My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After reading the previous book in this series, A Cold Treachery, I was interested to see where Inspector Ian Rutledge's cases would take him next and I decided to jump right in and read the next book in the series. After all, it was already on my Kindle waiting for me, just a click away.
We first encounter the inspector here on New Year's Eve, 1919, only a short while after the end of his last case. He accompanies his sister, Frances, to the house of mutual friends for a dinner party. At the party, one of the guests is alleged to have some psychic powers and she is asked to hold a seance, an activity that is very popular in the London of the day. This makes Inspector Rutledge, who has an intimate knowledge of and relationship with the dead from the recent war, very uncomfortable, and he is relieved to receive a phone call from Scotland Yard which gives him an excuse to leave.
As he is leaving, he finds a brass cartridge casing on the steps outside. He picks it up and sees that there is an engraving on it. He puts it in his pocket and goes on his way, but soon he's finding other such engraved casings. Someone seems to be following him around and leaving the casings for him to find. For a man already on the knife's edge of mental collapse because of PTSD, this seems a deliberate attempt to unsettle and threaten him.
Mercifully, he is called away from London to a small Northamptonshire village where the local constable has been shot and seriously wounded by a bow and arrow, while in woods that the locals consider to be haunted. Trying to find out what has happened proves difficult for Rutledge because the local folk are extremely taciturn and close-mouthed.
Rutledge learns that there are other mysteries which the villagers seem intent on hiding for some reason. For example, a teenage girl disappeared from the village some three years earlier and has never been found. Her grandmother, with whom she lived, says she must have gone to London to look for her missing mother. But did she? And was the constable looking for her grave in the woods when he was shot?
It soon becomes apparent to Rutledge that there is a connection between the missing girl and the wounded constable, but just what that connection is is not at all clear.
Meanwhile, distressingly, Rutledge continues to find engraved cartridge casings in odd places and then while he is out in his motorcar one day, a bullet smashes his windscreen, barely missing his head. Who is this unknown adversary who appears to be stalking him?
To complicate the situation further, the psychic from the New Year's Eve party shows up in the village and expresses concern about Rutledge, but is her concern genuine or is she somehow connected to the stalker?
In order to solve the mysteries, Rutledge must find a way to break the silence of this unfriendly and secretive village and he must find the motive behind the disappearance of the teenager and the wounding of the constable and discover the connection between the two.
This is another eloquent story of suspense told in absorbing prose with an emotional depth that gives the reader a sense of Ian Rutledge as a very real and sympathetic, if flawed, character. He is a character that we can care about, one about which we can look forward to reading more.
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