A mind-damaged veteran comes home from the Great War to be told his wife and two children were killed in the bombing of London. Refusing to believe the news, or unable to, the man thinks he spots them on the platform of the station of a small town in Dorset. Then a woman’s body is found there, and Rutledge is sent by his jealous rival at the Yard to locate the children.
The main protagonist in this book and all the other in this series is a Scotland Yard policeman. Newly returned from the Great War, he has his own personal demons to deal with as well as helping those who are also dealing with their demons from fighting in this war. Add to that the stress of trying to find the criminals, and it could make for a very unstable and highly strung character but the Author manages to avoid this wonderfully. Instead he uses this character as a vehicle to bring the reader’s attention to the unseen horrors that many carried with them when they returned home. This character is vulnerable, unsure whilst at the same time being very capable of doing his job and bringing the wrongdoer to justice. I felt for this character as I don’t usually do in a cozy mystery, and wished there was some way I could help him find peace in his life. In this one character the Author managed not only to show the inner turmoil of those who returned from the fighting, but he also shows in the other people he encounters in his enquiries the change in society that had taken place while he was away. These range from total indifference to the way these returnees were feeling and going through, to those who wanted to cosset them and keep them wrapped up from the hurts that may come their way in everyday and finally to the group of people who refused to believe that, mentally, their loved ones would never return to normal. This book is not loaded down with a bunch of secondary characters which helps the book move along at a steady clip and keeps the reader on track to the end.
What an end it was. This is the kind of book I love. I thought I had spotted the bad guy, then no it took a twist, and another, then another until the end I had no idea who the real criminal was, and when the reveal came I was blown away as I never thought it was this person. Add to this the feeling of flying down country roads in a little old car when horses and carriages were still in good use, and it all combines to the kind of book that I just couldn’t put down.
I highly recommend this book to lovers of cozy mysteries, and those who enjoy a great read that will keep you guessing until the end. I will definitely be reading more in this series.