The Black Ascot was a famous horse race that took place in 1910 in honor of the recently deceased King Edward VII. Everyone wore black to the race to show their mourning for the beloved king.
After the race, there was a notorious murder of one of the attendees, a murder that was never solved. Or at least the suspect was never apprehended.
The suspect was one Alan Barrington, a wealthy man who had the means to give the police the slip. He disappeared, apparently having left the country, and never a trace was found.
Years later, in 1921, England and Europe had suffered through a great war that made news of one lone murder pale in comparison. Inspector Ian Rutledge, one of those who suffered in the war, had returned to his pre-war job with Scotland Yard, and he received a tip from a former convict that Alan Barrington had been seen in England again. His tip was credible enough that Rutledge felt a responsibility to report it to his superior. Subsequently, he began a quiet review of the records of the cold case with a view to investigating whether Barrington might indeed have returned to England and possibly finally bringing him to justice.
As he investigates, he finds some anomalies in the facts that are known and begins to wonder if, in fact, Scotland Yard had been chasing the wrong man. Rutledge follows the clues where they lead visiting the villages that lend so much verisimilitude to these historical mysteries.
In the midst of his investigation, a shocking event sends Rutledge into a recurrence of the shell shock which he suffered as a result of his wartime experiences and threatens to disable him and end his career, the only thing that had given structure and purpose to his life since the war.
Nevertheless, he perseveres, somewhat in the manner of a drowning man grabbing at straws, and yet he pursues his quarry and in the end finds the solution to the cold case.
This was another fine effort from the mother and son writing team that goes by the name of Charles Todd. Their depiction of the culture of 1920s England seems spot-on, especially in the way that the country is still so affected by all the consequences of the Great War, the loss of so much of the male population and disablement of so many more. The ramifications for the country were far-reaching.
The poignancy of the depiction of the effects of shell shock/PTSD is one of the strengths of this series and it is particularly strong in this entry.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars