“If there’s ever been a more complex and compelling hero in crime fiction than Inspector Rutledge, I can’t think of one.”—Jeffery Deaver
In one of his most puzzling cases, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge must delve deep into a dead man’s life and his past to find a killer determined to keep dark secrets buried.
A peaceful Welsh village is thrown into turmoil when a terrified boy stumbles on a body in a nearby river. The man appears to have fallen from the canal aqueduct spanning the valley. But there is no identification on the body, he isn’t a local, and no one will admit to having seen him before. With little to go on, the village police turn to Scotland Yard for help.
When Inspector Ian Rutledge is sent from London to find answers, he is given few clues—a faded military tattoo on the victim’s arm and an unusual label in the collar of his shirt. They eventually lead him to the victim’s identity: Sam Milford. By all accounts, he was a good man and well-respected. Then, why is his death so mysterious? Looking for the truth, Rutledge uncovers a web of lies swirling around a suicidal woman, a child’s tragic fate, another woman bent on protecting her past. But where among all the lies is the motive for murder?
To track a killer, Rutledge must retrace Milford’s last journey. Yet death seems to stalk his every move, and the truth seems to shift at every turn. Man or woman, this murderer stays in the shadows, and it will take desperate measures to lure him—or her—into the light.
Bestseller Todd's so-so 23rd novel featuring Scotland Yard's Insp. Ian Rutledge (after 2020's A Divided Loyalty) takes Rutledge, in the spring of 1921, to Wales after a boy's fishing outing at a canal snags a man's corpse. The body is unidentified, but a tattoo suggests the dead man belonged to one of the Bantam Battalions, units of undersized soldiers who served in WWI. When a label in the cadaver's shirt yields the name of the woman who special-ordered it, Ruth Milford, Rutledge travels to Shropshire to seek her out. Ruth initially lies about her identity, but the information she reluctantly provides leads Rutledge to believe it was her husband, Samuel, who died. The Milfords' baby daughter, Tildy, disappeared a year earlier, snatched from her carriage when Ruth briefly left her alone, and is believed dead, and Rutledge pursues the theory that Samuel's murder is somehow connected with that earlier tragedy. The psychic scars of Rutledge's WWI trauma are underplayed, and the whodunit plot generates little suspense. Hopefully, Todd (a mother-son writing team) will return to form next time. \n