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A Cold Treachery
by Charles Todd

Category: Fiction / Mystery
384 pages; ISBN: 0553803492

Rating: 9/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Harriet Klausner


A Cold Treachery
Charles Todd
Bantam, Jan 2005, $25.00, 384 pp.
ISBN: 0553803492

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


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