This is the first book of Todd’s that I have read involving his main character Inspector Ian Rutledge and is admitedly one of his more recent releases. While this may be I still was able to fall right into line with the character’s backstory and behaviours quite easily. This story revolves around the town of Urksdale and the murders of a local family, the Elcott’s. While the search for the killer would seem like the most important task the search for the eldest son ten year old, Josh Robinson (who along with his sister kept his father’s name after his mother remarried) who was the only one missing from the home. Rutledge is summoned to Urksdale from another case in the countryside and even before reaching the town he saves a young woman who”s carriage has gone off the road in a treacherous winter storm.
After saving the woman’s life, he leaves her in the care of a local farmer and his wife and makes his way into town. There he is at the local hotel waiting for any correspondance from the search parties as they try to locate the boy. While in the town he tries to figure out who could have killed the family in cold blood, a husband (Gerald Elcott), wife (Grace), daughter(Hazel) and infant twins.
Rutledge, along with Hamish (the spirit/ghost of an officer he served with in WWI and who was killed by firing squad) work tirelessly to discover the location of the boy (dead or alive) and the identity of the murderer. It is later discovered that the boy’s father, Hugh Robinson is in the town on his way to visit his family with their Christmas presents as well the sister of Grace Elcott, Janet Ashton is none other than the woman Rutledge saved on the road!
After much research and digging the main suspects are: Paul Elcott, brother of Gerald; Janet Ashton, sister of Grace who knew and loved Gerald before Grace met him; Taylor, a man Gerald had testified against in the war; Josh Robinson, son to Grace and step-son to Gerald, possibly unhappy with his new life; Hugh Robinson, ex-husband to Grace and father to Josh and Hazel.
Meanwhile we find out that Josh Robinson is not dead, and was discovered by Maggie Ingerson in her sheep pen by her dog, Sybil. Josh lives with Maggie and helps her out with the farmwork that she is unable to do alone due to her bad leg.
I won’t spoil the ending as to who the real murderer is, but overall the book was well written and kept you wondering who the true murderer could possibly be.