The heartbreaking aftermath of choosing either side in the fight-or-flight dilemma.
Stephen Mallory, once a soldier under Ian Rutledge’s command at the Somme, seeks out Rutledge, now with Scotland Yard, then pleads to assaulting Matthew Hamilton and holding the man’s wife, Felicity, and maid, Nan, hostage at gunpoint. Rutledge subsequently heads to the English town of Hampton Regis with Hamish MacLeod, the wartime ghost he can’t shake (A Long Shadow, 2006, etc.). The villagers believe Mallory wants Hamilton dead so he can reclaim Felicity, who didn’t wait for Mallory to return from the war. This scenario, which reminds Rutledge of his own wartime abandonment, is fostered by his dislike of the cowardly Mallory. While Hamilton lies comatose, Rutledge wonders who else might have attacked Hamilton: a solicitor who fiddled with Hamilton’s inheritance while he was stationed in Malta; a foreign service officer Hamilton may have pilloried in his diary; a long-unseen woman whose memory haunts him (but why?); and another woman who might want revenge for his striking her down in a car accident. None of them, however, seem to have any reason for the ensuing deaths of the doctor’s wife and Hamilton’s gossipy maid. Clues that would do Agatha Christie proud inexorably lead to the dénouement, but Todd’s fans will know better than to expect a happy ending.
Compelling evidence that inside every warrior who returns from the front, there’s a nightmare waiting to break out.