAREER:

Mystery writer.

WRITINGS:

WITH MOTHER, CAROLINE TODD; UNDER JOINT PSEUDONYM CHARLES TODD; "IAN RUTLEDGE" MYSTERY SERIES

A Test of Wills, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Wings of Fire, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Search the Dark, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 1999.

Legacy of the Dead, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Watchers of Time, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2001.

A Fearsome Doubt, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2002.

The Murder Stone, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2003.

A Cold Treachery, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2005.

A Long Shadow, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2006.

A False Mirror, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2007.

A Pale Horse, William Morrow (New York, NY), 2008.

SIDELIGHTS:

Charles Todd is the joint pseudonym for the mother/son writing team of Charles and Caroline Todd, whose common names are David Todd Watjen and Carolyn L.T. Watjen. The two share a fondness for English authors, and Charles grew up listening to bedtime stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Shakespeare, which his mother read to him. There is a history of storytelling in their family, with both authors having enjoyed hearing their fathers and grandfathers tell stories of their own childhoods. One grandmother shared ghost stories, while a great-uncle recounted his experiences as a flyer in World War II. They each cite the influence of childhood reading for their interest in writing, and especially their interest in mysteries. In an interview with January, Charles Todd remarked: "I can't remember not having a library card. Or my parents not reading to me. Or not finding stacks of books on every imaginable subject all over the house. And I liked the puzzle of a mystery—I liked figuring out why it worked."

This literate background is reflected in the mystery series Charles and Caroline Todd write featuring the adventures of Inspector Ian Rutledge in post-World War I England. Rutledge left his position at Scotland Yard in order to fight in the Great War, but now returned home, he suffers from shell shock, a condition he wishes to keep secret. Maureen Corrigan, writ- ing in the Washington Post Book World, remarked that the Todds' "Ian Rutledge" mysteries "are among the most intelligent and affecting being written these days."

The "Ian Rutledge" mysteries are introduced with A Test of Wills. In this book the Todds introduce both Rutledge and his sidekick, Hamish MacLeod, who turns out to be merely Rutledge's taunting inner voice who sounds suspiciously like a young Scot soldier the sleuth was forced to execute during the war. Rutledge sets out to solve the murder of retired Colonel Charles Harris but finds more questions than answers over the course of his investigation. A contributor to Publishers Weekly wrote that the Todds portray "the worlds of his characters with authority and sympathy" as they reach their "surprising—and convincing—conclusion."

In Wings of Fire, Rutledge goes to Cornwall in order to investigate three deaths that appear to be a double suicide and an accident, all occurring within the same family over a matter of weeks. David Pitt, in a review for Booklist, noted that the fantasy element of MacLeod might not appeal to all readers, but called the book "a well-crafted mystery that will please those who give it a chance." Boston Globe contributor Robin W. Winks remarked that "this is a strong mystery, filled with fine characterizations, a superb eye for Cornwall and for post-World War I attitudes, and a wise and wily exploration of how some of us deal with guilt." A contributor to Publishers Weekly wrote that "memorable characters, subtle plot twists, the evocative seaside setting and descriptions of architecture, the moors and the sea fully reward the attention this novel commands." Rex E. Klett, reviewing for Library Journal, called the Todds' effort "an excellent historical mystery."

In Search the Dark, Rutledge finds himself in Dorset searching for two missing children, whose mother has apparently been murdered by their father. Questions soon arise, including whether or not the children actually exist at all. David Pitt, writing for Booklist, commented that "the rather odd relationship between Rutledge and the memory of the man he executed makes the stories fresh and unusual," while Rex E. Klett, reviewing for Library Journal, called the book "a well-crafted historical."

Legacy of the Dead forces Rutledge to confront his inner demons when he goes to investigate a murder in Scotland and discovers that the main suspect was formerly engaged to Hamish MacLeod, the man who haunts the inspector's thoughts. Both the case and the book end with Rutledge fighting for his life. Writing in Library Journal, Klett remarked that "very forceful emotional scenes ensue as Ian ferrets out the truth." Pitt, reviewing in Booklist, calls the book a "fine, unique, and moving mystery that will appeal to readers looking for something a little out of the ordinary." A contributor to Publishers Weekly found that "readers will continue to be captivated by the Todds' portrait of the dangerously unraveling detective, and [their] … equally incisive evocation of the grieving postwar world."

Inspector Rutledge is forced to investigate the murder of a clergyman while still recovering from a wound received in the line of duty in the next book in the series, Watchers of Time. Bill Ott, in a review for Booklist, remarked that "the crime solution here may be a bit too tidy, but the story's rich texture more than compensates." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews observed that the novel offers "a spot-on recreation of the 1919 period, some wily use of the Titanic tragedy and villagers' xenophobia, and the most persistent plaguing by a ghost since Macbeth."

Inspector Rutledge continues his angst-ridden investigations of British murders in A False Mirror and A Long Shadow. The first story tells of Rutledge's trip to the seaside town of Hampton Regis to deal with an explosive situation. Stephen Mallory, formerly one of Rutledge's men, has been accused of an assault on the husband of a former girlfriend and, afraid of being railroaded for the crime, has seized his ex-girlfriend and several others as hostages. Rutledge has to confront his own past once more as he works to ferret out the true offender and to exonerate Mallory. The author, declared a Publishers Weekly contributor, "seamlessly melds a fair-play whodunit with psychological suspense" as in the best of P.D. James's works. He "incorporates touches of both Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie," Stephanie Zvirin stated in her Booklist review, "in this character-driven mystery."

A Long Shadow tells of a constable in a remote English village shot by a mysterious assailant who used a bow and arrow. To complicate matters, the crime was committed on the site of an ancient Saxon massacre, a site which, the author hints, may have also been the site of more recent deaths. "Rutledge's fragile psyche comes in for additional battering from an enigmatic woman" who says she can communicate with the dead, explained a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. "This entry excels at intricate relationships among characters," stated Library Journal contributor Laurel Bliss, "and the slow unveiling of Rutledge's personality." "Todd's series," David Wright declared in Booklist, "has the feel of the classic whodunits of such Golden Age masters as Christie and Sayers."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 1, 1998, David Pitt, review of Wings of Fire, p. 905; March 15, 1999, David Pitt, review of Search the Dark, p. 1292; August, 2000, David Pitt, review of Legacy of the Dead, p. 2123; October 1, 2001, Bill Ott, review of Watchers of Time, p. 303; August, 2002, Connie Fletcher, review of A Fearsome Doubt, p. 1933; December 1, 2005, David Wright, review of A Long Shadow, p. 29; November 1, 2006, Stephanie Zvirin, review of A False Mirror, p. 33.

Boston Globe, May 31, 1998, Robin W. Winks, review of Wings of Fire, p. N2.

Chicago Tribune, January 23, 2005, Dick Adler, review of A Cold Treachery, p. 4.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2001, review of Watchers of Time, p. 1174; August 15, 2002, review of A Fearsome Doubt, p. 1182; October 1, 2003, review of The Murder Stone, p. 1204; December 15, 2004, review of A Cold Treachery, p. 1170; November 15, 2005, review of A Long Shadow, p. 1215; October 15, 2006, review of A False Mirror, p. 1049.

Library Journal, February 1, 1998, Rex E. Klett, review of Wings of Fire, p. 115; April 1, 1999, Rex E. Klett, review of Search the Dark, p. 133; June 15, 2000, Theresa Connors, review of Search the Dark, p. 136; August, 2000, Rex E. Klett, review of Legacy of the Dead, p. 165; October 1, 2001, Laurel Bliss, review of Watchers of Time, p. 147; September 1, 2002, Laurel Bliss, review of A Fearsome Doubt, p. 219; May 1, 2003, Theresa Connors, review of Legacy of the Dead, p. 169; November 1, 2003, Laurel Bliss, review of The Murder Stone, p. 128; January 1, 2005, Laurel Bliss, review of A Cold Treachery, p. 86; December 1, 2005, Laurel Bliss, review of A Long Shadow, p. 107; November 15, 2006, Susan O. Moritz, review of A False Mirror, p. 64.

MBR Bookwatch, February, 2005, Harriet Klausner, review of A Cold Treachery.

New York Times Book Review, June 13, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of Search the Dark, p. 26; February 6, 2005, Marilyn Stasio, review of A Cold Treachery, p. 25.

Publishers Weekly, June 10, 1996, review of A Test of Wills, p. 88; January 12, 1998, review of Wings of Fire, p. 46; March 1, 1999, review of Search the Dark, p. 62; September 25, 2000, review of Legacy of the Dead, p. 91; September 24, 2001, review of Watchers of Time, p. 72; September 2, 2002, review of A Fearsome Doubt, p. 57; September 22, 2003, review of The Murder Stone, p. 87; December 6, 2004, review of A Cold Treachery, p. 46; October 31, 2005, review of A Long Shadow, p. 35; November 6, 2006, review of A False Mirror, p. 39.

School Library Journal, April, 2002, Elizabeth Rhodes, review of Watchers of Time, p. 186; April, 2006, Molly Connally, review of A Long Shadow, p. 169.

Washington Post Book World, May 3, 1998, Maureen Corrigan, review of Wings of Fire, p. X07; May 2, 1999, Maureen Corrigan, review of Search the Dark.

ONLINE

Black Raven Press Web site,http://www.blackravenpress.com/ (July 7, 2007), "Charles Todd."

Charles Todd Home Page,http://www.charlestodd.com (July 7, 2007).

January,http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (July 7, 2007), "Charles Todd."

About this article

Todd, Charles [A joint pseudonym] (David Todd Watjen)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article