A Cold Treachery

Written by Charles Todd
Review by Ellen Keith

A Cold Treachery is Todd’s seventh in his Inspector Ian Rutledge series. Rutledge is a Scotland Yard inspector, shell-shocked from the Great War and forced to live with the voice of Hamish, a Scottish soldier whose execution for desertion he ordered. Disliked by his superior, he is constantly being sent out of London to investigate difficult cases and provide a scapegoat should they not be solved. In this case, Rutledge is sent to Urskdale in the north of England, where a family of five has been brutally murdered with the young son of the family missing. Urskdale is a small, insular community that closes ranks when Rutledge suggests that the murderer may be someone living among them. Suspects range from the missing boy to the brother of the dead man to the dead woman’s sister.

This novel is set in December of 1919, and the north of England’s cold permeates everything—the wintry reception Rutledge gets in the village, the weather obscuring young Josh’s trail, and the chill that settles over this tale. Todd continues to expertly explore the lasting effects of the Great War, not just on the men who served in it but on their families as well, and Hamish ably fills his role as Rutledge’s disturbed conscience. However, even given how disturbing these murders are, this installment failed to fully involve me as other Rutledge mysteries have done. There is less personal engagement on Rutledge’s part as in his previous cases. I still look forward to the eighth in the series.