Publisher: William Morrow
Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge Series
Source: Received review copy from publisher.
Scotland Yard’s best detective, Inspector Ian Rutledge, must solve a dangerous case that reaches far into the past in this superb mystery in the acclaimed series
Declaring he needs to clear his conscience, a dying man walks into Scotland Yard and confesses that he killed his cousin five years earlier during the Great War. When Inspector Ian Rutledge presses for details, the man evades his questions, revealing only that he hails from a village east of London. With little information and no body to open an official inquiry, Rutledge begins to look into the case on his own.
Less than two weeks later, the alleged killer’s body is found floating in the Thames, a bullet in the back of his head. Searching for answers, Rutledge discovers that the dead man was not who he claimed to be. What was his real name—and who put a bullet in his head? Were the “confession” and his own death related? Or was there something else in the victim’s past that led to his murder?
The inspector’s only clue is a gold locket, found around the dead man’s neck, that leads back to Essex and an insular village whose occupants will do anything to protect themselves from notoriety. For notoriety brings the curious, and with the curious come change and an unwelcome spotlight on a centuries-old act of evil that even now can damn them all.
I love a good mystery and when I started this, I likened him to a good Wilkie Collins story, however, by the time I was finished, I couldn’t wait to put the book down and in some ways forget I ever read it. I know that maybe if I was a fan of the series or had read some of the other books, this may have been different, but what started out as a good potential story, it faltered and failed.
Ian Rutledge is the epitome of a Scotland Yard detective. He’s smart, polite, always a gentleman, discrete, a professional, and gets the job done. At the start, I thought this might be like the TV series Jericho with Robert Lindsay, and in some ways it was. Jericho only lasted four episodes and it clearly needed to continue to really delve into who Jericho was and his past, which is something I felt was needed with Rutledge as well. Perhaps with the others in the series, there would have been a slow progression of character development, but I cannot speak to that not having read any others.
Rutledge is also haunted by his fallen friend, Hammish, who I feel is meant to add to the story, but mostly distracted the reader since his Scottish dialect is sometimes not easy to decipher. I’m sure there is probably more background as well on Rutledge in the earlier books, but coming into the series midway, the reader finds themselves encountering a semi-developed character that doesn’t really grow or change any through the entire book.
The story has some good elements, a town with many secrets, a family with many skeletons in their closet, and a murder mystery to kick it all off. From the first though this story takes these good elements and drags out the events to the point where you’re almost bored to tears. After the mid-point in the story, it seems as though Rutledge spends all his time in the car going from London to the coastal town and back and forth and back and forth.
Until the last few chapters, you know exactly what Rutledge knows allowing you to come to your own conclusion as to what is going on and who the murderer is, that is until he gets really close to figuring it out, then the authors decide that all that openness with the reader needs to stop so they can spend a little more time building up to the big finale which in the end, isn’t worth all the build up.
The other major issue with this book is the characters are much to easy to confuse. The names are very similar, and while you never actually meet more than half a dozen of the characters the murder mystery revolves around, that makes it all the harder to keep them straight.
All in all, if you’re a fan of the series, you may enjoy this book. If you’re not, I would suggest giving another in the series a shot as this one felt very undeveloped and the others may be better. As for me, I doubt I will read another book by Todd.