Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd

First Sentence:  Ian Rutledge drove through the night, his mind only partly on the road unwinding before him.
After leaving his sister’s wedding, restlessness sends Inspector Ian Rutledge driving on deserted roads in the middle of the night.  He doesn’t expect to come across a stopped motorcar, a dead man, and a woman with blood on her hands who claims an unknown man suddenly appeared in front of their car and shot her companion, Stephen Wentworth.  Rutledge takes on the investigation for Scotland Yard and learns of a man liked by most but labeled a murderer by his own family.  And how does a second death tie in?
What an excellent beginning.  While the essentials of setting, situation, and characters are there, one also feels vulnerability and loneliness.  Those who have followed the series, there have been glimpses, but here we truly see the man behind the policemen, and the dead he carries in his mind as he comes upon someone who is truly dead.
Todd is very good at creating an environment—“The next morning was dismally wet.  It had warmed in the night enough to bring an early fog with it.  Nothing like the London fogs,… Still, this one was enough to keep anyone by his hearth who had no particularly pressing business elsewhere.” Part of what makes Rutledge such an interesting character is his introspection and insightfulness—“The bereaved often saw their dead a someone more than human, above reproach, possessor of all the virtues.”  We are also reminded of how cruel parents can be to their children, even without physical violence.
Although set after WWI, Todd uses the theme of the war to exemplify the idiocy of those “senior officers, who make plans” and the cost on human lives, both of those who were killed, and often of those who survive.  The issue of shell shock (PTSD) plays a significant role through the story and the series and in the makeup of Rutledge.
With mysteries, one tends to think of the classic motives; money, jealousy, revenge, etc.  Todd has added to that list with one we are very much in evidence today—“Anger. …A fury so deep he’s already lived with it long enough that it has burned cold.”
The Gatekeeper” is so well done.  Its multifaceted plot is equaled only by the excellent, multifaceted protagonist, and the quality of the writing.  This may well be the best book in the series to date.

THE GATE KEEPER (Hist Pol Proc-Insp. Ian Rutledge-England-1920s) - Ex
      Todd, Charles – 20th in series
      William Morrow – Feb 2018

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