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The Confession" is the 13th entry in the Inspector Ian Rutledge crime series by "Charles Todd," confusingly enough, both an actual person and a mother/son team working together under the son's name. Both are American, or at least resident in America; mother in Delaware, son, North Carolina. Nevertheless, their two series, the Rutledge, and the Bess Crawford, are set in the United Kingdom, during World War I and its aftermath.

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.
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on 27 January 2014
Interesting characters and very well written. A really interesting and enjoyable mystery. Set in a time period about which we know surprisingly little. With a detective who has developed a split personality in order to cope with intolerable experiences, in a time when very little was understood about mental illness. Shellshock was a kinder explanation for mental breakdown, ascribing it to a physical cause.
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First Sentence: the body rolled in the current gently, as if still alive.

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
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on 21 June 2013
Great story especially for anyone interested in the time period of World War 1 and the aftermath. The main character is very complex as is the story.

This is for anyone who likes murder mysteries and something to get your teeth into.
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on 5 May 2013
`The Confession' is the second Inspector Rutledge novel by Charles Todd that I have read, after `A False Mirror,' and the 13th in the series.
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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on 24 March 2013
I quite enjoyed this on one level, but oh, the inconsistencies. The man Willet has dark hair when visiting Scotland Yard and fair when dead, a nun in 1920 saying 'you'll be lucky', Seeing'the tower' of St Pauls Cathedral .......it is famed for its dome! As one previous reviewer commented, what does the Inspector do for food, sleep and petrol?! If you can take these and many more irritants in your stride (as I obviously am too picky to do...) then a fair enough read. But please, a decent editor next time.
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on 8 May 2012
This is the first novel I have read by Todd. I chose it based on his "New York Times" reputation and the 2 reviews already shown here.
I liked the character of Inspector Todd but found the style of writing very confusing in as much as it became very difficult to distinguish whom was being spoken/thought about in connection with the other main characters, i.e. Wyatt, Jessup, Fowler, Willett, Russell and Barber. Their interwoven stories simply compounded a dearth of confusion rather than create an intersting and intricate plot. I also thought the plot, whilst beginning with great interest, petered out into a very shallow and implausable story.
Sorry, this was disappointing and hardgoing ... no fun at all!
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on 18 August 2015
Charles Todd is my favourite writer (or should that be writers) I love everything written by him but wish he could write faster!
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