Synopses & Reviews
Late on a spring night in 1920, five boys cross the Yorkshire dales to the ruins of Fountains Abbey, intent on raising the Devil. Instead, they stumble over the Devil himself, sitting there watching them. Terrified, they run for their lives, leaving behind a book on alchemy stolen from their schoolmaster.
The next morning, a body is discovered in the cloisters of the abbey a man swathed in a hooded cloak and wearing a gas mask. There are no clues other than the left-behind book. In an effort to uncover the dead man's identity, one of the police constables, who fancies himself a portraitist, sketches a likeness to send to other police stations. It turns out there's a strong chance the man worked on poisoned gases for the British government after the Germans had used them at Ypres during the late war.
Scotland Yard dispatches Inspector Rutledge to confirm the ID and to find out why the man died in such mysterious circumstances. Rutledge begins his investigation, dealing with villagers who clearly have something to hide and trying to decipher if the death links back to the Great War. And what does the huge chalk sculpture of a pale horse of the Apocalypse have to do with the crime?
"The exemplary 10th Inspector Ian Rutledge historical whodunit (after A False Mirror) offers tight plotting and rich characterization amid understated but convincing evocations of post WWI England. Haunted by memories of battle, unable to find a safe haven after his discharge from a psychiatric hospital and the abrupt departure of his fiance, shell-shocked veteran Rutledge has returned to his prewar life as a Scotland Yard inspector. This time out, the War Office wants him to locate a mysterious person of interest, connected with (and perhaps the same as) an unidentified corpse found at a Yorkshire abbey. Rutledge toils diligently to uncover personal secrets and shames that may have motivated someone to kill, and their connection to a long-ago romance between the suspected killer's wife and the local inspector investigating the case. The mother and son writing as Charles Todd show no evidence of running out of ideas for murder mysteries that illuminate new aspects of their compelling protagonist and the horrors of the Great War." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Award winner Todd, the pseudonym for a mother-and-son writing team, is brilliant at creating atmosphere and unforgettable characters. Fans of historicals by Rennie Airth and Anne Perry will snap this up." Library Journal
"If the Washington hawks who cajole us into battle could be induced to read Todd, they might have second thoughts." Kirkus Reviews
In the ruins of Yorkshire's Fountains Abbey lies the body of a man wrapped in a cloak, the face covered by a gas mask. Next to him is a book on alchemy, which belongs to the schoolmaster, a conscientious objector in the Great War. Who is this man, and is the investigation into his death being manipulated by a thirst for revenge?
Meanwhile, the British War Office is searching for a missing man of their own, someone whose war work was so secret that even Rutledge isn't told his real name or what he did.
The search takes Rutledge to Berkshire, where cottages once built to house lepers stand in the shadow of a great white horse cut into the chalk hillside. The current inhabitants of the cottages are outcasts, too, hiding from their own pasts. Who among them is telling the truth about their neighbors and who is twisting it?
Here is a puzzle requiring all of Rutledge's daring and skill, for there are layers of lies and deception, while a ruthless killer is determined to hold on to freedom at any cost. And the pale horse looming overhead serves as a reminder that death is never finished with anyone, least of all the men who fought in the trenches of France.
A body found in the ruins of an ancient abbey sends Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge after a brutal killer in another superb atmospheric mystery by the author of "A False Mirror."
About the Author
Charles Todd is the author of nine Ian Rutledge mysteries A False Mirror, A Long Shadow, A Cold Treachery, A Fearsome Doubt, Watchers of Time, Legacy of the Dead, Search the Dark, Wings of Fire, and A Test of Wills and one stand-alone novel. They are a mother-and-son writing team and live in Delaware and North Carolina, respectively.