A Pale Horse by Charles Todd
Title: A Pale Horse (Inspector Ian Rutledge #10)
Author: Charles Todd
Publisher: William Morrow
Inspector Ian Rutledge barely has time to breathe between cases that his superior sends him out to solve. Secretly, his boss hates Ian and is hoping he fails; then, he’ll have proof to have him removed from the force. However, Ian isn’t cooperating and keeps coming up stellar with his sleuthing abilities.
This current case takes Ian back to a place he visited as a young boy with his father. There is a giant pale horse carved in a hillside by long ago peoples. Ian remembers fondly the time spent here with his father, but now he is sent to track down a missing scientist by order of the military. This, after he just returned from investigating the finding of an unknown corpse in a church abbey, wearing an opera cloak and a gas mask. No one has seen the dead man before and the local constable likes the school teacher for the murder, pursuing a personal vendetta against the school teacher. Ian is able to clear the school teacher, but still needs to identify the body before burial. Before he can accomplish this, he is sent on his quest to watch for the reappearance of this scientist. The scientist lives in a set-apart area just below the pale horse in one of nine small cottages. Each cottage is occupied by a person who wants to be left alone with their secrets. Ian finds help with the blacksmith, but all the other cottage dwellers are terse with him. No one seems to want to identify the body in his other case either.
Then, a cottager is found murdered soon followed by another. Ian finally is able to link his two cases together, but still must find out who killed the man found in the abbey and who is killing off the cottagers one by one. Ian patiently waits sometimes and sometimes purposely plants seeds of doubt when talking to suspects or potential witnesses. All the while he is drawn to the pale horse and remembers his past. Unfortunately, that past includes his time in France during WWI. He still is transported at times back to the battlefield whether in nightmares or while awake. His horror, grief, anger, shame and guilt are his constant companions in the voice of Hamish MacLeod, a corporal under Ian’s command during the war who Ian had executed. Can he ever be rid of Hamish? Can he discover the killer’s identity and proof before the killer strikes again?
This story was slow in some parts, but the psychological aspects of Ian and how he deals with his guilt among other emotions and how he interacts with others while trying to ferret out information is interesting to read and kept me tuned in to the story. The ability to perform his job while still carrying around so much anguish is remarkable. The depictions and descriptions by the authors about WWI bring it alive on the pages of the story. I’ll be reading book eleven in the series soon and am very interested to see what case Ian will be investigating next.
My rating is 4 stars.