The Confession
Charles Todd
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Buy *The Confession: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery* by Charles Todd online

The Confession: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery
Charles Todd
William Morrow
368 pages
November 2012
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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In The Confession, Todd explores the evils of the past in a tale that virtually weeps with malice and the inexplicable power of death. The voice of his wartime corporal Hamish Macleod continues to haunt and help him as our beloved Inspector Ian Rutledge is plunged into a furtive landscape where an isolated Essex village seethes with a number of repellent wretches.

Rutledge can’t quite believe the shocking countenance of Wyatt Russell when he calls upon Scotland Yard with a strange confession. A walking skeleton harboring a voice that has been thinned by illness, Russell is dying of cancer and wants to clear his conscience before he goes. He tells Rutledge that he killed his cousin in 1915 and got away with it, but he doesn’t want die with this knowledge on his soul.

Although Rutledge decides against launching an internal inquiry - he’s not completely certain about the man’s motive in coming to the yard - his natural curiosity is aroused, leading him to look up anything he can about Wyatt Russell and Justin Fowler, the man Russell reportedly murdered. This connection and the link to beautiful Cynthia Faraday, and another man, Ben Willet, establish the serpentine architecture that will characterize much of Rutledge’s investigation.

Searching for clues at the request of the stricken Russell, Rutledge motors to his ramshackle, deserted home of River’s Edge, Essex. Amid village gossip that Miss Cynthia once had a flirtation with both Fowler and Russell, intuition is heaped on suspicion and doubt. Rutledge is required to solve the riddle of what really happened to the family matriarch Mrs. Elizabeth Russell, who one day in the summer of 1914 simply disappeared, never to be seen again.

Did Elizabeth Russell commit suicide, or was she murdered? Haunted by whispers in the marsh grass and spirits perhaps hidden among the reeds, the author adds another layer to the mystery when a dead man is found washed up on the marshy banks of the Thames--shot at close range, most likely with a service revolver. An oval locket on a gold chain with an image of Cynthia Faraday, looking pretty and young, is all that links him to River’s Edge and to the village of Furnham.

In a story full of mistrustful characters who mostly harbor smug, suspect manners and secretive agendas, something is wrong in Furnham--not just the issue of Ben Willet’s true identity, but something that resides in the town’s very bricks and mortar. Francis, Rutledge’s sister, had felt it and it had made her uneasy. Then there’s isolated River’s Edge: standing empty for upwards of five years, the decrepit house could be a perfect site for a quiet murder.

A warm late summers day is chilled by the North Sea wind while water dances in the sunlight with a “macabre gaiety.” The Furnham villagers are a tough lot, but their communal conscience comes laden with guilt. From assignations of smuggling to a novel published in France, Rutledge follows a web of connections between Willet, Russell, and Cynthia Faraday, the trail that links River’s Edge to Furnham, and to a man who proceeded to carry off his masquerade to perfection.

Rutledge is all too familiar with all the various incarnations of evil, having long ago handed over his tired psyche to the battered voice of Hamish: “Evil is always there, if we look for it.” From Chelsea to Tilbury, to Colchester and back to Furnham, this sensational mystery hinges on one dangerous man who likes to play the bully and a bitter, forgotten child who one day might just look for revenge.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2012

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