The Confession: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) Paperback – 18 Dec 2012
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“There’s both a pattern and a purpose to the superb historical mysteries produced by mother-and-son writing partners known as Charles Todd.” (New York Times Book Review on The Confession)
“Todd’s excellent 14th mystery featuring Insp. Ian Rutledge offers an intriguing setup.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review) on The Confession)
“Todd serves up plenty of period detail and plot twists, but the real attraction here is Rutledge, a shrewd, dedicated detective grappling with the demons of his past.” (Booklist on The Confession)
“Todd’s masterful storytelling skills shine.” (Romantic Times on The Confession)
“As with any good mystery, the tension ramps up as the story progresses, pulling more and more characters into the fray, weaving three murders flawlessly into a tight tale. Mr. Todd’s characterization is his strength.” (New York Journal of Books on The Confession)
“Another excellent Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery....You follow a twisting road when you read this book. You won’t soon forget your trip to Furnham and the people who may not be who they seem to be.” (Suspense Magazine on The Confession)
“Todd once and for all establishes the shell-shocked Rutledge as the genre’s most complex and fascinating detective.” (Entertainment Weekly, on A LONELY DEATH (Grade: A-))
“Todd invests this absorbing fiction with creative storytelling (including intriguing subplots), memorable characters and graceful, seemingly effortless prose….This is fiction that moves, entertains, and as always, underscores life’s victories over death.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch on A Lonely Death)
“Another engaging entry in a fine series.” (Booklist on A Lonely Death)
“A strong entry in a strong series.” (Charlotte Observer on A Lonely Death)
“[The authors’] subtle prose and profound empathy for all their characters enhance a suspenseful and twisty plot.” (Publishers Weekly on A Lonely Death)
“Todd’s intriguing revenge tale will keep the reader turning the pages, but the main draw remains Rutledge, the relentless inspector haunted by the voice of a Scotsman he executed on the battlefield for disobeying an order. Highly recommended for all aficionados of British postwar historical mysteries.” (Library Journal on A Lonely Death)
From the Back Cover
Declaring he needs to clear his conscience, a dying man walks into Scotland Yard and confesses that he killed his cousin five years earlier during the Great War. When Inspector Ian Rutledge presses for details, the man reveals little else, only that he hails from a village somewhere east of London. With scant information to go on and no corpse, Rutledge cannot launch an official inquiry, but he is intrigued enough to look into the case on his own. Everything changes when the body of the confessed killer is found floating in the Thames, a bullet in the back of his head, and Rutledge discovers that the guilt-stricken alleged murderer was not who he claimed to be.
With but one clue to go on, a gold locket found around the dead man's neck, Rutledge finds himself drawn to an insular village in Essex, where the residents will do anything to keep out of the public eye. For notoriety could bring attention to a centuries-old act of evil that, even now, could damn them all.See all Product description
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Rutledge has returned to Scotland Yard after his war years, with a whopping case of post-traumatic stress syndrome, known as shell shock at the time and but poorly understood. His problem largely manifests itself by the fact that he frequently hears the voice of his former Scottish Corporal Hamish MacLeod, a good, brave man who had fought beside him through the war, whom Rutledge was forced to execute on the battlefield, as MacLeod would take their troops no further. Now Mac Leod keeps up a private running conversation with him, all in archaic Scottish usage, such as, "You didna' believe him... Ye ken, if ye had..." Rutledge must keep this business secret, as shell shock was disapproved of at the time.
One day, an obviously dying man walks into Scotland Yard to confess that he killed his cousin years ago during the war. When Rutledge presses for details, the man dodges the questions, revealing only that he hails from East of London in Essex. With little information and no body to open an official inquiry, Rutledge begins to look into the case on his own. But less than two weeks later, the supposed killer's body is found floating in the Thames, a bullet hole in the back of his head. As he searches for answers, Rutledge discovers that the dead man was not who he claimed to be. So what was his real name - and who put a bullet in his head? Were the confession and his own death related? Or was there something else in the victim's past that had led to his murder? The inspector's only clue is a gold locket - found around the dead man's neck-that leads back to Essex, to an insular village.
Todd is pretty good in his introduction of the county of Essex. "North of the Thames, north of Kent on the other side of that river, it was threaded with marshes, the coastline a fringe of inlets and a maze of tidal rivers that isolated the inhabitants in a world little changed with the passage of time. Until the war [World War I], the people of that part of Essex had known little about the rest of their county, much less their country, content with their own ways, in no need of modern conveniences or interference in a life that contented them. As Essex moved inland, it was a different story entirely, with towns, villages, and a plethora of roads. Basildon, Chelmsford, Colchester might as well the antipodes as far as the marsh dwellers were concerned...." Well, somehow Todd has set this book in the area of the U.K. where I lived for several years, and yes, of course, we know the western edge of Essex is as described, home of a major Ford plant in Dagenham, connected to London by underground. And the eastern fringe, where I lived, is as described, as well, and was, in fact, because of the marshes, isolated by the lack of roads until World War II; it looked only to the water, to make its living; to send and receive goods.
Todd's action in the book is largely set along the fictional river Hawking, but he frequently mentions the actual rivers of that area, the Blackwater and Crouch, between which I lived. There was a town called Burnham on Crouch; he calls his fictional village Furnham. But his fictional village of Furnham most likely is based on Bradwell, the village where I resided, rather than Burnham, a somewhat inland town. Bradwell is on the North Sea, at the estuary of the Blackwater; isolated and inbred for centuries, indeed, as is "Furnham." An air force base was sited there during World War II--much of it remains to this day. Todd says Furnham was the site of an air force base during World War I.
At the center of THE CONFESSION is the finding, by three men fishing, of a body floating in the river. And here's where it really gets interesting, because I was often told that once three men fishing in the marsh found a man's torso. His killer had foolishly left arms and hands on the torso, so the police were able to identify the dead man as a London gangster, and able to identify his murderer, another London gangster, without much trouble. They never had the complete corpse, it was one of those famous trials without a "corpus delicti," but they were able to get their man convicted, on lesser charges. At the end of his prison term, confident in the knowledge that he could not be tried again, as it would constitute double jeopardy, he'd sold his story to a Sunday tabloid. Seems he'd been planning his murder for some time, and had been taking flying lessons out of Southend, a coastal resort city near Bradwell. After the murder, he took the body, in bits and pieces, up and out in a plane, and dropped the body pieces into the North Sea. But the perpetrator was not a local, and did not realize how tidal the sea was. And so the torso ended up in the marshes. True story. You could Google it. Corpse was Stanley Setty; murderer, Brian Donald Hume.
Well, I was getting increasingly excited as I read this book, recognizing so much, finding it interesting and powerful, quite well-done, though I got tired of MacLeod's archaic Scottish usages three books ago. And then I discovered a problem with the plot, which I dare not disclose for fear of being called a spoiler. I have seen young Charles Todd several times at local mystery weekends sponsored here by the Wilmington, North Carolina library; he seems a charming, intelligent, witty, soft-spoken man without affectation. Perhaps an editor at Morrow can catch the mistake; otherwise, better luck next time, Mr. Todd.
It is not ever day Inspector Ian Rutledge has a man walk into his office at Scotland Yard and confess to a murder five years previous. The man is reluctant to provide details but Ian does learn he's from a village east of London. Still a murder confession is still a murder and Ian begins unofficially looking into the matter. Things take a turn when the confessor turn up murdered two weeks later. A gold locket leads Rutledge to a village in Essex where it is clear strangers are unwelcome. Far from a straight-forward murder, Ian must go into the past to solve crimes of the present.
Once again I find a book whose beginning contains a completely unnecessary and annoying portent. Even so, I found I was quickly drawn into the puzzle of both a man and a place. Something Todd does very well is provide background on Rutledge for new readers, but in a concise way so as not to bog down those who have been following the series.
I take exception to those who are tired of the Hamish-aspect of Rutledge. On the contrary, I believe it gives verisimilitude to the series and the period in which they are set. Post-traumatic stress was not yet known, yet shell-shock was, and usually treated as something one simply had to "get over." Seeing Rutledge struggle with it while do his job and try to appear "normal," is a fascinating element of Rutledge's character.
Having an author educate me, as well as entertain me, is something I admire. Todd informed me of a period and even the time and events which lead to it. The plot twists are very well executed and keep you off balance. The story within the story is fascinating. The one very slight negative I had was Rutledge's ability to keep going without food, sleep or petrol for his car seemed a bit excessive, but it does speak for his dogged character and determination to find the truth.
"The Confession" is a very good read and keeps me a fan of this series for, I suspect, a long time to come.
THE CONFESSION (Pol. Proc-Insp. Ian Rutledge-England-1920) - VG
Todd, Charles - 14th in series
Wm. Morrow, 2012
The year is 1920 but with flashbacks to an incident in the Essex marshes from 1915 when the body of a man is discovered, floating in the water, by three men fishing. The current narrative begins when a man walks into Rutledge's office in Scotland Yard and confesses to killing his cousin before the war but will give no further details. So Rutledge and the readers set off on a mystery tour, made worse by this man's body being discovered floating in the Thames a few days (and a few pages!) later.
Rutledge is still suffering from his wartime post-traumatic stress syndrome and continues to hear the voice of his former Scottish Corporal Hamish MacLeod in his head. Although put to good use I found this device a bit irritating as the plot develops, almost arresting its denouement rather than charging ahead.
However, the scene-setting of the marshes and descriptions of its inhabitants around the fictional River Hawking and actual Blackwater and Crouch are splendid and I looked forward to the fictional Rutledge leaving the claustrophobia of London for the watery expanses of East Anglia each time, as I still do today
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