Scotland Yard’s Inspector Ian Rutledge battles his own shell shock and a rector’s murderer in an English coastal hamlet.
On the eve of near-certain death at the Somme, seven British officers make a pact that if they live through the war, they’ll all meet again a year later for a race from Paris to Nice in the latest motorcars. The five survivors find the twisting, foggy roads more of a threat than they had bargained for. One of their number crashes in a fiery wreck. Unbeknownst to his comrades, he’s been deliberately run off the road. A year later, in the village of Burling Gap, an eerily similar accident takes the life of the parish’s beloved rector. The local constable is sharp enough to notice that it may not have been an accident at all—why would the rector have been driving someone else’s car without permission?—and calls in Scotland Yard. The Yard sends Inspector Rutledge (No Shred of Evidence, 2016, etc.), whose powers of detection are sharpened by the ghost of Hamish, his fallen comrade. Rutledge uncovers the connection not only between the rector’s murder and the race, but links to the disappearance of a local ne’er-do-well, a case of arson, and a missing girl.
Despite the high body count, the pacing feels a bit slow. A perfectly competent but unexceptional entry in the crowded niche of interwar English village mysteries.