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by Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2007
371 pages
ISBN: 0060786736

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

It's early 1920 and Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard is still managing to keep his secrets from the past and to function as a police officer. Nor is the job easy for him, especially with the degree of dislike emanating from Chief Superintendent Bowles. Bowles generally would do anything to get Rutledge out of London on any pretext; and then he constantly berates him for not instantaneously solving the case.

Thus, Rutledge, along with the voice and ghost in his mind of Hamish MacLeod, finds himself en route to the coastal town of Hampton Regis. Matthew Hamilton had retired from the Foreign Office, married a woman 20 years younger and moved from London to the small harbor town. Felicity was a city girl and never made any attempts to enter the local social scene. However, Matthew was known to and admired by all the good citizens of the town.

When his badly beaten body is found on a rain-swept beach, Matthew is unconscious and cannot identify his attacker, if he even saw him. However, the local constable does not look far for a suspect.

Stephen Mallory had been engaged to Felicity before he left for the trenches in 1914. As a member of Rutledge’s regiment he was one of the lucky ones. He got out with only minor wounds but he still suffers from the psychological problems that we today call post-traumatic stress but in those days was called “shell shock”. Stephen moved to Hampton Regis when he was discharged from the hospital. He had no connection to the small town other than Felicity. And the local constable believes he tried to kill Matthew.

Rutledge, with all of his baggage, and with Hamish as a constant presence eventually solves the crime. As in all the previous novels, the inspector is always bone-weary, dragging himself from one place to another. Everything seems to happen at night and he never gets any rest. Hamish is constantly carping at him. His boss hates him and wants to see him disgraced. Ultimately the reader gets weary.

Rutledge is a very sympathetic character and the reader constantly hopes for something, anything, good to happen to him. But no matter how good the detecting, the police work, how well he smoothes over the ruffled feathers of the upper echelons of a society who have not quite grasped that their world has changed – no matter, nothing he does is right. I like the guy and always want to read the new books, but he needs to catch a break. I’m not sure how much longer the fans will continue to wallow in the misery that is Ian Rutledge’s life and times.

Reviewed by Lorraine Gelly, February 2007

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