Wings of Fire

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard is sent to Cornwall to investigate the recent deaths of three members of the same family. According to the local police, two were suicides and the third an accident, but a cousin, Lady Rachel Ashford, has convinced the Yard to investigate further. One of the deaths was that of Olivia Marlowe, whose poetry written under the name O. A. Manning had sustained Rutledge during wartime, especially the volume titled “Wings of Fire.”

What Rutledge finds in the small coastal town of Borcombe is the untold story of a wealthy and respected family with a very complicated history and townspeople who do not want to answer his questions.

Rosamund Trevelyan, the mother of the recent dead, had married three times and had two children by each marriage. Only one survives, Suzanna. Rachel Ashford and Cormac FitzHugh, who was born before Brian FitzHugh became Rosamund’s third husband, have grown up with the family. The others, including Rosamund, Brian, and two young children, have over the years all presumably died by suicide or misadventure. One child disappeared on the moors and has never been found.

The townspeople, including Rachel Ashford, do not want to know the truths that Inspector Rutledge begins to uncover. These truths are more than facts about the family deaths. They are truths about the long range effects of evil, both to individuals and to society. Rutledge also learns more about himself, tormented by the voice in his head of Corporal Hamish MacLeod, whom Rutledge had unwillingly had to execute on the battlefield.

In WINGS OF FIRE Charles Todd creates intriguing characters, sustained suspense, and an insightful view of an era that is both specific and timeless in its implications.