Mystery Scene Magazine

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"You might think it wasn’t real nice to kick a dying man, and maybe it wasn’t. But I’d been wanting to kick him for a long time, and it just never had seemed safe till now."

—Nick Corey, Pop. 1280, 1964, by Jim Thompson

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A Lonely Death

by Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2011, $24.99

In this riveting, multifaceted mystery, Charles Todd (a mother-son writing team) offers an atmospheric tale with roots in the bloody battlefields of World War I. Inspector Ian Rutledge is haunted by the war, ended only two years before, and plagued with its horrors. Always present in his head is the voice of the corporal whom he ordered before a firing squad for disobeying orders on the Somme battlefield.

Rutledge is sent to the Sussex town of Eastfield to investigate a series of killings in the “lonely places” of the title. The three victims served together in the war and each is found garroted with a dog-tag-like metal disc in his mouth. Such discs were used to identify the war dead on foreign fields.

Todd brilliantly charts the echoes of the war and its impact on those who survived its battles. Fully realized characters, well-researched settings, and exquisite writing combine with a surprising and chilling solution to mark this 13th outing as a standout in Todd’s deservedly award-winning series.

—Sue Emmons