THE PIPER by Charles Todd (Review, Interview, & Showcase)

The Piper

by Charles Todd

on Tour February 1-28, 2017


The Piper by Charles Todd

Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge returns shell shocked from the trenches of World War I, tormented by the spirit of Hamish MacLeod, the young soldier he executed on the battlefield. Now, Charles Todd features Hamish himself in this compelling, stand-alone short story.

Before the Great War, Hamish is farmer in the Scottish Highlands, living in a small house on the hillside and caring for a flock of sheep he inherited from his grandmother. When one spring evening he hears a faint cry ringing across the glen, Hamish sets out in the dark to find the source. Near the edge of the loch he spots a young boy laying wounded, a piper’s bag beside him. Hamish brings the piper to his home to stay the night and tends to his head wound, but by the time Hamish wakes the boy has fled. He tracks the footsteps in pursuit of the injured lad and finds him again collapsed in the grasses—now dead.

Who was the mysterious piper, and who was seeking his death? As Hamish scours the countryside for answers, he finds that few of his neighbors are as honest as he, and that until he uncovers a motive, everyone, including Hamish, is a suspect.


4 stars

I have to admit that I wasn’t a fan of short stories, however, I have recently changed my mind on this subject.

Reading this novella has introduced me to an author that I have not read before and quite enjoyed. It amazes me how an author can deliver a full suspenseful story within so few pages.

The Piper introduces the reader to Hamish MacLeod, a Scottish shepherd in the year 1914. He comes across a young “lad” who has been beaten, and later dies. Feeling he wants justice for this young Bag Piper, he begins his own investigation and plans to seek out who is responsible. And some of the people he meets aren’t who they say they are.

Amazing…63 pages of an intriguing story that fully had my attention!

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: January 10th 2017
Number of Pages: 100
ISBN: 0062678094 (ISBN13: 9780062678096)
Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge #19.5
Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗

Charles Todd

Author Bio:

Charles Todd is the New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. A mother-and-son writing team, they live on the East Coast.


Welcome and thank you for stopping by CMash Reads.

Writing and Reading:
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Since we write psychological suspense set in the time of the Great War, we don’t use personal experiences or current events. Still, people today are not very different from our characters in the period we’ve chosen. They still resort to murder to solve their problems, and the police must find killers without the benefit of CSI. But for us that’s the fun of it, setting up a murder and then sending Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard after the person who did it. It’s a cat and mouse game, hunter and hunted, and that’s both exciting and intriguing. Rutledge has only his wits to help him, his knowledge of people, and his experience. And so it’s more personal, more intense, and we want the reader to come along on the chase with us.

When starting to write a story, do you start from the beginning and see where it takes you or do you know what the conclusion will be and plot in reverse?
We start with page one, create the setting and the murder, and then see where the characters take us. It’s always a challenge to find out if we’re actually going to come to the end of the story with the killer caught, because we have no idea who he or she may be or why the murder or murders were done. If your characters come alive, if you let them be human and do what they would have done in real life, they’ll lead you to a satisfying and exciting conclusion. We just follow along and put it all down on paper. So far our characters have never let us down!

Are any of your characters based on people that you know?
We’ve only used a person we knew once, and that was a very dear friend who really loved Rutledge and cared about what was to happen to him. But as a rule, it’s hard to make “real” people fit into a story they aren’t a part of. Our characters come from the time and the setting, and we go to England to find the right place for the right story to begin. As we’re walking around a village, the characters begin to take shape, to belong there, and to have their own stories. That’s probably why the books seem to live for us and for many readers. The setting is always real, and that seems to breathe life into the people too.

Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
Charles: I write better in the morning, which actually works out quite well. We’ve already discussed the scene we’re working on together, and I will try out some action and dialog. Meanwhile, Caroline is doing the same at her end—only in the evening. So we have time to look over each other’s ideas, figure out what works best for the book, and take it from there. If there’s any problem, we solve it by going with what is true to the characters and the story. I think that’s why we’ve been so successful over twenty books for Rutledge and about half that number for the Bess Crawford mysteries set in the same Great War period. We’ve found a way to collaborate that really works for both of us.
Caroline: We really don’t have any idiosyncrasies, no “method” that helps us prepare for writing. By the time we’ve reached the second or third chapter, we’re so into the story that it’s exciting, and we’re eager to know what happens next. But there are two things that do matter. We can’t work in the same room—we talk too much and get nothing done. So we work in separate rooms even if we’re in the same house. It’s always been a long-distance effort, different towns and even different states, and we’re happy with that. The other thing is, we never like to talk about a story in progress. It seems to take the edge off, and so we just smile and tell our editor, “It’s going well.” And she’s content with that. She trusts us to deliver in the end.

Tell us why we should read your book?
What should we look for any book? We want it to be exciting—believable—fast-paced but well thought out—with characters we care about and want to spend time with. For us, the Great War was dramatic, it changed nations, and it shattered the lives of millions of ordinary people. What more riveting backdrop for murder and mystery? And here’s a man who chose police work because he wanted to give the victim a voice. But the war changed him too, and he came back to Scotland Yard with more in common with the killer. The trenches still haunt him, as they haunted so many, and you find yourself on his side, rooting for him, wanting him to win, and to heal. And that’s where the short story, “The Piper,” comes in. We often use short stories to tell the reader more about Corporal Hamish MacLeod, who served with Rutledge in the trenches until the Battle of the Somme and whose death has left unimaginable scars in Rutledge’s mind. Here for the first time, we let Hamish tell about his life before the Great War, before Rutledge met him. Turned out to be quite an experience!

Are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
We’ve recently handed in the next Bess Crawford mystery, A CASUALTY OF WAR—she’s a battlefield nurse who is sometimes drawn into situations where she sees, often more clearly than the police, what others are hiding. It’s been interesting to view the Great War through a woman’s eyes, and her training as a wartime nurse and her experiences as the daughter of a regimental colonel give her a wide range of talents to help solve a mystery. She’s really fun to write about, because she’s lively and intriguing, and very much able to take care of herself with wit and a clever mind–and a sense of duty that sometimes leads her into trouble. That’s September, by the way. And with the latest Rutledge, RACING THE DEVIL, just coming out in February, we’ve begun the Rutledge for 2018. This time we want to explore what happens to Rutledge when he is the only witness to a death… Stay tuned, we’ll soon know more.

Who are some of your favorite authors?
We both have a long list of favorites, past and present. We both grew up with Conan Doyle and Poe, then moved on to Jack Higgins and Frederick Forsyth, and Nelson DeMille, to name a few. Currently, we’re great fans of Lee Child and Lori Rader-Day, Anne Cleeland and Deborah Crombie, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Michael Connelly, Michael Stanley and Jeffrey Deaver, Judy Clemens and Laura Lippman. As you can see, we love to read mysteries as well as to write them!

What are you reading now?
Caroline: I just snagged an early copy of Deborah Crombie’s GARDEN OF LAMENTATIONS.
Charles: I am in the middle of Lee Child’s latest.

Fun Questions:
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Now that’s a question that comes up in every talk we give—and fans have their own ideas about who should play Rutledge. We’d like to see David Tarrant in the part. He’s actually older than Rutledge, but we think he has the skill to capture the man, heart and soul.

Who would play Bess? That’s harder to decide. Hmmmmm.

Favorite leisure activity/hobby>?
Charles: I find fishing very relaxing.
Caroline: I love to travel. I’ve been to exciting places all over the world, and sometimes they sort of wind up in the books…

Favorite meal?
Caroline: Forget the meal. Chocolate ice cream, pecan or mince pie, and a Cadbury bar will do just fine.
Charles: I love fish or shell fish, with a baked potato, sour cream, and asparagus.

Caroline: Okay, I’d start with shrimp cocktail, then a really good soup, like snapper, move on to a thick filet, and I like a variety of vegetables, so carrots or peas or green beans or asparagus. And sweet ice tea, southern style.
Charles: Ending with coffee, a really good cup of coffee, cream, no sugar.


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2 thoughts on “THE PIPER by Charles Todd (Review, Interview, & Showcase)

  1. I never used to like short stories either, and now I do!!! Its nice to have a few that I can just read quick between books.
    Great interview – YUM, my kind of meal! – fish or shell fish, with a baked potato, sour cream, and asparagus.

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