Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge is assigned one of the most baffling investigations of his career—a cold murder case with an unidentified victim and a cold trail with few clues to follow.
Chief Inspector Brian Leslie, a respected colleague of Ian Rutledge’s, is sent to Avebury, a village set inside a great prehistoric stone circle not far from Stonehenge.
A young woman has been murdered next to a mysterious, hooded, figure-like stone, but no one recognizes her—or admits to it. And how did she get there? Despite a thorough investigation, it appears that her killer has simply vanished.
Rutledge, returning from the conclusion of a case involving another apparently unknown woman, is asked to take a second look at Leslie’s inquiry, to see if he can identify this victim. But Rutledge is convinced Chief Superintendent Jameson only hopes to tarnish his earlier success once he also fails.
Where to begin? He too finds very little to go on in Avebury, slowly widening his search beyond the village—only to discover that unlikely—possibly even unreliable—clues are pointing him toward an impossible solution, one that will draw the wrath of the Yard down on him, and very likely see him dismissed if he pursues it. But what about the victim—what does he owe this tragic 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.