My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In the aftermath of WWI, Inspector Ian Rutledge is sent by Scotland Yard to investigate the murder of a decorated veteran, Colonel Charles Harris. Everyone in the area is surprised at the senseless crime, but as the secrets of the tiny Warwickshire village emerge, Rutledge comes to realize that still waters run deep and something dark and sinister is at work.
Reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries, the seemingly peaceful village atmosphere, the intriguing investigation and the compelling protagonist all make for an entertaining read.
Rutledge is a fascinating character. Suffering from shell-shock (PTSD in today’s terminology) as a result of his experiences in the trenches, he struggles to cope with his own demons as he exposes the secrets of the various villagers along with their motives for murder.
Each of the suspects is fleshed out well whether it be the Colonel’s enticing young ward with her bewitching eyes and lying tongue, or the famous flying ace who quarreled with the victim before his death, or the town troublemaker who bears a nasty grudge and is not adverse to spreading half truths. Not to mention the obsequious priest, or the talented young artist with a disturbing past, or the painfully shy girl whose afraid of her own shadow. All of them contribute to the dark and insidious vibe within the misleadingly quaint and peaceful village.
Although the story takes a while to get going as Rutledge interviews each of the suspects and works to gather evidence from the most unlikely of sources, the last few chapters are gripping and the finale is intense and exciting with an interesting twist or two.
In sum, a promising beginning to the series and I look forward to following Inspector Rutledge’s future investigations and learning more about his past.