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A LONG SHADOW
By Charles Todd
William Morrow, 2006 ($23.95) Hardcover
Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel
Inspector Ian Rutledge grudgingly attends a party given by his sister's friend on New Years Eve, 1919. He manages to muddle along for a while, but is horrified when the hostess announces that the night's entertainment will be a séance conducted by a popular medium, Mrs. Channing. Rutledge already knows what it's like to commune with the dead: since a traumatic incident in the Great War, he has been haunted by the voice of Hamish MacLeod, a soldier whose death he feels responsible for, and he does not want others to learn of his shameful secret. He opts out of the séance, which turns out to be just harmless fun for the other party goers. On leaving the party, he is stunned to find a brass machine gun casing on the walk outside the house. The last one he saw was on a French battlefield. Wondering how it found its way to a quiet street in London, and what is engraved on it, he pockets it and walks on.
He is sent to the south coast to help the authorities in Dudlington capture a would-be killer. A local constable has been found with an arrow in his back in a woods supposedly haunted by the ghosts of an ancient massacre. The man is reluctant to say why he was in the woods; others in the village are also oddly reluctant to help Rutledge with his inquiries. In the process, he learns about the disappearance and presumed death of a local girl, Emma Mason, three years before, and suspects that some of the strange behavior of the villagers is linked to that event. Before his arrival in Dudlington, and while he is carrying out his investigation, attempts are made on his life, and more shell casings turn up. It seems that he is being stalked by an unknown enemy who knows his every move.
The Inspector Rutledge books, written by the mother/son team of Charles and Mary Todd, continue to be interesting, dark and moody. Rutledge is learning to have some control over Hamish's harassment. One can hope that eventually he will be freed of that torment, but for now it serves the purpose of giving the reader insight into Rutledge's troubled soul. The scars of the Great War on those who fought it and on those on the home front are portrayed vividly and sympathetically, and the description of life in post-war England is very well done.
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