Inspector Rutledge confronts a war-weary family in 1920.
Where is Walter Teller? An undiagnosed malady has sent him to the Belvedere Clinic. His wife Jenny, his sister Leticia, his brothers Edwin and Peter and their wives Amy and Susannah worry over him, then become alarmed when he disappears. Family members hare off in all directions to find him, reuniting when Scotland Yard sends Inspector Rutledge to help. Nobody seems eager to confide in Rutledge, who, accompanied by the hectoring ghost of Hamish, a soldier he executed during the Great War, wonders if the Tellers of Essex are related to recently murdered Florence Teller, a widow from Hobson. Her husband Peter never returned from the war. Are her Peter and the Essex Peter one and the same? Was she killed to cover up not only bigamy but illegitimacy? And is her death related to Walter’s illness? Peter, his leg gimpy from war wounds, falls downstairs and dies. Jenny, distraught at Peter’s possible perfidy, succumbs to laudanum poisoning. Walter returns, then vanishes again, only to be waylaid himself. While sorting through the family travails, Rutledge must confront a former suitor of Florence with family woes of his own, as well as a triple murderer who’s prowling Westminster Bridge determined to slay Rutledge.
Departing from Rutledge’s earlier cases (A Matter of Justice, 2008, etc.), the caprices of fatherhood take precedence over the iniquities of war this time, with a subdued Hamish and an emotionally reawakening Rutledge along for the ride.