"Todd's astute character studies . . . offer a fascinating cross section of postwar life. . . . A satisfying puzzle-mystery." — The New York Times Book Review
Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge is assigned one of the most baffling investigations of his career: an unsolved murder case with an unidentified victim and a cold trail with few clues to follow
A woman has been murdered at the foot of a megalith shaped like a great shrouded figure. Chief Inspector Brian Leslie, one of the Yard’s best men, is sent to investigate the site in Avebury, a village set inside a prehistoric stone circle not far from Stonehenge. In spite of his efforts, Leslie is not able to identify her, much less discover how she got to Avebury—or why she died there. Her killer has simply left no trace.
Several weeks later, when Ian Rutledge has returned from successfully concluding a similar case with an unidentified victim, he is asked to take a second look at Leslie’s inquiry. But Rutledge suspects Chief Superintendent Markham simply wants him to fail.
Leslie was right—Avebury refuses to yield its secrets. But Rutledge slowly widens his search, until he discovers an unexplained clue that seems to point toward an impossible solution. If he pursues it and he is wrong, he will draw the wrath of the Yard down on his head. But even if he is right, he can’t be certain what he can prove, and that will play right into Markham’s game. The easy answer is to let the first verdict stand: Person or persons unknown. But what about the victim? What does Rutledge owe this tragic young woman? Where must his loyalty lie?
Set in 1921, bestseller Todd's middling 22nd whodunit featuring Insp. Ian Rutledge (after 2019's The Black Ascot) opens with a suspenseful tease. Scotland Yard Chief Insp. Brian Leslie is dispatched to Wiltshire, where an unidentified woman, who's been fatally stabbed, has been found inside Avebury, a Stonehenge-like prehistoric stone circle. Leslie is startled to recognize the victim and fears that his reaction has alerted his colleagues that he knew the deceased, even as he reassures himself that, as the officer in charge, he can control the inquiry and its outcome. When Leslie fails to solve the murder, the Avebury case is reassigned to Rutledge, who recently handled a similar crime successfully. Rutledge finds himself in the awkward position of reviewing a superior's work and questioning the man's choices. The answers as to why Leslie felt guilt after seeing the woman's corpse and what she meant to him are less satisfying than the series' many superior solutions. Todd (the mother-and-son writing team of Caroline and Charles Todd) has done better.