The Piper: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Story, by Charles Todd

The Piper: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Story by [Todd, Charles]

Charles Todd’s Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery Series guides readers across early twentieth-century London, the English countryside, and occasionally on trips to the continent.  Readers observe as Scotland Yard’s ace investigator solves the cases everyone else finds impossible. Wherever Rutledge goes, Hamish MacLeod is sure to follow. Normally, Todd offers Rutledge mystery as novels. However, The Piper presents as a short story, and Rutledge is totally missing. In The Piper, Hamish MacLeod becomes a sleuth long before he meets the Scotland Yard Inspector. After Hamish rescues an injured bagpiper, the same lad is found murdered near the MacLeod croft. Hamish uses guile to trap the killer but exposes himself to considerable danger.

Weaving short stories into the fabric of a novel-based series conveniently fills in backstory and deepens character-development. Short stories may link to earlier and future works in serial novels, cement over gaps between existing novels, or offer a second viewpoint on the events.

Some of Charles Todd’s more recent Ian Rutledge novels serve as prequels to the post-World War I series. Although the author adds a new book each year, his pre-war short story—The Piper—both satisfies and intensifies the impatient fans’ hunger for a morsel of vicarious adventure.

The Piper elaborates on Hamish’s personal life and character. It illuminates the forces that shape the rugged individualism and moral strength he exhibits throughout the Rutledge series—the same courage that brings him into conflict with Rutledge.

Although remarkably beautiful, the Highlands of Scotland can challenge both beast and man. The MacLeod sheep survive outdoors on sparse vegetation, despite cold, soaking rain and raging wind. The canny highland sheep know how to hunker down behind any structure that blocks the wind. They provide Hamish’s family with the finest wool, the foundation of their subsistence. As The Piper begins, the reader observes Hamish struggling against the wind and drenching rain to open the door of his stone cottage. Without any luxuries, he roots about in the dark to stoke his fire and brighten his shelter. When he manages to find dry clothing, he hears a call for help. He returns to the storm to find a badly injured lad who he carries back to his home. These behaviors play out again in the later books of the series when Corporal Hamish MacLeod serves under the command of Ian Rutledge in the trenches of the Somme.

Ann McIntyre, a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, also uses a short story (Yes) as a link between her published novels set in the past (Lazarus of Bethany and The Feast of Pontius Pilate) to a novel in progress, set in the present. Other Guild members may find that short stories aid in rounding out their novels.

 

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Yes, A Short Story, by E. Ann McIntyre

 

During a cold and damp Lent, Yes, a homeless immigrant, barely survives his crossing of the Mediterranean to Italy. Suffering from pneumonia and a multitude of injuries, he finds shelter among Bernini’s colonnade in Vatican City, drawing disdainful stares from Christian tourists and members of the curia.

Thanks to the outreach programs instituted by Pope Francis, Yes and his homeless colleagues of every faith, enjoy hot showers, haircuts, laundry service, second-hand clothes, a free-clinic and a daily hot lunch. Papa Francis continually surprises his guests as he welcomes them and personally attends to their needs. Yes remarks on Papa’s humility, mercy and service, especially during the Holy Thursday liturgy. Yes reciprocates in his own way.

McIntyre’s fresh approach to story-telling fuses the art of parable with social commentary, travelogue and mystery. She blends ancient and current events with only moderate fractures to the space-time continuum. Subtly garnished with scriptural allusions, this fast paced and colorful saga delivers an up-close and personal encounter with Pope Francis as he embraces the poor and strangers. McIntyre compares and contrasts the life of Christ in the gospels and modern church theory and practice. Yes serves as a launching pad for discussion groups and for private reflection.