The Great War reverberates throughout this compelling mystery, taking a terrible toll on those who remain. For Inspector Ian Rutledge, the flashes of shells and the guns of France still pound in his head as the voice of Hamish MacLeod is ever present at the back of his mind, though the man himself has long lain dead in his French grave. The stones of the past are anchored forever amid the torrent of Ianís days, redirecting, obstructing, thwarting and frustrating him at every turn.
It has been a difficult long twelve months since Rutledgeís return to Scotland Yard, and the dark, criminal underbelly of London still knows how to keep secrets. Yet the real tragedy in this story takes place in rural Lancashire, where a woman is deserted and left waiting by her red door. Meanwhile, renowned missionary Walter Teller mysteriously goes missing in London after seeking treatment at the Belvedere Clinic.
Afflicted with some sort of nervous condition - a paralysis which came on as quickly as it disappeared
- Walter Teller had, in the middle of the afternoon, dressed himself and walked out of the clinic on his own. His distressed wife, Jenny, hasnít a clue
as to where heís gone, but she reminds the Inspector that her husband is ďa good man who takes his responsibilities seriously.Ē
Perhaps Walterís brothers, Edgar and Peter, know something they havenít told the police. While their wives, Amy and Susannah, worry along with Walterís sister, Leticia, they all launch an investigation of their own. Rutledge canít help but be plunged into the ever-deepening mystery when a woman called Florence Teller is murdered in Hobson, Lancashire.
There are no witnesses, no sign of robbery, no physical assault - nothing to go on but the womanís body found in the front passage of her house
- but the crime adds another complicated layer to the investigation. Rutledge is positive that Florence is somehow related to the rest of the Teller family. While the emotions of Jenny are raw, her tears not far below the surface, the clues to Florenceís murder appear to lie with a dove gray parrot, the broken handle of a cane, a missing box of letters, a rose garden and a memorial to a wifeís memory.
As Rutledge deals with his own troubles (his godfather, David Trevor, visiting from Scotland, and a terrifying rail accident where he reconnects with old friend Melinda Crawford), more accusations of murder in the Teller family
arise, becoming a catalyst for Peter Tellerís downfall and the sacrifice of Jenny Tellerís innocence.
Filled with a cast of eccentrics, the unconventional villagers of Hobson and the hard-bitten detectives of Scotland Yard, Toddís complex plot
builds upon the questionable motives of this well-to-do family and their concern over the disappearance of Walter.
The images of a lonely woman weeping over her lost love while reading his hidden missives are the most emotional and heartrending in this absorbing and endlessly engrossing historical drama
in which the effects of love and war ultimately collide.