A Pale Horse (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #10)

A Pale Horse (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #10)

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by Charles Todd

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In the ruins of Yorkshire's Fountains Abbey lies the body of a man wrapped in a cloak, the face covered by a gas mask. Next to him is a book on alchemy, which belongs to the schoolmaster, a conscientious objector in the Great War. Who is this man, and is the investigation into his death being manipulated by a thirst for revenge?

Meanwhile, the British War


In the ruins of Yorkshire's Fountains Abbey lies the body of a man wrapped in a cloak, the face covered by a gas mask. Next to him is a book on alchemy, which belongs to the schoolmaster, a conscientious objector in the Great War. Who is this man, and is the investigation into his death being manipulated by a thirst for revenge?

Meanwhile, the British War Office is searching for a missing man of their own, someone whose war work was so secret that even Rutledge isn't told his real name or what he did.

The search takes Rutledge to Berkshire, where cottages once built to house lepers stand in the shadow of a great white horse cut into the chalk hillside. The current inhabitants of the cottages are outcasts, too, hiding from their own pasts. Who among them is telling the truth about their neighbors and who is twisting it?

Here is a puzzle requiring all of Rutledge's daring and skill, for there are layers of lies and deception, while a ruthless killer is determined to hold on to freedom at any cost. And the pale horse looming overhead serves as a reminder that death is never finished with anyone, least of all the men who fought in the trenches of France.

Editorial Reviews

Marilyn Stasio
"Ian Rutledge, the Scotland Yard man in Charles Todd's outstanding series of historical mysteries, has a wonderful capacity for compassion - a quality this shell-shocked (and guilt-ridden) World War I veteran acquired over four hellish years in the battlefields of France. That heightened sensibility comes into play in A Pale Horse, when the War Office orders Rutledge to locate an eccentric scientist who has disappeared from his secluded cottage in Berkshire."
—The New York Times
Library Journal

When Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge is sent to a small village to look for a missing man, he has no idea that the case will become so complicated or that the people encountered will be so secretive. At the same time, an unidentified body is found in the ruins of a Yorkshire abbey, and the detective in charge of the case wants to pin the murder on the man who married his former fiancée. In his ninth outing (after A False Mirror), Rutledge uses all of his investigative prowess to piece together painstakingly what happened and how the two cases are connected. Award winner Todd, the pseudonym for a mother-and-son writing team, is brilliant at creating atmosphere and unforgettable characters. Fans of historicals by Rennie Airth and Anne Perry will snap this up. For all mystery collections.

—Jo Ann Vicarel
School Library Journal

Adult/High School -When a body is found in the ruins of an English abbey, Inspector Ian Rutledge and Hamish, the ghost of the man Rutledge executed during the Great War in France, must identify it. Rutledge would prefer to work alone, but Hamish is a persistent voice in his head. Teens with a taste for either mystery or history will enjoy the bantering between the English policeman and his ghostly Scottish tormentor as they work through the puzzle. The English countryside is beautifully drawn, as is the famous Bronze Age White Horse carved into the hills near Uffington, which gives the book its name. The dead man lived at the base of the Horse, and his neighbors have secrets they would prefer to keep. Soon new bodies join the first as the killer may be trying to finish what he started. Suspects abound-until they are murdered. When Rutledge discovers the true identity of the one in the abbey, he realizes that the British War Office may be working against him, and that the man's own family would prefer that Rutledge just go away. But the inspector is as relentless as the ghost who haunts him, and he will find his answers even if it costs him his career or his life.-Will Marston, Berkeley Public Library, CA

Kirkus Reviews
World War I may be over, but the tragedies, as always in Todd's work (A False Mirror, 2007, etc.), linger on. At first it seems that the corpse might have fallen victim to cultists who left behind bits of candle wax and a book on alchemy. But Inspector Rutledge, dispatched to the Yorkshire countryside to settle matters, quickly dispels that notion before returning to Scotland Yard. When the War Office sends him back to find a missing scientist, he wonders if it's that forlorn corpse. A local copper with vengeful fantasies of his own insists that no, it's the bloke who scarred his lost love's face and was done in by her husband, the village schoolmaster. Rutledge, with niggling asides from Hamish, the ghost of the soldier he executed for desertion, has another candidate: Gaylord Partridge, who may have taken on the alias to hide from the War Department, his estranged daughters and his obscure guilt. More murder and arson follow. The village is rife with nightmares, the inevitable consequences of unspeakable behavior during the War. Secrets are everywhere and relationships shattered by war undermine nearly everyone, especially the grieving Rutledge, who must determine who's who, who killed whom and why the victims had to die. Another penetrating, emotionally lacerating antiwar fable from a master of the form. If the Washington hawks who cajole us into battle could be induced to read Todd, they might have second thoughts.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Inspector Ian Rutledge Series , #10
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Read an Excerpt

A Pale Horse
An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery

Chapter One


Early April 1920

It was nearing the full moon, and the night seemed to shimmer with light.

He walked down the lane and turned to look up at the hillside.

The graceful white horse cut into the chalk by ancient Britons galloped across the green slope without stirring from its place.

He couldn't see it without remembering. That was the only reason he had chosen to live in this Godforsaken place. To torment himself until he couldn't bear it any more.

The horses had died too, in that first gas attack. It wasn't just the men. The poor beasts couldn't know what the low-lying mist wafting toward them brought in its wake.

An eyewitness had likened the cloud to a great horse moving across a barren meadow, ambling toward the barn for its dinner. Not hurrying, not drifting, just moving steadily, without apparent purpose, without apparent design, following the wind as the horse followed the scent of its stall and the fresh hay heaped in the manger. But like the pale horse of the Apocalypse, on his back rode Death. And Hell had truly followed them.

He smiled grimly at the imagery.

He hadn't been there when the Germans unleashed the chlorine attack against the Allies at Ypres. Yet it had changed his life in ways no one could have foreseen.

He wished he'd never heard the name of that medieval Belgian town. He wished the Germans had never reached it. Or that the British had left well enough alone and let them have the wretched place.

There was a silver flask of brandy in his pocket, and he feltfor it, uncapped it, lifted it to his lips, then paused.

What if he drank it to the dregs and crawled into the ruins of Wayland's Smithy to die, like a wounded animal hiding itself away until it either healed or breathed its last?

Would anyone care? A shadow was coming up the road toward him. It was Andrew Slater, the smith. It was impossible not to recognize him, even at this distance. Andrew was built like a church tower, tall and broad and solid. But the man didn't turn at the lane. He passed by without speaking, as if sleepwalking, moving on toward the Smithy. Like to like.

It would be crowded inside with the two of them there, he told himself with black humor. Not counting whatever ghosts lingered in that narrow Stone Age tomb.

I envy Andrew Slater, he thought, there in the darkness. He lives only in the present, while I have only the past.

He drank a little of the brandy, for courage, saluting the pale horse with his flask. Then he turned and trudged back to his cottage and turned up all the lamps for comfort.

A Pale Horse
An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery
. Copyright © by Charles Todd. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Charles Todd is the New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. A mother-and-son writing team, they live on the East Coast.

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Pale Horse 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The powerful and tragic effects of the gassing of soldiers during World War I is a recurrent theme in this mystery set in 1920. I enjoyed the evocation of a pre-high-tech England, especially the countryside. My only problem with this novel was an excess of characters introduced early on, who become both suspects and victims. It became confusing trying to keep them straight later on, and I never found a motive for at least one of the multiple murders. Nonetheless, I recommend it for its atmosphere and sympathetic main character, Inspector Ian Rutledge.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Todd's latest is an atmospheric historical mystery once again featuring police inspector and guilt-ridden WWI veteran Ian Rutledge. The disappearance of a scientist from a remote English village has Scotland Yard dispatching Rutledge to determine the man's fate despite little to go on from the War Office that instigated the search. Rutledge finds a pale drawing of a horse on a nearby hillside and a bunch of secretive villagers but little else and is then redirected to a murder with ritualistic connotations, in which the victim was posed in a hooded cloak and fitted with a gas mask, a book on alchemy near the body. Rutledge struggles to close the two cases, which may be related and possibly involve poisoned gas research during the Great War, all while haunted by the specter of a former WWI comrade who died at his hands, and the vigilant image of the horse of the Apocalypse. Here is an engrossing mystery, a fascinating portrait of a man haunted by his past (Rutledge's continued wrestling with the phantom of his dead war confederate reminds me of James Lee Burke's Billy Bob Holland, and that character's ghostly Texas Ranger partner), and a thought provoking commentary on the after-effects of war (past and current) that never gets in the way of the story.
AnonMI More than 1 year ago
First off, I'm really, really tired of Hamish. Enough already. Put him to rest, and move on. This was, IMO, actually one of the least interesting books that I've read by this author. I admit to being bored and tired of it all to the point I simply speed read the last part. At this point in time, I'm not so sure I will want to pay to have another experience similar to this one.
BookLoverCT More than 1 year ago
Since I first discovered this author, I have been reading all the stories in order. The tales of WWI are stimulating. I love his character development. Reading Hamish's thoughts in the language Ian Rutledge hears is so interesting. The story of this 'great white horse cut in chalk' and the stories presented is so riveting. Another good book !
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like a lot of character development and this has plenty. Suspenseful and surprising ending.
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Belinda_Kroll More than 1 year ago
Part mystery, part literary fiction about a man back from the gassed trenches of the Great World War (WWI to Americans), this book was excellent. I understand it is one in a series about Ian Rutledge, and this book drew me into his world and mind so well that I want to read the entire series. Will he get over his past with Hamish, his dead friend? Read this book for an example of how to intersperse research and setting between self-reflection, dialogue, and plot. We know where we are and what we're doing, dropped into a mystery and unsure Rutledge will be able to prove who the killer is, and whether we're right about our own suspicions. But like I said, this isn't just a straight mystery. We learn so much about Rutledge in the way he reacts to people, and how he holds conversations with Hamish when alone to appease his guilt. I truly enjoyed this book, and learned a great deal from the writing style.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Author created an interesting leading character and does a great job writing to hold your interest. What I don't like regarding this book(and he did it in another) is that he goes entirely through the book giving the reader 2 or 3 leading suspects to consider then in the last few pages brings to light evidence that a minor character did the dirty deed.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This latest in the series is very good: Ian Rutledge remains a complex character who continues to develop in a believable way. As with others in the series, this book can stand alone, but for those readers who have followed the series, the characters continue to move forward in their lives. We are left wanting more stories from this talented writing duo.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1920 five kids arrive at abandoned Yorkshire¿s Fountains Abbey with an alchemy book they stole from their school. They plan to perform a ritual to raise the devil, but instead flee in fear leaving behind the purloined tome. The next day a corpse wearing a gas mask is found near the book. --- Scotland Yard sends troubled Inspector Ian Rutledge to identify the victim as the War Office has an interest in the body too. Although the Great War to end all wars may be over, Ian still suffers from battle fatigue feeling guilty for what he did and saw. His inquiries of the nearby villagers are met with suspicion as each seems to have something to hide. The alchemy book belongs to a conscientious objector schoolmaster, but he also offers little. As deceit seems the norm, Ian struggles to learn the truth while the pale horse of the Apocalypse reminds the shell shocked detective that death is the final frontier. --- A PALE HORSE is a fantastic whodunit due to the mentally battered hero whose only respite from the ghost that disturbs him is investigating as this is what he did before he became an unrecognized war ¿casualty¿. The story line is fast-paced, but totally owned by Ian even as the audience obtains a deep look at an English village still reeling from the war. This haunting post WWI series remains one of the best historical police procedurals on the market today. --- Harriet Klausner