Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge has appeared in thirteen mysteries since 1996, with the fourteenth scheduled for 2012. A World War One veteran, Rutledge has severe shell shock: he unceasingly hallucinates the voice of Hamish MacLeod, a young Scottish officer he was forced to execute for dereliction of duty. Hamish provides a running commentary on Rutledge's cases, which is sometimes helpful, sometimes not. In times of stress, however, Hamish becomes extremely vindictive, and makes it impossible for Rutledge to hear or understand anything else.
Provides examples of the following tropes:
- Always Murder
- Celibate Hero: Primarily because Rutledge is terrified that a serious love interest might figure out his mental condition. He calls off his relationship with his fiancee after the war and, when presented with another potential love interest later on in the series, opts not to pursue her.
- Claustrophobia: Part of Rutledge's shellshock. After a bombing, he was Buried Alive under a mound of dirt, protected only by Hamish's corpse.
- Connect the Deaths: A Fine Summer's Day.
- Da Chief: Bowles.
- Dead Person Conversation
- Defective Detective
- Demoted to Extra: Todd has noticeably reduced Hamish's presence in the most recent novels, to the point where Rutledge almost never hears him in Proof of Guilt. It's not clear whether Todd has become tired of the character or Rutledge's mental state is improving.
- Averted in Hunting Shadows, where Hamish is in full force again.
- Don't Look Back: Rutledge senses Hamish's presence immediately behind him. As a result, he's extremely careful about looking into mirrors, and becomes anxious when he has to ride in the back seat of a car.
- Driven to Suicide: Maxwell Hume in A Lonely Death. In the same novel, Rutledge comes close to doing the same thing, then changes his mind.
- Flashback Echo: Rutledge briefly suffers one in Hunting Shadows, as do some of the other WWI veterans.
- Genteel Interbellum Setting: The action begins shortly after the end of World War One.
- Greek Chorus: Hamish often fulfills this function.
- Helpful Hallucination: Hamish can be this, pointing out details that Rutledge's conscious mind has overlooked.
- Limited Advancement Opportunities: Rutledge is stuck at DI because Bowles repeatedly sabotages his career, once going so far as to sign off on his arrest for the attempted murder of another detective.
- Police Procedural
- Prequel: A Fine Summer's Day, published nineteen years after the first novel in the series. It's set in the months leading up to WWI.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran