A Cold Treachery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #7) [NOOK Book]

Overview

Charles Todd returns to the world of Scotland Yard’s Inspector Ian Rutledge in a series that the New York Times Book Review called “harrowing psychological drama” and the Washington Post Book World hailed as “among the most intelligent and affecting being written these days.” This time the embattled Inspector has met his match hunting a brutal killer across a frozen hell and ...
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A Cold Treachery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #7)

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Overview

Charles Todd returns to the world of Scotland Yard’s Inspector Ian Rutledge in a series that the New York Times Book Review called “harrowing psychological drama” and the Washington Post Book World hailed as “among the most intelligent and affecting being written these days.” This time the embattled Inspector has met his match hunting a brutal killer across a frozen hell and the one witness who may have survived a crime of…

A COLD TREACHERY

“You’ll hang for this–see if you don’t! That’s my revenge! And you’ll think about that when the rope goes around your neck and the black hood comes down….”

Called out by Scotland Yard into the teeth of a violent blizzard, Inspector Ian Rutledge finds himself confronted with one of the most savage murders he has ever encountered. Rutledge might have expected such unspeakable carnage on the World War I battlefields, where he’d lost much of his soul–and his sanity–but not in an otherwise peaceful farm kitchen in remote Urskdale.

Someone has murdered the Elcott family at their table without the least sign of struggle. Was the killer someone the young family knew and trusted? When the victims are tallied the local police are in for another shock: One of the Elcotts’ children, a boy named Josh, is missing.

Now the Inspector must race to uncover a murderer and to save a child before he’s silenced by the merciless elements–or the even colder hands of a killer. Haunted and goaded by the soldier-ghost of his own tortured war past, Rutledge will discover the tragedy of war that splintered one marriage–and pulled together another.
Love, jealousy, greed, revenge–or was it some twisted combination of all of them? Any one could lead a man or woman to murder. What had the Elcotts done to ignite their killer’s rage? With time running out, Rutledge knows all too well that such a cold-blooded murderer could be hiding somewhere in the blinding snow…
preparing to strike again.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
Although Rutledge's immediate job is to catch a killer, his greater duty is to wander the land, bearing witness to the human devastation. Only then, as the ghostly voice of the young soldier he had executed keeps reminding him, can he find redemption.
— The New York Times
Library Journal
Todd's latest Ian Rutledge mystery is set in a bleak, isolated Scottish village called Urskdale. Five members of the Elcott family have been found murdered in their kitchen. Only ten-year-old Josh is missing from the blood-spattered scene. Did he witness the murders? Could he have survived the freezing temperatures out on the moor or will his body remain undiscovered until spring? Rutledge organizes a massive search for the boy, while considering possible suspects and motives for the murders. He rescues beautiful Janet Rushton from a carriage accident, which further complicates the plot. A cousin of one of the victims, Janice has a score to settle and motives that are none too innocent. Meanwhile, Rutledge's uneasy truce with the dead soldier Hamish (whose voice Rutledge continues to hear in his head) threatens to crack under the strain of the investigation. Todd's gripping tale illustrates the devastating effects of extreme human emotions in a constricted environment. Urskdale and its inhabitants are clearly drawn. Indeed, the setting takes on an eerie life of its own. Highly recommended for most mystery collections.-Laurel Bliss, Princeton Univ. Lib., NJ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Who will find ten-year-old Josh Robinson first, the killer who slaughtered the rest of his family or Scotland Yard's Inspector Ian Rutledge and his familiar ghost Hamish? Urksdale is unprepared for the carnage at the Elcott farm, where most of the family lies dead, apparently without a struggle. When Inspector Rutledge arrives, he finds most of the Lake District village searching for young Josh, who either escaped the massacre or caused it. Put up at the local B&B, where he's drawn to the wheelchair-bound caretaker Miss Fraser, Rutledge learns of the complex beginning to the Elcott marriage. Thinking herself a widow whose husband Hugh Robinson was missing in action, Grace married Gerald. Then Hugh returned and agreed to let his pregnant former wife and two children stay with Gerald. But now Hugh, distraught over the loss of his family and the presumption that his son Josh is responsible, attempts suicide, while Grace's sister Janet, who has reasons of her own to want her sister dead, insists that Grace was terrified of Gerald's brother Paul. Intent on finding Josh before he freezes to death, Rutledge begins climbing the Fells as the ghost of Hamish, the soldier he was forced to execute in the Great War, struggles to point him toward the truth. A slow beginning and melodramatic trappings put this a notch below Todd's most compelling work. Nonetheless, Rutledge and Hamish (A Fearsome Doubt, 2002, etc.) remain two of fiction's best antiwar spokesmen. Agent: Jane Chelius/Jane Chelius Literary Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553901221
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/25/2005
  • Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge Series , #7
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 33,872
  • File size: 703 KB

Meet the Author

Charles Todd
CHARLES TODD is the author of The Murder Stone, A Fearsome Doubt, Watchers of Time, Legacy of the Dead, A Test of Wills, Wings of Fire, and Search the Dark. He lives on the East Coast, where he is at work on the next novel in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE

The North of England
December 1919

He ran through the snow, face into the swirling wind, feet pounding deep trenches into the accumulating drifts. Rocks, their shapes no longer familiar under the soft white blanket, sent him sprawling, and he dragged himself up again, white now where the snow clung, and almost invisible in the darkness. He had no idea what direction he had taken, enveloped by unreasoning panic and hardly able to breathe for the pain inside him. All he could hear was the voice in his head, shouting at him--

"You will hang for this, see if you don't. It's my revenge, and you'll think about that when the rope goes round your neck and the black hood comes down and there's no one to save you--"

The sound of the shot was so loud it had shocked him, and he couldn't remember whether he had slammed the door behind him or left it standing wide.

He could still smell the blood--so much of it!--choking in the back of his throat like feathers thrown on a fire. He could feel the terror, a snake that coiled and writhed in his stomach, making him ill, and the drumming wild in his head.

They would catch him. And then they'd hang him. There was nothing he could do to prevent it. Unless he died in the snow, and was buried by it until the spring. He'd seen the frozen body of a dead lamb once, stiff and hard, half rotted and sad. The ravens had been at it. He hated ravens.

Half the countryside knew he'd been a troublemaker since the autumn. Restless--unhappy--growing out of himself and his clothes. They'd look at what lay in that bloody room, and they'd hate him.

He was crying now, tears scalding on cold skin, and the voice was so loud it seemed to be following him, and he ran harder, his breath gusting in front of his face, arms pumping, pushing his way through the snow until his muscles burned.

"You'll hang for this--see if you don't----!"

He would rather die in the snow of cold and exhaustion than with a rope around his neck. He'd rather run until his heart burst than drop through the hangman's door and feel his throat close off. Even with the ravens eating him, the snow was cleaner. . . .

"You'll hang for this--see if you don't----!

That's my revenge . . . my revenge . . . my revenge. . . ."

CHAPTER TWO

Paul Elcott stood in the kitchen beside Sergeant Miller, his face pale, his hand shaking as he unconsciously brushed the back of it across his mouth for the third time.

"They're dead, aren't they? I haven't touched them--I couldn't--Look, can we step outside, man, I'm going to be sick, else!"

Miller, who had come from a butcher's family, said stolidly, "Yes, all right. The doctor's on his way, but there's nothing he can do for them." Except pronounce them dead, he added to himself. Poor souls. What the devil had happened here? "We might as well wait in the barn, then, until he's finished."

Elcott stumbled out the door. He made his way to the barn, where he was violently sick in one of the empty horse stalls. Afterward he felt no better. He could still see the kitchen floor--still smell the sickening odor of blood--

And the eyes--half closed--staring at nothing the living could see.

Had Gerald looked at Hell? He'd said the trenches were worse--

He sat down on a bale of hay, and dropped his head in his hands, trying to regulate his breathing and hold on to his senses. He should have sent the sergeant back alone. He'd been mad to think he could face that slaughter again.

After a while, Sergeant Miller came across to the barn, and the doctor was with him, carrying a lantern. Elcott lifted his head to nod at Dr. Jarvis. He cleared his throat and said, "They didn't suffer, did they? I mean--no one lingered--"

"No. I don't believe they did," the doctor answered quietly, coming to stand by him and lifting the lantern a little to shine across Elcott's face. He prayed it was true. He couldn't be sure until the autopsies. Without moving the bodies, he'd been able to find only a single gunshot wound in each, to the chest, with resulting internal trauma. Sufficient to kill. A surge of sympathy swept Jarvis and he reached out to press Elcott's shoulder. The bloody dead were this man's family. His brother, his brother's wife, their children. An unspeakable shock . . .

The doctor himself had been badly shaken by the scene and found it difficult to imagine how he would answer his wife, when she asked him why the police had come to fetch him in the middle of his dinner. Nothing in his practice had prepared him for such a harrowing experience. It was, he thought, something one might see in war, not in a small, peaceful farmhouse. At length he said gently to Elcott, "Let me take you home, Paul, and give you something to help you sleep."

"I don't want to sleep. I'll have nightmares." Without warning Elcott began to cry, his face crumpled and his chest heaving. His nerve gone.

The doctor gripped the weeping man's shoulder, and looked to Sergeant Miller over his head. "I wish I knew what's keeping Inspector Greeley--his wife told me he'd gone to see if the Potters needed help getting out. I hope to God he hasn't stumbled on anything like this!"

"We'll know soon enough," the sergeant replied.

They listened to the sobbing man beside them, feeling helpless in the face of his grief.

"I ought to take him home," Jarvis said. "He's no use to you in this state. You can wait for Greeley. When you're ready for me, I'll be with Elcott."

Miller nodded. "That's best, then." He glanced at Elcott, then jerked his head, moving to the door. Jarvis followed him. The two men stood there in the late afternoon light, gray clouds so heavy that it was difficult to tell if dusk was coming, or more snow. It had been a freak two-day storm, fast moving with a heavy fall, and the skies still hadn't cleared. The roads were nearly impassable, the farm lanes worse. It had taken Miller a good hour to reach the house, even following in the ruts left by Elcott's carriage.

"There's one still missing." Miller pitched his voice so that Elcott couldn't hear him. "I daresay Elcott's not noticed. I've walked through the rest of the house. He's not there."

"Josh? By God, I hadn't--Is he in the outbuildings, do you think?" Jarvis shivered and glanced over his shoulder at the unlit interior of the small barn, with its stalls, plows, barrows, tack, and other gear stacked neatly, the hay in the loft, filling half the space. Two horses and a black cow watched him, ears twitching above empty mangers. "Gerald Elcott was always a tidy man. It shouldn't take long to search."

Miller counted on his gloved fingers. "Elcott penned his sheep, against the storm. I could see them up there to the east of Fox Scar. Stabled his horses, and brought in the cow. At a guess, then, he was alive this time Sunday, when the snow was coming down hard and he knew we were in for it. But the cow's not been milked since, nor the stalls mucked out, nor feed put down."

"That confirms what I saw inside. I'd say they've been dead since Sunday night." Jarvis frowned and stamped his feet against the cold, torn. "I should stay until you've found Josh. In the event there's anything I can do. . . ."

"No, take Elcott back. If the rest are dead, the boy is as well. I'll manage."

The doctor nodded. He was moving toward Elcott again, when Miller cautioned, "Best to say nothing about what we've seen"--he gestured to the house--"in the village. Until we know a little more. We don't want a panic on our hands."

"No. God, no." Jarvis handed the lantern to Miller and settled his hat firmly on his head against the wind. Raising his voice, he said, "Now then, Paul, let's take you home, and I'll find something to help you get past this."

"Someone has to look after the animals," Elcott protested. "And I want to help search. For whoever it was killed them. I want to be there when you find this bastard."

"That's to your credit," Miller answered him. "But for now, I'd go with the doctor if I was you. I'll see to the beasts, and there'll be someone to care for them tomorrow. Leave everything to us. As soon as we know anything, I'll see you're told."

Elcott walked to the barn door and stepped outside, unable to turn away from the silent house just across the yard. "I wish I knew why," he said, his voice ragged with grief. "I just wish I knew why. What had they ever done to deserve--?"

"That'll come out," Miller told him calmly, soothingly. "In good time."

Elcott followed Jarvis to the horse-drawn carriage that had brought the doctor out to the isolated farm. The only tracks in the snow were theirs, a hodgepodge of footprints around the kitchen door of the house, and the wheel markings of the two vehicles, cart and carriage. Beyond these, the ground was smoothly white, with only the brushing of the wind and the prints of winter birds scratching for whatever they could find.

As if only just realizing that the cart was his, Elcott stopped and said, "Dr. Jarvis--I can't--"

"Leave it for Sergeant Miller, if you will. He'll bring it back to town later. I expect he'll need it tonight"

"Oh--yes." Dazed, Elcott climbed into the carriage and settled himself meekly on the seat, stuffing his cold hands under his arms.

By the time Inspector Greeley had completed his examination of the Elcott farmhouse, he was absolutely certain of one thing. He needed help.

Five dead and one missing, believed dead.

It was beyond comprehension--beyond the experience of any man to understand.

In Urskdale with its outlying farms and vast stretches of barren mountainous landscape, his resources were stretched thin as it was. The first priority was making certain that all the other dale families were accounted for, that this carnage hadn't been repeated--God forfend!--in another isolated house. And there was the missing child to find. All the farm buildings, sheep pens, shepherds' huts, and tumbled ruins had to be searched. The slopes of the fells, the crevices, the small dips and swales, the banks of the little becks. It would take more men than he could muster. But he'd have to make do with what he had, summon the dale's scattered inhabitants and work them to the point of exhaustion. And time was short, painfully short, if that child had the most tenuous hope of surviving.

Overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of what lay ahead, Greeley did what his people had done for generations here in the North: He buttoned his emotions tightly inside and grimly set about what had to be done.

It was well after midnight when he got back to the small police station that stood six houses from the church on the main street of Urskdale. The inspector laboriously wrote out a message and found an experienced man to carry it to the Chief Constable. "Make the fastest time you can," the man was told. "It's urgent."

On his drive back to the police station, Greeley had already compiled a mental list of the outlying farms, roughly grouping them by proximity. And then, to keep his mind busy and away from that dreadful, bloody kitchen, he had considered what the searchers would need--lanterns, packets of food, Thermoses of tea, rope. But that was easier; each man would know from experience what to bring. Locating lost walkers in the summer had taught them all how to plan.

Jarvis had said two days--that the Elcotts had been dead two days.

This madman had already had more than sufficient time to track the boy over the snow, and then vanish. Or spread his net to other victims . . .

What in hell's name would the search parties discover, as they knocked on doors?

Greeley capped his pen and set it in the dish. A general warning now would come far too late to help anyone else. But the search had to go on. A search for the boy, for the killer--for other victims.
As he rose to leave, turning down the lamp on his desk, an appalling thought struck him.
What if the murderer was an Urskdale man? Where had he spent these last forty-eight hours? Safely at home by his hearth? If he hadn't found the boy after all, would he make certain that he was included among the searchers?

What if he, Greeley, was about to set the fox amongst the hounds, unwittingly sending the killer out with an innocent man, to search for himself?

He felt as if he'd not slept for a week--the tension in his body and the nightmare in his mind seemed to envelop him.

In the darkness the inspector rubbed his gritty eyes with his fists. When he walked out the door to face the somber men collecting outside the station, would one of them look away, unable to meet his glance? Would he read suspicion into the turn of a head or the restless stamp of feet?

He knew each individual in his patch too well to believe one of them was a vicious killer. Or--until now he'd thought he did. More to the point, he needed every man he could lay hands to; he couldn't afford to speculate. Still, he would send them out in threes, not twos. Just in case.

As he finally strode down the passage, he could hear the first arrivals talking among themselves, coming in, some of them, as soon as the news reached them. A few at a time, on foot, on horseback, their numbers slowly swelling.

The blast of icy air hit him in the face as he went through the door, a shock to warmed skin. Nothing, he thought, to match his shock at the Elcott farm.

In all his years as a policeman, he had never seen anything like the scene in that farmhouse kitchen. Try as he would, he couldn't imagine the kind of malevolence that could do such a thing. Try as he would, he couldn't shut it out of his mind. He and his men had lifted the five stiff bodies onto blankets and carried each out to the waiting cart. He could still feel the small bodies of the children, resting so lightly in his arms. Blind anger swept him so that he felt sick with it, helpless and for the first time in his life, vengeful.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

CHAPTER ONE

The North of England
December 1919

He ran through the snow, face into the swirling wind, feet pounding deep trenches into the accumulating drifts. Rocks, their shapes no longer familiar under the soft white blanket, sent him sprawling, and he dragged himself up again, white now where the snow clung, and almost invisible in the darkness. He had no idea what direction he had taken, enveloped by unreasoning panic and hardly able to breathe for the pain inside him. All he could hear was the voice in his head, shouting at him--

"You will hang for this, see if you don't. It's my revenge, and you'll think about that when the rope goes round your neck and the black hood comes down and there's no one to save you--"

The sound of the shot was so loud it had shocked him, and he couldn't remember whether he had slammed the door behind him or left it standing wide.

He could still smell the blood--so much of it!--choking in the back of his throat like feathers thrown on a fire. He could feel the terror, a snake that coiled and writhed in his stomach, making him ill, and the drumming wild in his head.

They would catch him. And then they'd hang him. There was nothing he could do to prevent it. Unless he died in the snow, and was buried by it until the spring. He'd seen the frozen body of a dead lamb once, stiff and hard, half rotted and sad. The ravens had been at it. He hated ravens.

Half the countryside knew he'd been a troublemaker since the autumn. Restless--unhappy--growing out of himself and his clothes. They'd look at what lay in that bloody room, and they'd hate him.

He was crying now, tears scalding on cold skin,and the voice was so loud it seemed to be following him, and he ran harder, his breath gusting in front of his face, arms pumping, pushing his way through the snow until his muscles burned.

"You'll hang for this--see if you don't----!"

He would rather die in the snow of cold and exhaustion than with a rope around his neck. He'd rather run until his heart burst than drop through the hangman's door and feel his throat close off. Even with the ravens eating him, the snow was cleaner. . . .

"You'll hang for this--see if you don't----!

That's my revenge . . . my revenge . . . my revenge. . . ."


CHAPTER TWO


Paul Elcott stood in the kitchen beside Sergeant Miller, his face pale, his hand shaking as he unconsciously brushed the back of it across his mouth for the third time.

"They're dead, aren't they? I haven't touched them--I couldn't--Look, can we step outside, man, I'm going to be sick, else!"

Miller, who had come from a butcher's family, said stolidly, "Yes, all right. The doctor's on his way, but there's nothing he can do for them." Except pronounce them dead, he added to himself. Poor souls. What the devil had happened here? "We might as well wait in the barn, then, until he's finished."

Elcott stumbled out the door. He made his way to the barn, where he was violently sick in one of the empty horse stalls. Afterward he felt no better. He could still see the kitchen floor--still smell the sickening odor of blood--

And the eyes--half closed--staring at nothing the living could see.

Had Gerald looked at Hell? He'd said the trenches were worse--

He sat down on a bale of hay, and dropped his head in his hands, trying to regulate his breathing and hold on to his senses. He should have sent the sergeant back alone. He'd been mad to think he could face that slaughter again.

After a while, Sergeant Miller came across to the barn, and the doctor was with him, carrying a lantern. Elcott lifted his head to nod at Dr. Jarvis. He cleared his throat and said, "They didn't suffer, did they? I mean--no one lingered--"

"No. I don't believe they did," the doctor answered quietly, coming to stand by him and lifting the lantern a little to shine across Elcott's face. He prayed it was true. He couldn't be sure until the autopsies. Without moving the bodies, he'd been able to find only a single gunshot wound in each, to the chest, with resulting internal trauma. Sufficient to kill. A surge of sympathy swept Jarvis and he reached out to press Elcott's shoulder. The bloody dead were this man's family. His brother, his brother's wife, their children. An unspeakable shock . . .

The doctor himself had been badly shaken by the scene and found it difficult to imagine how he would answer his wife, when she asked him why the police had come to fetch him in the middle of his dinner. Nothing in his practice had prepared him for such a harrowing experience. It was, he thought, something one might see in war, not in a small, peaceful farmhouse. At length he said gently to Elcott, "Let me take you home, Paul, and give you something to help you sleep."

"I don't want to sleep. I'll have nightmares." Without warning Elcott began to cry, his face crumpled and his chest heaving. His nerve gone.

The doctor gripped the weeping man's shoulder, and looked to Sergeant Miller over his head. "I wish I knew what's keeping Inspector Greeley--his wife told me he'd gone to see if the Potters needed help getting out. I hope to God he hasn't stumbled on anything like this!"

"We'll know soon enough," the sergeant replied.

They listened to the sobbing man beside them, feeling helpless in the face of his grief.

"I ought to take him home," Jarvis said. "He's no use to you in this state. You can wait for Greeley. When you're ready for me, I'll be with Elcott."

Miller nodded. "That's best, then." He glanced at Elcott, then jerked his head, moving to the door. Jarvis followed him. The two men stood there in the late afternoon light, gray clouds so heavy that it was difficult to tell if dusk was coming, or more snow. It had been a freak two-day storm, fast moving with a heavy fall, and the skies still hadn't cleared. The roads were nearly impassable, the farm lanes worse. It had taken Miller a good hour to reach the house, even following in the ruts left by Elcott's carriage.

"There's one still missing." Miller pitched his voice so that Elcott couldn't hear him. "I daresay Elcott's not noticed. I've walked through the rest of the house. He's not there."

"Josh? By God, I hadn't--Is he in the outbuildings, do you think?" Jarvis shivered and glanced over his shoulder at the unlit interior of the small barn, with its stalls, plows, barrows, tack, and other gear stacked neatly, the hay in the loft, filling half the space. Two horses and a black cow watched him, ears twitching above empty mangers. "Gerald Elcott was always a tidy man. It shouldn't take long to search."

Miller counted on his gloved fingers. "Elcott penned his sheep, against the storm. I could see them up there to the east of Fox Scar. Stabled his horses, and brought in the cow. At a guess, then, he was alive this time Sunday, when the snow was coming down hard and he knew we were in for it. But the cow's not been milked since, nor the stalls mucked out, nor feed put down."

"That confirms what I saw inside. I'd say they've been dead since Sunday night." Jarvis frowned and stamped his feet against the cold, torn. "I should stay until you've found Josh. In the event there's anything I can do. . . ."

"No, take Elcott back. If the rest are dead, the boy is as well. I'll manage."

The doctor nodded. He was moving toward Elcott again, when Miller cautioned, "Best to say nothing about what we've seen"--he gestured to the house--"in the village. Until we know a little more. We don't want a panic on our hands."

"No. God, no." Jarvis handed the lantern to Miller and settled his hat firmly on his head against the wind. Raising his voice, he said, "Now then, Paul, let's take you home, and I'll find something to help you get past this."

"Someone has to look after the animals," Elcott protested. "And I want to help search. For whoever it was killed them. I want to be there when you find this bastard."

"That's to your credit," Miller answered him. "But for now, I'd go with the doctor if I was you. I'll see to the beasts, and there'll be someone to care for them tomorrow. Leave everything to us. As soon as we know anything, I'll see you're told."

Elcott walked to the barn door and stepped outside, unable to turn away from the silent house just across the yard. "I wish I knew why," he said, his voice ragged with grief. "I just wish I knew why. What had they ever done to deserve--?"

"That'll come out," Miller told him calmly, soothingly. "In good time."

Elcott followed Jarvis to the horse-drawn carriage that had brought the doctor out to the isolated farm. The only tracks in the snow were theirs, a hodgepodge of footprints around the kitchen door of the house, and the wheel markings of the two vehicles, cart and carriage. Beyond these, the ground was smoothly white, with only the brushing of the wind and the prints of winter birds scratching for whatever they could find.

As if only just realizing that the cart was his, Elcott stopped and said, "Dr. Jarvis--I can't--"

"Leave it for Sergeant Miller, if you will. He'll bring it back to town later. I expect he'll need it tonight"

"Oh--yes." Dazed, Elcott climbed into the carriage and settled himself meekly on the seat, stuffing his cold hands under his arms.


By the time Inspector Greeley had completed his examination of the Elcott farmhouse, he was absolutely certain of one thing. He needed help.

Five dead and one missing, believed dead.

It was beyond comprehension--beyond the experience of any man to understand.

In Urskdale with its outlying farms and vast stretches of barren mountainous landscape, his resources were stretched thin as it was. The first priority was making certain that all the other dale families were accounted for, that this carnage hadn't been repeated--God forfend!--in another isolated house. And there was the missing child to find. All the farm buildings, sheep pens, shepherds' huts, and tumbled ruins had to be searched. The slopes of the fells, the crevices, the small dips and swales, the banks of the little becks. It would take more men than he could muster. But he'd have to make do with what he had, summon the dale's scattered inhabitants and work them to the point of exhaustion. And time was short, painfully short, if that child had the most tenuous hope of surviving.

Overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of what lay ahead, Greeley did what his people had done for generations here in the North: He buttoned his emotions tightly inside and grimly set about what had to be done.

It was well after midnight when he got back to the small police station that stood six houses from the church on the main street of Urskdale. The inspector laboriously wrote out a message and found an experienced man to carry it to the Chief Constable. "Make the fastest time you can," the man was told. "It's urgent."

On his drive back to the police station, Greeley had already compiled a mental list of the outlying farms, roughly grouping them by proximity. And then, to keep his mind busy and away from that dreadful, bloody kitchen, he had considered what the searchers would need--lanterns, packets of food, Thermoses of tea, rope. But that was easier; each man would know from experience what to bring. Locating lost walkers in the summer had taught them all how to plan.

Jarvis had said two days--that the Elcotts had been dead two days.

This madman had already had more than sufficient time to track the boy over the snow, and then vanish. Or spread his net to other victims . . .

What in hell's name would the search parties discover, as they knocked on doors?

Greeley capped his pen and set it in the dish. A general warning now would come far too late to help anyone else. But the search had to go on. A search for the boy, for the killer--for other victims.
As he rose to leave, turning down the lamp on his desk, an appalling thought struck him.
What if the murderer was an Urskdale man? Where had he spent these last forty-eight hours? Safely at home by his hearth? If he hadn't found the boy after all, would he make certain that he was included among the searchers?

What if he, Greeley, was about to set the fox amongst the hounds, unwittingly sending the killer out with an innocent man, to search for himself?

He felt as if he'd not slept for a week--the tension in his body and the nightmare in his mind seemed to envelop him.

In the darkness the inspector rubbed his gritty eyes with his fists. When he walked out the door to face the somber men collecting outside the station, would one of them look away, unable to meet his glance? Would he read suspicion into the turn of a head or the restless stamp of feet?

He knew each individual in his patch too well to believe one of them was a vicious killer. Or--until now he'd thought he did. More to the point, he needed every man he could lay hands to; he couldn't afford to speculate. Still, he would send them out in threes, not twos. Just in case.

As he finally strode down the passage, he could hear the first arrivals talking among themselves, coming in, some of them, as soon as the news reached them. A few at a time, on foot, on horseback, their numbers slowly swelling.

The blast of icy air hit him in the face as he went through the door, a shock to warmed skin. Nothing, he thought, to match his shock at the Elcott farm.

In all his years as a policeman, he had never seen anything like the scene in that farmhouse kitchen. Try as he would, he couldn't imagine the kind of malevolence that could do such a thing. Try as he would, he couldn't shut it out of his mind. He and his men had lifted the five stiff bodies onto blankets and carried each out to the waiting cart. He could still feel the small bodies of the children, resting so lightly in his arms. Blind anger swept him so that he felt sick with it, helpless and for the first time in his life, vengeful.
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Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    powerful historical police procedural

    In December 1919 in wintry Urksdale, England someone murders five members of the Elcott family, three of them children, in their home. Paul Elcott discovers the grisly remains of his kin, but in his horror he fails to realize that ten year old Josh escaped the brutality. Inspector Greeley assumes the lad is dead as Dr. Jarvis stated that the killings occurred two days ago. Unable to overcome his bias that no local committed the mass murders, Greeley requests help from Scotland Yard¿s Chief Constable.--- While a blizzard hampers travel, the Chief Constable sends Word War I veteran Inspector Ian Rutledge to investigate the vicious killings. Ian keeps his thin grip on sanity through his police work as he feels remorse about Corporal Hamish who he ordered executed for insubordination. As the locals including Greeley and Jarvis insist it is a lunatic outsider, Rutledge looks for clues to find the whereabouts of Josh, not just for altruistic reasons. The murder scene implies deadly passion from someone the family members knew intimately; hence the ten year old is Ian¿s prime suspect; others from the village with fervent motives surface.--- In his seventh appearance, battle fatigue syndrome victim Rutledge seems as if he is getting mentally even more unstable than in his previous tales. Still as his grasp on reality lessens, his inspection skills remain strong. The who-done-it is solid, but it is the powerful historical look at the austere lifestyle of a northern England farm family just after the war that keeps the series fresh and at the top rung of the sub-genre.--- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2013

    Chilling

    A murder story in the best traditions of Christie. Well done, Charles Todd.

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  • Posted April 6, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Series winner

    Am in the process of reading all of Charles Todd Ian Rutledge series. Have completed the Bess Crawford series which was superb. This series is a mixed bag. It teaches us about the horrors of WWI, as well as the experience of so many who were engaged in that battle.

    Ian Rutledge is an enigma - fascinating, thoughtful, extremely competent yet disturbed by his war ordeal. His sub-conscience produces Hamish, Ian's nemisis, guide, provoker, and supporter. Once the reader can accept Hamish, you can get past the interruptions.

    The only negative in this writing, is the length. At least 50 pages, probably more, could be cut, but the writing is repetitive in details, written with scenes that are totally indirect and irrelevant, in what seems as an attempt to produce X number of words, rather than just complete the story.

    But, I have enjoyed this entire read - working on his 12th book in this series and would not change direction, but instead read every book because the series is fascinating, educational and entertaining.

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  • Posted August 5, 2012

    I really enjoy the books in this series. The writing is good (no

    I really enjoy the books in this series. The writing is good (not exceptional) and the stories are compelling. The historical accuracy is compelling. Recommended.

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  • Posted July 22, 2011

    Great book

    This is a great read. Wonderful writting.

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