My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A London financial advisor named Quarles is respected and admired by his compatriots in the City, but he lives a different life altogether in the small village where he maintains a second home where he can "rusticate" to get away from business. There, he is known as a man who pursues women against their wishes, often married women or very young girls. He is just about universally hated by his neighbors there and so when he turns up dead in rather appalling circumstances, most of them will freely admit that they are glad he is dead and would have been happy to kill him themselves. All of which does not make the work of the police investigating the crime any easier.
The man was very important in the business world and lived as the local squire in the village and so when he is murdered the local constable calls on Scotland Yard for assistance. If it means a trip to the provinces, it's another chance for his superior to get Inspector Ian Rutledge out of his hair and his sight for a while. Rutledge is therefore dispatched to deal with the crime.
There is a bit of a twist in the telling of this story. At the beginning of the book, we meet Quarles and his later business partner Penrith as they are serving in South Africa during the Boer War at the turn of the twentieth century. Something happens at that time which will be the precipitant of later events. We also meet the brother of the lieutenant with whom Quarles and Penrith served. The lieutenant and all the others under his command, except for Quarles and Penrith, had died in a Boer ambush. Knowing all of these facts in advance, we are far ahead of Rutledge and the local police in determining motive for the murder and seeing how it was planned and executed.
We get to watch as Rutledge wades through all the false trails and possible suspects, including those who are all too willing to admit to the crime for reasons of their own. It's easy to feel his frustration as it becomes clear that no one is really telling him the whole story, including the obviously not grieving widow. It's hard for him to hold on to his temper as he has to deal with their obstructionism, as well as the lack of support from his superiors in London. But he is tenacious in his quest for the truth and for justice, even for a victim who was an odious example of humanity.
Once again, Rutledge is hounded and in some instances aided by the presence in his mind of the Scottish soldier Hamish whom he had had to execute during his time in the trenches in World War I. Hamish's voice is much more active in this book than in the most recent one of the series that I read, and he helps to explicate what Rutledge is thinking and why his mind works the way that it does.
All in all, this was an interesting and enjoyable read. There was one incident that seemed entirely anomalous and unnecessary to me and I never really figured out why it was a part of the story. During the investigation, Rutledge, lacking sleep, had made a late-night run from the village to London and he had an accident in which he received an almighty bump on the head and possible concussion. But it really played no part in the plot. What was the purpose? That part of the mystery remains a mystery to me.
This, by the way, was the eleventh entry in the series. I accidentally read it out of sequence. Now, at some point, I'll need to go back and pick up number ten, obsessive reader that I am.
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