A Lonely Death by Charles Todd

It is post-WWI in England and Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard is about to be assigned to a case that may involve a serial killer. He is being sent to the town of Eastfield in Northern England. Three local men have been murdered exactly 3 days apart and by the same method — a garrote. And all three, Jeffers, Roper and Pierce, served in the British Army during the First World War and all were wounded but survived. They knew each other but were not close friends and yet their link to the War must serve Rutledge as the starting point to solve the murders.

Prior to heading north to Eastfield, Rutledge first attends the funeral of a good friend and comrade from the War, Maxwell Hume. Hume, haunted by war visions, has taken his own life. Rutledge, too, has his own demon from the War, Hamish MacLeod. Hamish was court-marshaled and executed for not following a direct order, an order he knew would result in horrible causalities to the troops under his command. Hamish was the one person that Rutledge was closest to during his term of service and now whatever he does and wherever he goes, Rutledge hears Hamish’s voice and guidance.

Eastfield is a small and peaceful English town and the three murders have put the townspeople on edge. Rudledge and the town’s Constable Walker must gather as much evidence as they can as quickly as they can, for they are approaching the third day since the last killing. What is the link among the three victims? Why now?  Who else may play a part in this sequence of events? Rutledge knows he can’t waste any time, even if it means stepping on people’s toes and feelings.

The English mystery is almost always more nuanced than the American mystery and it has many fans.  Charles Todd is a mother and son writing team, with the mother living in Delaware and the son in North Carolina.  The duo writes in a similar style to American mystery author Elizabeth George. Charles Todd has written twelve Ian Rutledge novels and this may qualify as his best.

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