The weathered remains found on a Scottish mountainside may be those of Eleanor Gray, but the imperious Lady Maude Gray, Eleanor's mother, will have to be handled delicately. This is not the only ground that Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard must tread carefully, for the case will soon lead him to Scotland, where many of Rutledge's ghosts rest uneasily. But it is an unexpected encounter that will hold the most peril. For in Scotland Rutledge will find that the young mother accused of killing Eleanor Gray is a woman to whom he owes a terrible debt. And his harrowing journey to find the truth will lead him back through the fires of his past, into secrets that still have the power to kill.
The muddy, bloody horrors of WWI continue to haunt Insp. Ian Rutledge, back at work at Scotland Yard, but just barely. Still guilt-stricken over his wartime murder of Corp. Hamish MacLeod, who "cracked" during the Somme offensive of 1916, Rutledge hears Hamish's voice in his head as a steady, moralizing conversationalist. Now Rutledge has been dispatched to Scotland to identify the probable remains of Eleanor Gray, an aristocratic suffragette inexplicably estranged from her mother, the imperious Lady Maude. Local police theorize that Eleanor was murdered on the Highlands by beautiful, young Fiona MacDonald, who's been raising Eleanor's newborn son as her own. Unconvinced of a link between the two women, Rutledge visits Fiona in jail and immediately recognizes her as Hamish's beloved fianc�e. But Fiona won't exonerate herself, refusing to identify the boy's real parents. Following the Edgar-nominated A Test of Wills (1996), this fourth installment in the series focuses narrowly on the question: is there a link between Fiona and Eleanor? Since the answer is never in doubt, there's not much to absorb suspense addicts, as Rutledge slogs through Scotland trying to break the apparently deadlocked circumstantial case. The resolution, implicating too many peripheral characters, is particularly unsatisfying. But readers will continue to be captivated by Todd's portrait of the dangerously unraveling detective, and his equally incisive evocation of the grieving postwar world. Agent, Jane Chelius. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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May 28, 2001
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Excerpt from Legacy of the Dead (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series: #4) by Charles Todd
The two women sat huddled together in the small carriage, looking around them in dismay, staring at the filthy, closed-in street, the drunken old man sprawled in one of the doorways, the tall tenements ugly and bleak and perilously ill-kept. There was no grace here, only an air of despondency and gloom and poverty.
"It's a horrible place!" one said at last. She was the elder, but not by much. They were both young and very frightened.
"Are you quite sure this is the street we want? I can't believe--" Her companion, the reins lying in her lap, let the words die.
In answer, the passenger dug in her purse for the tattered piece of paper, pulled it out, and read it again. Her lips were trembling, and she felt cold, sick. "Look for yourself. Oh--" The paper slipped from her fingers, and she caught it just before it tumbled into the fetid running gutter beneath the wheel.
It was the street and the house they had searched over an hour to find.
There was silence, only the rain and the whistle of a train somewhere in the distance making any sound at all. The horse waited patiently.
"You'll remember, won't you?" the older woman went on breathlessly. "I'm Mrs. Cook. And you're Sarah. My mother had a housekeeper called Mrs. Cook. And a sewing woman called Sarah. That makes it easier for me--" She stared at the house. "It's a cursed place, dreadful."
"I only have to remember who you are. And I've called you that all day. Mrs. Cook. Don't fret so -- you'll make yourself ill!"
"Yes." She smoothed the rug across her knees, felt its dampness.
The horse blew, shifting uncomfortably in the rain.
Finally the older woman squeezed her companion's hand and said, "We must go in, Sarah. We're expected. It must be nearly time."
They climbed stiffly out of the carriage, two respectable young women looking as out of place here as they felt. The stench of bad sewers and boiled cabbage, overlaid with coal smoke and dirty streets, heavy in the dampness, seemed to wrap itself around them. A miasma of the city.
They made their way up to the door, stepping over old newsprint and brown sacking that had been turned to the consistency of porridge by the downpour. Lifting the latch, they could just see down a dark, awful tunnel that was only a rubbish-littered hallway but seemed like the final path to hell.
The door they were after was the second on the left, a barely discernible Number Three on a grimy card marking it. Someone shouted "Come!" to their tentative knock, and they found themselves in a bare, high-ceilinged room with a half-dozen broken-down chairs and no windows. It was cold with damp, smelled of cigars and stale beer, and to their fastidious eyes hadn't been cleaned in years.
They could hear someone crying in the next room beyond a second door.
The older woman caught her friend's hand and said, "F -- Sarah -- I'm going to be sick!"
"No, it's only fright. Here, sit down." She quickly found the best chair and brought it forward, then took another one for herself. It wobbled, one leg uneven.
A nondescript paint, peeled from the walls and ceiling, gave the floor a dappled look, and the old brown carpet in the center seemed to be woven of all the hopelessness that had been brought here.
The older of the two began to tremble. "I'm not frightened -- I'm terrified!"
"It will be all right -- wait and see." It was a comforting lie, and they both recognized it for what it was.
They sat there for a time, not speaking, their hands gripped together, their faces blanched with the thought of what must lie ahead. The crying went on and on, and overhead there was the sound of furniture being shifted, first this way, then that, an endless screech that seemed half human, half demon. Somewhere in the hallway a man's voice shouted, and they both jumped.
Watching the inner door, they could feel the minutes drag into the half hour. "Sarah" found herself wishing it would open, then dreading that it would. They'd been here a very long time -- why had no one come out to speak to them? They had been expected at two sharp--
If only the crying would stop--
Suddenly the older woman stood up. "No, I can't do it!" Her voice was thick, unnaturally loud to her own ears.
"You must! He'll kill you if you don't!"
"I'd rather kill myself. Oh, God, I can't carry the memory of this place around with me for the rest of my life, I can't--! It was a mistake, I want to go home! Sarah -- take me home, for the love of heaven, take me home!"
Her friend, compassion in her eyes, said, "You're sure? It's not to be done again? I can't borrow the carriage again without questions being asked."