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by Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2011
352 pages
ISBN: 0061726192

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

On his last day, Chief Inspector Cummins tells Inspector Ian Rutledge about the one case that still haunts him, a murder that he could never solve. Then Rutledge is assigned to a case, a serial killer case, and Rutledge wonders if this will become the case that haunts him.

Men are being killed in the dead of night, garroted, and left with a military ID disc in their mouth. The disc is not theirs; the names do not match at all, not even in terms of the units in which the men served during the War. The dead men all served in the same unit. Is that the connection? None of the other men in that unit, all locals, can think of any reason for these men to have been murdered.

In the course of his investigation, Rutledge steps on some local toes. This enables people at Headquarters, people with some animus towards Rutledge, to discredit him and make him look bad. At one point, Rutledge is arrested for assault on a fellow officer, an assault that could result in a murder charge.

Rutledge's conscience, Hamish, maintains his usual presence. Sometimes his voice is a help, sometimes his insights further the investigation. Naturally, this is not something Rutledge can rely on; Hamish has his own prejudices and agendas. Still, Rutledge seems to have more control of Hamish, or at least of his reactions to Hamish.

Even as his professional life seems to collapse around him, so does his love life, what little there is of it. Sometimes Rutledge just can't catch a break. He understands all the reasons for what is happening to him, at least in this arena, but that doesn't make it any easier for him to accept.

Todd has written a novel of loneliness, revenge, patience, and regret. The many sub-plots all converge in a novel of many layers, with well-developed characters reacting very normally in abnormal situations. Rutledge continues to work his way through his problems, both internal and external. One suspects that the course of his career will never run smoothly, no matter how stellar his performances continue to be. One hopes that perhaps his heart will fare somewhat better in the long run. Whatever happens, Rutledge (and Hamish) will continue to do the best they can in a very imperfect world.

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 2011

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