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Search the Dark (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #3)

Search the Dark (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #3)

4.2 30
by Charles Todd

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The introspective hero of Wings of Fire and A Test of Wills (Edgar Award nominee) returns in Search the Dark, a provocative new mystery by Charles Todd. Inspector Ian Rutledge, haunted by memories of World War I and the harrowing presence of Hamish, a dead soldier, is "a superb characterization of a man whose wounds have made him a stranger in


The introspective hero of Wings of Fire and A Test of Wills (Edgar Award nominee) returns in Search the Dark, a provocative new mystery by Charles Todd. Inspector Ian Rutledge, haunted by memories of World War I and the harrowing presence of Hamish, a dead soldier, is "a superb characterization of a man whose wounds have made him a stranger in his own land." (The New York Times Book Review)

A dead woman and two missing children bring Inspector Rutledge to the lovely Dorset town of Singleton Magna, where the truth lies buried with the dead. A tormented veteran whose family died in an enemy bombing is the chief suspect. Dubious, Rutledge presses on to find the real killer. And when another body is found in the rich Dorset earth, his quest reaches into the secret lives of villagers and Londoners whose privileged positions and private passions give them every reason to thwart him. Someone is protecting a murderer. And two children are out there, somewhere, in the dark....

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The third compelling Ian Rutledge mystery (Wings of Fire; A Test of Wills) takes the sensitive and appealing Scotland Yard inspector, a former WWI officer, to the countryside of Dorset. In 1919, another former soldier is arrested for murder in the town of Singleton Magna after the battered corpse of a young woman is found nearby. Withdrawn and suicidal, the suspect will speak to no one, and the police call Scotland Yard for help in finding the two young children who may have been in the dead woman's charge. Rutledge arrives, still carrying in his head the voice of Hamish MacLeod, a Scottish deserter whom he executed during the war and whose harsh, conscience-like presence in the inspector's mind seems to soften as the novel progresses, adding dimension to Todd's literary device. In his investigation, Rutledge encounters others whose spirits were ravaged in the war: Simon Wyatt, scion of local gentry, who has abandoned his plans to serve in Parliament; his French wife, unaccepted by the townspeople; Wyatt's former fianc e, who may not have given up her previous expectations; a young local man whose head wound has left him mentally diminished; and an independent young woman from London. The discovery of a second woman's battered corpse further knots Rutledge's task, which is rooted, it evolves in this fine period mystery, as much in love as in war.
Library Journal
British Detective Ian Rutledge, the World War I veteran with remnants of shell shock, searches for two missing children in Dorset. The children's mother, meanwhile, has been murdered, but the accused, also a psychically tormented veteran, may be a scapegoat. A well-crafted historical from the author of Wings of Time (LJ 2/1/98).
Kirkus Reviews
It's the end of WWI and Inspector Ian Rutledge is back at his Scotland Yard job—physically uninjured but plagued by the inner, nagging voice of dead soldier Hamish MacLeod (A Test of Wills, etc.). His first assignment takes him to the village of Singleton Magna in Dorset. There, bull-headed Inspector Hildebrand has in custody shell-shocked veteran Bert Mowbray, accused of killing a woman he'd seen on the train platform with two children, declaring the woman to be his wife. Mowbray's later search for her seems to have ended in a brutal killing, and now the search is on for the children—and fast becoming a dead end. It soon develops that another person in the area is missing. In nearby Charlburg, Simon Wyatt, expected to follow in his father's illustrious political footsteps, has returned from the war with French wife Aurore and no ambition except to set up a small museum of Indian and Far Fast artifacts. His onetime near fiancée Elizabeth Napier has brought him her London father's competent assistant to help with the museum. Now that assistant (Margaret Tarlton) has vanished, and Hildebrand refuses to exhume Mowbray's victim's body to verify her identity. Strangely enough, a body does surface; this time it's that of Betty Cooper, a maid who worked for a local farm family but had higher aspirations. Her death provides further unneeded complications—until, with little effort on Ian's part, all the unlikely answers come to light. A bit livelier than the author's previous work, with plenty of suspense despite its unfocused plot, unreal people, and too-leisurely style. Best for those who like their mystery melodramas written the old-fashioned way.

From the Publisher

“Todd's Ian Rutledge mysteries are among the most intelligent and affective being written these days.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Evocative...An absorbing mystery.” —The Orlando Sentinel

“[A] profound and insightful rendering of a Britain between the wars.” —The Hartford Courant

Product Details

St. Martin's Press
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Inspector Ian Rutledge Series , #3
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Search the Dark

By Charles Todd

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 1999 Charles Todd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-312-26467-3


The murder appeared to be a crime of passion, the killer having left a trail of evidence behind him that even a blind man might have followed.

It was the identity of the victim, not the murderer, that brought Scotland Yard into the case.

No one knew who she was. Or, more correctly perhaps, what name she might have used since 1916. And what had become of the man and the two children who had been with her at the railway station? Were they a figment of the killer's overheated imagination? Or were their bodies yet to be discovered?

The police in Dorset were quite happy to turn the search over to the Yard. And the Yard was very happy indeed to oblige, in the person of Inspector Ian Rutledge.

It began simply enough, with the London train pulling into the station at the small Dorset town of Singleton Magna. The stop there was always brief. Half a dozen passengers got off, and another handful generally got on, heading south to the coast. A few boxes and sacks were offloaded with efficiency, and the train rolled out almost before the acrid smoke of its arrival had blown away.

Today, late August and quite hot for the season, there was a man standing by the lowered window in the second class car, trying to find a bit of air. His shirt clung to his back under the shabby suit, and his dark hair lay damply across his forehead. His face was worn, dejection sunk deep in the lines about his mouth and in the circles under tired eyes. He was young, but youth was gone.

Leaning out, he watched the portly stationmaster helping a pale, drooping woman to the gate, the thin thread of her complaining voice just reaching him. " ... such hardship," she was saying.

What did she know about hardship? he thought wearily. She had traveled first class, and the leather dressing case clutched in her left hand had cost more than most men earned in a month. If they were lucky enough to have a job.

There had been no work in London. But he'd heard there was a builder hiring down Lyme Regis way. The train was a luxury Bert Mowbray couldn't afford. Still, jobs didn't wait, and you sometimes had to make the extra effort. He refused to think what he would do if he'd guessed wrong and there was nothing at the end of his journey but a grim shake of the head and "No work. Sorry."

His gaze idly followed a porter awkwardly trundling his cart full of luggage across the platform, followed by a pair of elderly women. The cars were already jammed with families on their way to the seaside, but room was found for two more. Then his eye was suddenly caught by another woman outside one of the cars farther down the train, kneeling to comfort a little girl who was crying. A boy much younger, not more than two, clung to the trouser leg of the man bending protectively over them, speaking to the woman and then to the little girl.

Mowbray stared at the woman, his body tight with shock and dismay. It couldn't be Mary

"My God!" he breathed, "Oh, my God!"

Turning from the window, he lunged for the door, almost knocking the wide-brimmed hat from the head of a startled farmer's wife who couldn't get out of his way fast enough. He tripped over her basket, losing precious seconds as he fought for his balance. Her companion stood up, younger and stouter, and demanded to know what he thought he was doing, her red, angry face thrust into his. The train jerked under his feet, and he realized it was moving. Pulling out

"No! No—wait!" he screamed, but it was too late, the train had picked up momentum and was already out of the small station, a few houses flashing by before the town was swallowed up by distance and fields.

He was nearly incoherent with frustration and the intensity of his need. He yelled for the conductor, demanding that the train be stopped—now!

The conductor, a phlegmatic man who had dealt with drunken soldiers and whoring seamen during the war years, said soothingly, "Overslept your stop, did you? Never mind, there's another just down the road a bit."

But he had to restrain Mowbray before they reached the next station—the man seemed half out of his mind and was trying to fling himself off the train. Two burly coal stokers on their way to Weymouth helped the conductor wrestle him into a seat while a prim-mouthed spinster wearing a moth-eaten fox around her shoulders, never mind the heat, threatened to collapse into strong hysterics.

Mowbray had gone from wild swearing and threats to helpless, angry tears by the time the train lurched into the next town. He and his shabby case were heaved off without ceremony, and he was left standing on the station platform, disoriented and distraught.

Without a word to the staring stationmaster, he handed in his ticket for Lyme Regis and set off at a smart pace down the nearest road in the direction of Singleton Magna.

But the woman and children and man were gone when he got to the town. And no one could tell him where to find them. He went to the only hotel, a small stone edifice called, with more imagination than accuracy, the Swan, demanding to know if a family of four had come in by the noon train. He stopped at the small shops that sold food and the two tearooms nearest the station, describing the woman first, then the children and the man. He badly frightened one clerk with his furious insistence that you must have seen them! You must!

He tracked down the carriage that served as the town taxi and angrily called the driver a liar for claiming he hadn't set eyes on the woman or the man, much less the children.

"They're not here, mate," the middle-aged driver declared shortly, jerking a thumb toward the back. "See for yourself. Nobody like that came out of the station today while I was waiting. If you was to meet them here, it's your misfortune, not mine. May be that you got your dates wrong."

"But they can't have vanished!" Mowbray cried. "I've got to find them. The bitch—the bitch! —they're my children, she's my wife! It isn't right—I tell you, if she's tricked me, I'll kill her, I swear I will! Tell me where she's got to, or I'll throttle you as well!"

"You and who else?" the man demanded, jaw squared and face flushed with an anger that matched Mowbray's.

All afternoon he haunted Singleton Magna, and a constable had to caution him twice about his conduct. But the fires of anger slowly burned down to a silent, white-hot determination that left him grim-faced and ominously quiet. That evening he called at every house on the fringes of the town, asking about the woman. And the children. Had they come along this road? Had anyone seen them? Did anyone know where they'd come from, or where they were going?

But the town shook its collective head and shut its collective doors in the face of this persistent, shabby stranger with frantic eyes.

Mowbray spent the night under a tree near the station, waiting for the next day's noon train. He never thought of food, and he didn't sleep. What was driving him was so fierce that nothing else mattered to him.

He stayed in Singleton Magna all that day as well, walking the streets like a damned soul that had lost its way back to hell and didn't know where to turn next. People avoided him. And this time he avoided people, his eyes scanning for one figure in a rose print dress with a strand of pearls and hair the color of dark honey. By the dinner hour he had gone. Hardly anyone noticed.

When a farmer discovered a woman's body that evening, the blood from her wounds had soaked deeply into the soil at the edge of his cornfield, like some ancient harvest sacrifice. He sent for the police; and the police, with admirable haste, took one look at her there on the ground and ordered a warrant for the arrest of the man who had been searching for her. Although there was no identification on the body, they were fairly sure she wasn't a local woman. And the way her face had been battered, there had been a hot, desperate anger behind the blows. The missing wife, then, had been found. All that was left was to see that her murderer was brought to justice.

Late that same evening Mowbray was run to earth, roughly awakened from an exhausted sleep under the same tree outside the railway station. In a daze, not understanding what was happening to him or why, he allowed himself to be led off to the small jail without protest.

Afterward, the inspector in charge, congratulating himself on the swift solution of this crime practically on his doorstep, boasted to the shaken farmer on the other side of his tidy desk, "It was all in a day's work. Just as it should be. Murder done, murderer brought in. Can't stop crime altogether, but you can stop the criminals. That's my brief."

"I thought he was the one hunting all over town for his lost family?"

"So he was. Silly bugger! All but advertising what he was going to do when he found them."

"But where are they, then? The husband and the children? They aren't somewhere in my fields, are they? I won't have your men tramping about in my corn, do you hear, not when it's all but ready for the cutting! My wife will have a stroke, she's that upset already! The doctor's been and gone twice."

Inspector Hildebrand sobered. He much preferred expanding on his success to any discussion of his failure. "We don't know where they are. Yet. I've got my men searching now along the roadside. More than likely he's done for the lot, but so far he's sitting in his cell like a damned statue, as if he's not hearing a word we say to him. But we'll find them, never fear. And they'll be dead as well, mark my words. Probably saved the woman for last, she got away from him, and he had to chase her. Just a matter of time, that's all. We'll find them in the end."

He didn't. In the end, it was Scotland Yard and Inspector Rutledge who had to sort through the tangled threads of deception and twisted allegiances. By that time it was far too late for Hildebrand to retreat from his entrenched position.


Ian Rutledge drove through the countryside with Hamish restive and moody in the back of his mind. Around them in the car the warm air carried the heavy smell of new-mown hay.

The scent of phosgene ...

Will any of us ever be free of that memory? Rutledge asked himself. Of the silent destroyer that had rolled across the battlefields of the Front in clouds of gas? One learned quickly enough to tell them apart—mustard or phosgene or CNS. But familiarity had made them more terrifying, not less—knowing what they could do.

"It's no' the gas I can't forget," Hamish said roughly, "but the haying. August'Fourteen. I did na' know there was an archduke getting himself killed somewhere in some place I'd no' heard of. The hay ... and Fiona dusty with it on the wain, and the horses dark with sweat. God, it was fair, that August, and the MacDonalds swearing like wild men because they couldna' keep up wi' one MacLeod ..."

"Yes, you told me that, the night—" Rutledge began aloud, and then quickly stopped. Corporal Hamish MacLeod had talked to him about the August haying the night he'd died. In France. Odd that memory turned on something as simple as the smell of new-mown hay!

And yet he was accustomed to answering the voice in his head out of old habit. The Somme. A bloodbath for months, the toll climbing astronomically, and men so tired that their minds simply shut down. Assault after futile assault, and the German line still held.

Set against such appalling losses, one more casualty was insignificant. Yet in the midst of such horror, the death of a young Scottish corporal had incised itself on Rutledge's soul.

The man hadn't been killed by enemy fire. He had been shot by a firing squad for refusing a direct order in battle, and it was Rutledge's pistol, in the shell-riven darkness before dawn, that had delivered the coup de grace.

The act had been military necessity. Not cowardice, but exhaustion—and the sheer bloody senselessness of throwing lives away—had broken him. Hamish MacLeod had refused to lead his men into certain death.

Military necessity. For the sake of every soldier watching, an example had to be made. For the sake of thousands of men readying for the next assault an example had to be made. You had to know, facing death, that you could depend on the man next to you, as he depended on you.

Rutledge could still feel the late summer heat. Hear the din of artillery, the rattle of machine-gun fire, the cries of wounded men. Smell the fear and the rotting corpses. He could still see the defeated look in his corporal's eyes, the acceptance that it was a relief to die rather than lead his men back into the black hail of German fire.

And all for nothing!

The artillery shell found its mark an instant later, buried living and dead, officers and men, in heavy, stinking mud. Killing most of them outright and leaving the wounded to suffocate before the search dogs could find them many hours later. And ironically, the next shell sprayed shrapnel into the machinegun position they had failed to take all that long night.

Rutledge had barely survived. Deaf and blind, badly stunned, he lay under the corpse of one of his men in a tiny pocket of air. It had sufficed. He hadn't known until someone told him at the aid station that it was Hamish's blood soaking his coat, Hamish's flesh clotting his face and hair, the smell of Hamish's torn body haunting him all the rest of that day as he lay dazed. Severely claustrophobic from a living grave, severely shell-shocked, bruised and disoriented, he was allowed a few hours' rest and was then sent back to the front. And Hamish went with him. A living reality in his mind. A voice with its soft Scottish burr. A personality as strong in death as it had been in life.

Rutledge never spoke of it. He fought it alone, silently, as certain as the breath in his body that it was only a matter of time before death—or madness—put an end to it. That expectation kept him sane.

And so he had brought Hamish home again, not as a ghost to be exorcised but as a deep-seated presence in the shocked and numbed recesses of his brain where only sleep could shut it out.

He'd shared his thoughts with a dead man for so long it was easier to respond than risk the tap of a ghostly hand on his shoulder to attract his attention or see a white, empty face at the edge of his vision, demanding to be heard. That hadn't happened—yet—but Hamish was so real to him that Rutledge lived in mortal dread of turning too quickly one day or glancing over his shoulder at the wrong instant and catching a glimpse of the shadowy figure that must surely be there, just behind him. Within touching distance. Close enough for its breath to ruffle his hair or brush his cheek.

"There was a picnic, that August," Rutledge said, desperate to change the drift of thought. "Up the Thames, beneath a stand of beeches so heavy the sun came through the leaves in purple shadows—"

And that particular memory led to Jean ... she was as dead to him as Hamish. This very week he'd seen her engagement announced in the Times. To a man who'd served in a diplomatic posting in South America through most of the war. Away from guns and carnage and nightmares.

"He's in line for a position in Ottawa," Frances had said when she called round to offer what comfort there was to give. His sister knew everyone there was to know—few bits of gossip failed to find their way to her. "Away from all this." She waved a languid hand in the air, and he'd known what she meant.

Away from a Britain still wearing the scars of death and pain and the poverty of peace. Away from Rutledge's torment, which had frightened Jean.

"Jean has a knack for ignoring unpleasantness," Frances had added wryly. "You won't let it bother you, will you? That she found someone else so quickly? It simply means, my dear, that you're well out of it, whether you're aware of it yet or not. Shallow women make damnably dull and demanding wives. Although I must say, even I thought there was more to her. Or was that wishful thinking on my part too? Well, never mind, you'll soon meet someone you can truly care about."

Why was it that the mind was so adept at finding its own punishment? Jean—or Hamish—to fill his thoughts.

A bitter choice, Rutledge acknowledged with a sigh. The woman who had promised to marry him or the man whose life he'd taken. There was no surgery to mend a broken heart nor any to mend a broken mind.


Excerpted from Search the Dark by Charles Todd. Copyright © 1999 Charles Todd. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Charles Todd lives on America's East Coast, but he knows England well. Intrigued by puzzles in the human spirit, he is the author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Ian Rutledge series, including A Test of Wills, Wings of Fire, and Search the Dark.
Charles Todd lives on America's East Coast, but he knows England well. Intrigued by puzzles in the human spirit, he is the author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Ian Rutledge series, including A Test of Wills, Wings of Fire, and Search the Dark.

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Search the Dark (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #3) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I discovered Charles Todd last year after searching for innovative writers in the mystery genre on this web page and what I discovered is by far one of the most interesting and challenging mysteries of the new age. I love the details about WWI and the complexities of the ghost Hamish in the inspectors head. These are mysteries which invoke comparisons to Henry James and even the great Sigmund Freud. Todd has done for mysteries what Delillo has done for modern fiction, that is to say that it is beautiful, complex and intelligent. In short a fascinating read.
Stepupgramma More than 1 year ago
Discovered Charles Todd (well and his Mom who co-writes with him) and read the entire Bess Armstrong series - Clever - interesting - enjoyable. Started reading the Ian Rutledge series - and even though it has dark moments - the characters are good - the plots are intriguing - my only complaint is - he ((they) are repetivtive too much of the writing. Describing the same feelings of the same person multiple times - telling the history of something the same. You get past it - but sometimes it is annoying. Will continue to read the series - hopefully it will get better from the standpoint of readability.
Onthefly More than 1 year ago
Flowed a lot better than 1 & 2. My Scottish is improving with Hammish! Still, the conversations weigh heavily. Not a simple read for busy places where you can't concentrate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed all of the Inspector Rutledge Series books that I have read so far. I plan on reading all of them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rutledge is a very complex detective with a very complex case. You don't know who, what, or why until the last few pages. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Anonymous 4 months ago
This is an interesting story. It's winding through the minds of war survivors and it reveals their fears.
DFY More than 1 year ago
Good read. Todd makes you work to figure out who did it. Nice Scottish color and some humor to balance dark crimes.
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