Friday 14 March 2014

A Lonely Death by Charles Todd

A Lonely Death is another in Charles Todd's Inspector Rutledge series, featuring the back-from-the-war, Scotland Yard policeman who can never forget the trenches. The shell-shock that marks him has made sleep something to fear while inside his head, lurks the voice of Hamish McLeod, the officer he had shot for refusing an order.
    Because of this Rutledge is something of a loner, too afraid to get close to anyone in case they discover just how damaged he is. But from the point of view of story-telling, Hamish and Rutledge form an interesting duo. However much they resent each other,  Hamish's comments are often helpful in assessing a witness and frequently alert Rutledge to danger.
    This time Rutledge is in Sussex where three bodies have been discovered in the town of Eastfield near Hastings. Each were men who had survived the war, only to have been garrotted not far from their homes. It seems there is a serial killer at work, and his signature is to leave an army identity disc in each victim's mouth.
    With three men dead, the police track down the remaining five ex-servicemen from Eastfield, and Rutledge at first considers that an event during the war is the reason for the deaths. Or does the answer lie closer to home? The third victim, Anthony Pierce, was the son of a wealthy brewer, but his brother, Daniel, had a reputation for getting into trouble. Daniel left Eastfield under a cloud and has fallen out with his father, the wealthy owner of a brewery. Does he have a secret agenda involving vengeance? And why does the local school headmistress resent Rutledge's involvement in the inquiry?
    It all creates a fairly interesting mystery, the tension running high with the fear that the killer will strike again. But there's a further mystery as well, bequeathed to Rutledge by a retiring senior officer at Scotland Yard. This cold case hinges around the death of an unknown man found strapped to the sacrificial stone at Stonehenge - the only clue to the killer is the remnant of flint in the body's stab-wounds.
    On a personal level, the war rears its ugly head again when a good friend commits suicide, unable to cope with the failing hearing and mental anguish that are a legacy of his time in battle. And Meredith Channing, a woman Rutledge can't seem to forget, comes to him with a strange request.
     These subplots round out the story nicely, lifting the novel from being a straight-forward whodunit and give our dogged policeman a chance to develop his character further. The story builds towards an exciting scene in a moonlit churchyard, with Rutledge stalking the killer - or is the killer really stalking him? A Lonely Death is very hard to put down an is a welcome addition to a series that is becoming a firm favourite.

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