It is 1919, and the War to End All Wars has been won. But for Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge, recently returned from the battlefields of France, there is no peace. Suffering from shell shock, he plunges into his work to save his sanity. But his first assignment is a case certain to spell both personal and professional disaster.
A popular colonel has been murdered in Warwickshire, and the main suspect is a decorated war hero. No matter what the outcome, Rutledge may not escape with his career intact. And, win or lose, the cost could be even higher: The one witness who could break the case is himself a shell-shock victim. In this war-ravaged man, Rutledge sees his own possible future, should he fail.
A newcomer returns us to the essential pleasures of the well-crafted puzzle in this debut, the absorbing story of a young British WWI veteran returning from the war to his job as a Scotland Yard inspector. Ian Rutledge has a deep secret to keep: he suffers from shell shock, which manifests itself as Hamish MacLeod, an inner voice articulating Ian's worst fears and suspicions, personal and professional. ``I'm a scar on your bluidy soul,'' Hamish taunts him. Rutledge is sent to the village of Upper Streetham on a case with enough land mines for a battlefield: the murder of retired Col. Charles Harris. Villagers suspect Mavers, a perennial and malicious troublemaker, but circumstances stubbornly point to Capt. Mark Wilton, a war hero who has powerful friends and is engaged to Harris's ward, Lettice Wood. The case is short on evidence and long on questions: What are Wilton and Wood hiding about their relationship? Why does the ``nice'' Harris described by villagers sound unlike the colonel Rutledge remembers seeing during the war? What so traumatized a village child that her intense withdrawal might be fatal? Frustrated at every turn, Rutledge questions a convincing cast of locals and begins to suspect there is ``a conspiracy to hide the truth'' of Harris's death. Or is that just Hamish talking? Readers learn the answers as Todd reveals the war experiences that left Rutledge in the company of Hamish. Todd, an American, depicts the outer and inner worlds of his characters with authority and sympathy as he closes in on his surprisingand convincingconclusion. (Aug.)