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The Gate Keeper: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery


The Gate Keeper: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery

THE GATE KEEPER opens with the protagonist, Inspector Ian Rutledge, hurtling down a country road late at night. Earlier that day, he attended the wedding reception for his sister, Frances. It’s December 1920, and Rutledge is not working any particular case. That is, until one throws itself at him in horrific fashion.

Rutledge comes upon a motorcar stopped in the middle of the road and a young woman named Elizabeth MacRae. Lying beside the vehicle is the body of her companion, Stephen Wentworth. Elizabeth's story sounds awfully suspicious. Apparently, Wentworth stopped their car when they came upon someone standing in the middle of the road. Elizabeth claims only a few words were exchanged before the strange man pulled out a gun and shot Wentworth to death right in front of her.

Rutledge is already in bad shape as a veteran of World War I who is suffering greatly from what we now know to be PTSD. He is accompanied around the clock by his own companion, the surly Scotsman known as Hamish. Fans of the series will recognize Hamish immediately as a soldier who was killed by Rutledge during the war and now appears as a specter both haunting and guiding Rutledge through every difficult situation in which he finds himself.

"THE GATE KEEPER is unlike anything I have read from Charles Todd. The plot and narrative are put together in such a way that the reader will feel just as disoriented as Rutledge."

When the local authorities arrive at the crime scene, they begin questioning both Elizabeth and Rutledge. Even though Rutledge introduces himself as an Inspector from Scotland Yard, he feels that his interrogation by the local constabulary indicates they have not ruled him out as a suspect. Eventually, he is able to talk himself out of being a suspect and demands that Scotland Yard name him lead investigator in this new case that literally has fallen onto his lap.

Fans of Charles Todd’s work will smirk when they read scenes that take place between Rutledge and Melinda Crawford, and will instantly recognize the connection to Todd’s other mystery series that features Bess Crawford. Melinda, who is at the wedding with Rutledge, listens to his story regarding this new case. The investigation has to start with Wentworth and who might have wanted him dead.

Another murder soon takes place, and the victim seemingly has no connection to Wentworth. That is, until Rutledge links them together via the bookstore that Wentworth owned. He had sold a rare book to the second victim that might have been more than just an ordinary novel. It was titled The Gate Keeper, and Rutledge needs to learn what the book meant to the deceased men as well as the individual who killed them over it.

At one point, Rutledge receives a mysterious message referring to Wentworth as a murderer. With no one being who they appear to be on the surface, and a ruthless killer out there ready and willing to take down Rutledge if he stands in his way, this is one case that quickly becomes the deadliest he has ever handled. The answers may lie initially in Wentworth's sordid past, which involved secrets as well as a family that hated him and blamed him for the death of his infant twin brother.

THE GATE KEEPER is unlike anything I have read from Charles Todd. The plot and narrative are put together in such a way that the reader will feel just as disoriented as Rutledge. I have never seen him so out of sorts and clearly suffering greatly from his own internal demons. The ending, which finds Rutledge waiting in an empty house for the murderer to show up, is as tense and suspenseful as anything I've experienced with this series. This is a great opportunity for those unfamiliar with these novels to step right in and enjoy a terrifically written mystery. Loyal readers, meanwhile, are in for a treat as the surprises keep coming right up to the final revelations.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on February 22, 2018

The Gate Keeper: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery
by Charles Todd