My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I shivered a lot while reading A Cold Treachery. Not because of the suspense particularly, but because of the description of the weather during which the action takes place.
Inspector Ian Rutledge had been testifying in a case in the north of England when he was contacted by Scotland Yard to get himself to the remote village of Urskdale where a horrendous crime has taken place. Five members of a family have been murdered and the sixth member of the family, an almost ten-year-old boy, has disappeared. Did he do the killing? Or was he a witness who escaped the carnage but can tell who did it? But if he escaped, did he manage to find shelter and survive the merciless storm lashing the fells?
Rutledge heads to Urskdale in the middle of a violent blizzard. Barely able to see where he is going, he comes upon an accident on the road. A carriage is overturned. The horse that had been pulling it is dead and a woman lies seriously injured amidst the wreckage.
Rutledge manages to get the woman to his car and sets out in search of the nearest farmhouse where they might get shelter in the storm. He finally manages to find help and leaves the woman with the farm family while he continues on toward the place where the savage murders have taken place.
On arriving, Rutledge finds that the Elcott family had been slaughtered around their kitchen table with no sign of there having been a struggle. It seems that the murderer must have been someone they knew and trusted. But who could have possibly wanted this apparently inoffensive family - including two babes in arms and a small girl - dead?
When it is discovered that the boy is missing, all the able-bodied men of the village head out into the storm to try to find him, but after days of searching, no trace is found.
Inspector Rutledge pursues his investigation, asking questions and looking into possible motives. Surprisingly, he finds this family had been formed when the tragedy of war had splintered the woman's first marriage. Her husband had been presumed dead, but, in fact, he was alive and a prisoner. After the war, he returned to find his wife had married another man and taken their two children north to live on a sheep farm.
Rutledge finds that there are actually several possible motives of murder, including revenge, greed, jealousy, even love, and there are more suspects than he can make heads or tails of. Will he ever be able to sort through all the clues, figure out who is lying, and solve this heinous crime? And will he be able to find the boy - or his body - and figure out what has happened to him?
I was kept guessing throughout this well-plotted mystery. I was just as confused as Inspector Rutledge concerning what had happened and why it had happened. It seemed that everyone was lying to him or trying to hide something. I wondered how he was ever going to find the perpetrator of this crime. Of course, in the end, he did unmask the culprit and give us hope that justice may prevail after all.
I think this has been my favorite entry in this series so far. Charles Todd seems to be hitting his stride as a writer.
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