A Test of Wills Summary & Study Guide

Caroline and Charles Todd
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A Test of Wills Summary & Study Guide Description

A Test of Wills Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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In the summer of 1919, Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard is desperate to get his old life back after four years of service in the trenches of World War I. When he is assigned to a case in a small English village, he jumps at the chance to see if he still has what it takes to solve a murder, but this case has complications that could end his career and send him back to an asylum a broken man.

Colonel Charles Harris, a soldier and a landowner in Warwickshire is killed by a shotgun blast to the face. The narrator tells us he dies hard and angry with a bellow of objection on his lips. After conducting the preliminary investigation, the local Constabulary turns to Scotland Yard for assistance. They have encountered a piece of evidence, given by a shell shocked former soldier, that implicates war-hero and Royal favorite Captain Mark Wilton. Ian Rutledge arrives on the scene and begins gathering evidence. Initially, it appears that Colonel Harris had no enemies among the people of Upper Streetham, and no one can imagine who would have wanted to kill him.

Ian questions Wilton, Lettice Wood, who is Harris's ward and Wilton's fiancee, a troublemaker named Mavers, and an ostracized artist named Catherine Tarrant. All have a story to tell, but none offer the complete one. It is not until Rutledge is able to talk to the shell shocked Hickam, that he gets a true breakthrough on the case. Meanwhile, Rutledge's internal demon, named Hamish McLeod, comments disparagingly on every step Rutledge takes. Hamish is a voice in Rutledge's head, a hold over from a horrific incident during the war that Rutledge barely survived. Hamish speaks up regularly and Rutledge often wonders if anyone else can hear him, even though he knows they cannot. In any case, Rutledge persists on through near despair at his inability to call on his former skills to solve the case.

Rutledge circles ever closer to an answer, but loses confidence because he is building a case that doesn't seem to fit. He finds a child's doll in the meadow where Harris died. The doll ends up being a key to the case since the little girl it belongs to is locked in a waking nightmare, having seen the headless corpse on its horse, and been convinced it was her father. With the facts in mind, and all signs pointing to the heroic Captain Wilton, Rutledge makes one last attempt to break through Lettice Wood's grief. She finally reveals that she and Colonel Harris were lovers, new lovers at that. She'd only had one night with him, but they had told Wilton that her engagement to him was over.

When the principals all gather for the funeral, Rutledge finally pieces together the part that is missing and is nearly too late to save Colonel Harris's steward, Royston, from an ax-wielding crazy woman. Colonel Harris was, in fact, mistakenly shot in the place of his steward Royston, who'd killed a child twenty years earlier in a motor car accident. The killing of Colonel Harris was all for revenge, but had been carried out by a mad woman on the wrong target.

Finally all the pieces fit and Rutledge's career is saved. He has gained confidence with this success, but Hamish still haunts him and Bowles has it in for him. Rutledge decides he must persevere, and he doesn't believe in ghosts.

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This section contains 578 words
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