Apt to keep to herself at the best of times and isolated all the more cruelly from the Scottish village of Duncarrick by the death of the aunt she went to live with, Fiona MacDonald is easy prey for a series of poisonous letters charging that the son she’s claimed was left fatherless by WWI never had a proper father to begin with. And when an equally anonymous counter-letter defends Fiona against the charge of harlotry by asserting that she’d taken the boy from his real mother after her death, the constabulary investigates—and finds enough evidence to jail Fiona for murder. Her refusal to mount a convincing defense only sets the town more harshly against her, and her situation seems desperate until the arrival of troubled war veteran Inspector Ian Rutledge (Search the Dark, 1999, etc.), ordered this time to investigate the disappearance of imperious Lady Maude Gray’s suffragist daughter Eleanor, who just might be the real mother of the child Fiona’s been raising. Rutledge, literally haunted by the familiar spirit of Hamish MacLeod, the corporal he’d unwillingly executed for cowardice on the French front, is horrified to discover that Fiona was MacLeod’s fiancée—and that’s only the first of many unpleasant discoveries he’ll make in this richly tangled mystery, which continues to borrow its storytelling conventions from the 1919 period of its setting.
More Q&A than a season with Regis Philbin, but the creeping drive toward Todd’s powerful climactic revelations will make it all worthwhile for readers who go the distance.