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A Lonely Death

A compelling Charles Todd mystery

January 13, 2011
By REGINA M. ANGELI, Books Writer

Charles Todd has another compelling mystery featuring World War I veteran and Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Ian Rutledge, "A Lonely Death." (William Morrow Publisher, 343 pages)

Inspector Rutledge is called in to investigate a series of baffling murders in the small village of Eastfield in Sussex.

The victims, all war veterans, have been garroted with small identification discs or "dog tags" placed in their mouths. Rutledge suspects the motive for the grisly murders may be rooted in the past war.

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Are these murders an act of vengeance for an atrocity committed in the confusion and panic of combat?

Was a man killed by friendly fire or abandoned to the enemy in an act of cowardice?

As he probes into the mind of the serial killer, he finds the motive may not be linked to the horrors of warfare, but to something more mundane, yet equally traumatic - the loneliness of a childhood spent being subjected to the incessant vicious taunting of the other village children. Could being the constant "butt of the joke" warp an immature fragile mind?

Inspector Rutledge is all too keenly aware of the lingering consequences of war, of the tremendous guilt borne by survivors which all too often leads to suicide among veterans.

But in rural Sussex, he is forced to confront an even more terrifying truth - that for the profoundly imbalanced person, the brutality of conflict can awaken a love of killing which, when joined with military training, creates the perfect assassin.

While the armistice of November 11th has silenced the guns, it cannot satiate the serial killer's thrill of committing the ultimate crime - murder.

Rutledge faces a most challenging foe, as he takes on a man who is equally adept in concealing his wounded psyche and well trained in the deadly art of killing.

The investigation reopens the Inspector's old wounds rooted in the tragic loss of his friend, Hamish Macleod, and plunges Rutledge to the very point of despair.

Though still quite shell-shocked, the Inspector's tenacious love of duty and devotion to justice quiets the ghost of Hamish long enough for Rutledge to recommit himself to flushing out the fiendish Sussex strangler.

Although set in the days following the First World War, Charles Todd has penned a provocative thriller in "A Lonely Death" which will seem contemporary to the reader.



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