Secrets, old and new, envelope the remote fishing village of Furnham in Charles Todd’s 14th addition to his Inspector Ian Rutledge series, The Confession (Morrow: Jan. 3, 2012 release). This well crafted mystery, set in the years just after World War I, begins with a false confession to murder.
A man calling himself Wyatt Russell appears at Scotland Yard in the summer of 1920, informing Rutledge that he had killed his cousin, Justin Fowler, five years earlier. Russell claims that he wants to clear his conscience since he is now dying of cancer, but he refuses to explain the motive for his crime.
Two weeks later the police find Russell’s body floating in the Thames. He has been shot in the head. A locket Russell wears around his neck leads Rutledge to Furnham, the village in which both Russell and his cousin grew up.
Todd’s descriptive skill is again evident in his depiction of the Essex marshlands surrounding Furnham, a remote area of England bordering the North Sea. The desolate landscape is forbidding in its appearance, and its inhabitants prove equally hostile.
Nonetheless, Rutledge learns that the man who confessed to Justin Fowler’s murder was not Wyatt Russell but Ben Willett, the son of a Furnham fisherman, and that the locket he wore had belonged to Elizabeth Russell, Wyatt Russell’s mother. Elizabeth was wearing the locket when she disappeared from River’s Edge, her Furnham home, in 1914, never to be seen again.
Rutledge now has three mysterious deaths to resolve – those of Ben Willett, Justin Fowler and Elizabeth Russell. As in the past books in this series, he gets help from an unusual source – Hamish MacLeod. Introduced in the series debut novel, A Test of Wills (1996), Hamish MacLeod is a manifestation of the shell-shock Rutledge experienced as a result of the war.
Hamish, a corporal in Rutledge’s regiment, had refused to follow an order that he felt would endanger his men. Although Rutledge understood his decision, Hamish’s mutiny meant that Rutledge had to order his execution. Rutledge’s consequent guilt has resulted in his belief that he still hears Hamish talking to him, often commenting on his cases.
In addition to the Ian Rutledge series, Charles Todd is the author of the more recent Bess Crawford Mysteries. This series, also set during World War I, features an English nurse as its protagonist.
FTC Full Disclosure: A review copy of this work was provided by HarperCollins.