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by Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2015
336 pages
ISBN: 0062237128

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's a lovely early summer in England, although everyone is talking about the shooting in Europe and how the various powers that be will react to this assassination. Detective Ian Rutledge is assigned to investigate a hanging death that is obviously not a suicide. Yet there is no forced entry, no signs of resistance, no signs of a struggle. Rutledge is at a loss, at least for now. He has other things on his mind, not completely work related. He is planning on proposing to a pretty young woman, the daughter of an Army officer. Ian's sister Frances and his good friend Melinda Crawford are not convinced that Jean will be a suitable wife for a policeman; Ian thinks her life as an Army brat will serve her well.

Because Ian is from Scotland Yard, he has to deal with the local police officials on some of his cases. They don't always agree with his findings, and his superior is inclined to go for the obvious. As Ian works some other cases, he becomes convinced that one person is responsible for several murders. Bowles refuses to consider this option, and forbids Ian from pursuing two cases. Ian is convinced that an innocent man will hang if the case goes to trial and that Bowles's interpretation of the facts in another will not stand up should the case come to trial. He persists in investigating the cases that he still can and his theory of one lone killer gains credence with Cummins, another officer at the Yard.

Over the course of the summer, Ian spends a lot of time out of London. This doesn't sit well with Jean, who thinks that Ian should be spending more time with her and also that he should be seriously thinking about enlisting. Ian has seen his share of death, knows all too well that war is not a glorious business, and that he is far better suited to police work than to soldiering. He tries to convince Jean of this, with minimal luck; he also doesn't share details of his cases with her, so she doesn't understand the nature of the business that keeps him from her. Just as Jean is nave in many ways, Ian is still semi-firmly in the mind-set that women should be protected from some things, even as he sees what that kind of "protection" has done to some of the women he meets during his investigations.

Todd has a great feel for the essence of England just before World War 1. The excitement of young men eager to go off and fight an enemy; to have that glorious and short, intense battle; to come home victorious, is tragic in hindsight but so contagious in real time. This is the last time that the class distinctions will be so clear and binding; war has a way of leveling some playing fields. For example: It would encourage large numbers of women to enter occupations they previously would not even have imagined possible and blunted the objections to women's suffrage to the point that it became inevitable. The innocence of both the individuals and of society are laid out for contemporary readers to see, to marvel at. The mystery is a wonderful (if one can use that word about murder) example of how revenge and the need for it do not diminish over time. Todd just keeps getting better and better.

P.J. Coldren lives in northern lower Michigan where she reads and reviews widely across the mystery genre when she isn't working in her local hospital pharmacy.

Reviewed by P.J. Coldren, January 2015

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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