The weathered remains found on a Scottish mountainside may be those of Eleanor Gray, but the imperious Lady Maude Gray, Eleanor's mother, will have to be handled delicately. This is not the only ground that Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard must tread carefully, for the case will soon lead him to Scotland, where many of Rutledge's ghosts rest uneasily. But it is an unexpected encounter that will hold the most peril.
For in Scotland Rutledge will find that the young mother accused of killing Eleanor Gray is a woman to whom he owes a terrible debt. And his harrowing journey to find the truth will lead him back through the fires of his past, into secrets that still have the power to kill.
The muddy, bloody horrors of WWI continue to haunt Insp. Ian Rutledge, back at work at Scotland Yard, but just barely. Still guilt-stricken over his wartime murder of Corp. Hamish MacLeod, who "cracked" during the Somme offensive of 1916, Rutledge hears Hamish's voice in his head as a steady, moralizing conversationalist. Now Rutledge has been dispatched to Scotland to identify the probable remains of Eleanor Gray, an aristocratic suffragette inexplicably estranged from her mother, the imperious Lady Maude. Local police theorize that Eleanor was murdered on the Highlands by beautiful, young Fiona MacDonald, who's been raising Eleanor's newborn son as her own. Unconvinced of a link between the two women, Rutledge visits Fiona in jail and immediately recognizes her as Hamish's beloved fianc e. But Fiona won't exonerate herself, refusing to identify the boy's real parents. Following the Edgar-nominated A Test of Wills (1996), this fourth installment in the series focuses narrowly on the question: is there a link between Fiona and Eleanor? Since the answer is never in doubt, there's not much to absorb suspense addicts, as Rutledge slogs through Scotland trying to break the apparently deadlocked circumstantial case. The resolution, implicating too many peripheral characters, is particularly unsatisfying. But readers will continue to be captivated by Todd's portrait of the dangerously unraveling detective, and his equally incisive evocation of the grieving postwar world.