William Morrow,$24.99, 343 pages
It’s 1920, July, and three men have been garroted, one every three days. Two were farmers, one the son of the local scion. All three served in the Great War and all three were found with wartime identity tags stuffed in their mouths. Only the tags weren’t theirs, nor each others’. Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge is sent to investigate.
This latest in the Rutledge series is a procedural of hauntings and reflections. The needling ghost of Hamish MacLeod sits on the inspector’s shell-shocked shoulder, a man Rutledge was forced to execute during the war for insubordination. Then there’s the suicide of a friend unable to adapt after the madness of the Somme. A cold case, passed along by his old chief, lands like a pebble at the beginning of the novel, but its ripples threaten the home shore. There’s trouble at the Yard: murmurings, bad blood, accusations. And now these murders: are they revenge killings for something that happened in the war? No one knows. Or no one wants to remember.
The mother–son team known as Charles Todd has produced thirteen Rutledge novels, but readers can plunge in anywhere. A Lonely Death is their third time as a New York Times Notable Book. Atmospheric and smoothly paced, Todd’s uncluttered prose and heavy psychological burdens make A Lonely Death an affecting addition to the series.
Reviewed by Heather Shaw