Charles Todd A Test of Wills (1996)
Carol Goodman The Lake of Dead Languages (2002)
One yea; one nay.
A Test of Wills has an interesting premise: a Scotland Yard detective with PTSD from service in the First World War who hears in his head the argumentative and malicious voice of a young soldier whom he was forced to execute for refusing to fight in the trenches. We are used to, indeed sometimes bored by, dedicated detectives with a typical series of problems (pick from marital, disciplinary, weight, substances, etc.) but this was a new one for me. The story - the detective sent to investigate the murder of one war hero by another war hero - is well-plotted too, with plenty of suspects to choose from. It took me a long time to guess the murderer and I wouldn't have picked the twist in the tail in a million years. A very satisfying read. I'll definitely read a few more from the series.
If you liked this... Maisie Dobbs is the WW1-traumatised heroine of the series by Jacqueline Winspear.
I know that I should have liked Carol Goodman's The Lake of Dead Languages simply because I must like anything that promotes the study of ancient world. But unfortunately the murderer was completely obvious within the first 45 pages and that left 355 more pages of figuring out to go down the drain. This book reminded me of Donna Tartt's The Secret History: there was a lot of classical stuff going on (much Latin; ironically, the Latin gave the murderer away at page 44...), and a fair bit of class warfare, but it never really achieved The Secret History's level of suffocating malevolence. On the plus side: interesting setting (girl's school; freezing weather); neat classical allusions; the structure really tried very hard (interweaving of the unreliable past and the present). But I never liked the narrator, although I realise that I was intended to care about her fate. In sum: OK, but it didn't grab me. A coincidence: this is the third book by a Vassar author which I've read lately (with Daddy-Long-Legs and The Group). My tendency is to listen to and follow up these coincidences.
If you liked this... it's got to be its big brother, The Secret History (1992), which came out when I was beginning my MA in classical studies and made the study of the ancient world seem almost sexy.