A Lonely Death

Written by Charles Todd
Review by Ellen Keith

Todd’s first Inspector Ian Rutledge book was published in 1996 and set in 1919, following the Great War. The latest, A Lonely Death, is set in 1920. War wounds are still fresh. Rutledge, a Scotland Yard inspector, returned from the war with shell shock, which he must keep from his superiors, and a companion, the voice of Hamish MacLeod, a soldier executed on his orders, in his head. A hallmark of the series is that Rutledge is forever being sent out of London on lonely investigations where the locals are suspicious of Scotland Yard.

This case takes him to the village of Eastfield in Sussex, where local men are found garroted, and identity disks (not their own) from the war left in their mouths. As the men had all served in the war, Rutledge starts with that as the connection, but the motives go back even further, to the men’s childhood.

Although the thirteenth in the series, Rutledge’s struggles with Hamish and his conscience (or are they one and the same?) are as engrossing as ever. A Lonely Death even provides a brief hope for Rutledge’s romantic life, but that is extinguished. I realize I don’t mind the inevitability of Rutledge being alone as Todd makes me see that Rutledge surviving is accomplishment enough.