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Book review: Scotland Yard inspector faces own past in Todd's 'Gate Keeper'

Correspondent

‘The Gate Keeper’ By Charles Todd, Harper Collins, 320 pages, $26.99

The scars of war have been the perennial theme of Charles Todd’s exquisite novels about Scotland Yard Insp. Ian Rutledge. Todd’s novels delve deep into the aftermath of WWI, while offering hope and insight.

In a series known for intelligent plots, Todd’s 20th novel about Ian excels. “The Gate Keeper” delivers an emotional novel about Ian, forever haunted by his role in The Great War, as well as an involving story about how the war affected other former soldiers and the families and towns to which they came home.

It’s December 1920 and the troubled Ian is out for a drive in Suffolk when he comes upon a fresh crime. A woman is standing outside a car parked on a deserted road near the village of Wolfpit, tending to a man who had just been shot. Elizabeth MacRae explains that Stephen Wentworth had been driving her home from a late dinner party when a man stepped out in front of their car and, after a brief conversation, shot Stephen and then disappeared.

With the reluctant backing of Scotland Yard, Ian takes over the case to try to find out who would want to murder Stephen, a seemingly popular bookseller. But Ian discovers that not everyone liked Stephen, especially his own wealthy family. And WWI again comes into play as some people unreasonably resented those young soldiers who came back — like Stephen — when so many were killed. “Hate was not always earned,” Ian knows.

The remote village of Wolfpit makes for an atmospheric backdrop and fits well with the story. Although it is a fictional place, Todd bases it on a historical legend about the last wolf in England killed in medieval times. “The last of his kind, alone and lonely,” Ian thinks of that last wolf. He also is describing Stephen, who was often isolated, as well as himself. Ian suffers from shell shock, but he has to keep that to himself because of the stigma.

Charles Todd — the pseudonym of the writing team of mother Caroline and son Charles Todd — continues to richly uncover ways that WWI affected England.

Meet the authors

Charles Todd — both mother Caroline and son Charles Todd — will discuss “The Gate Keeper” at 3 p.m. Feb. 16 at the North Palm Beach Library, 303 Anchorage Drive, North Palm Beach, and at 7 p.m. Feb. 16 at Murder on the Beach, 273 Pineapple Grove Way, Delray Beach, 561-279-7790, murderonthebeach.com. Both Todds also will be among the authors at the Sleuthfest writers’ conference March 1-4 at the Embassy Suites, 661 NW 53rd St., Boca Raton. Visit sleuthfest.com for more information.

Charles Todd by himself will be one of the guests of honor during the Author Luncheon and Fashion Show for the Friends of the Helen B. Hoffman Library, at 11 a.m. March 24 at the Jacaranda Country Club, 9200 W. Broward Blvd., Plantation. Cost is $45. For information, contact Connie Practice at cpracht0@gmail.com or 754-900-6568 or Stephanie Mullin at stephschmidtmullin@yahoo.com or 817-703-9038.

More author and literary events in February »

Oline H. Cogdill can be reached at olinecog@aol.com.

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