Fiction: "The Red Door" by Charles Todd and "Doors Open," by Ian Rankin

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"The Red Door" by Charles Todd (Morrow, $24.95)

Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge learns about multitasking long before the phrase was invented in the 12th installment of this intriguing crime series written by a mother-son team of Americans.

He's also never heard of post-traumatic stress disorder either, but he's got it after surviving World War I. It's only been two years since the war ended and the horror of it still grips the dogged inspector in the ghost of Hamish, a Scotsman who was executed for refusing Rutledge's command to make yet another suicide charge across no-man's land.

Hamish's nagging presence has become part of the cop's emotional life, a conscience sitting on his shoulder.

Rutledge needs intensive rehab; instead he throws himself into his work and this time, the Todds throw a lot, probably too much, his way.

Not only is Rutledge saddled with an unsympathetic boss who'd like to be rid of him, but he's also juggling two tough cases, a stalled love affair with the reluctant Meredith and guilt over neglect of his godfather.

Throw in a train wreck involving Meredith and the godfather and it's a wonder the damaged inspector isn't back in the psych ward. But, he's English after all -- stiff upper lip and all that -- so he carries on like a good chap.

In spite of all the action, the Todds weigh their latest down with pages of talk, dropping an ocean of red herrings in the reader's path.

The mother-son team make a determined stab at exploring family dynamics while devising a complicated mystery tale as well, but they don't quite bring it off.

-- Bob Hoover, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Doors Open" by Ian Rankin (Little, Brown, $24.99)

Ian Rankin's latest is a caper novel predictable in its plotting, peopled with stereotypes, including the main character, bored rich guy Mike MacKenzie, who if he'd ever crossed paths with Rankin's retired cop, John Rebus, the Big Man would've slapped him upside the head and told him to get over himself.

Rankin put the hero of his popular Scotland crime series out to pasture last year and now tries writing fiction without him. Mistake.

MacKenzie thinks he's planning the perfect art heist. Of course, he's not. You'll know that pages before Mike, which makes his character not flawed but stupid.

-- Carole E. Barrowman,

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel



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