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Search the Dark    by Charles Todd order for
Search the Dark
by Charles Todd
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2000 (1999)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

This third in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series, Search the Dark, delves into the workings of the human mind as well as presenting a well plotted mystery. Rutledge carries in his subconscious the voice of a soldier he was forced to execute on the battlefield in France. Hamish talks to him, berates him, gives him advice, and is a constant in Rutledge's life. The time is just after World War I, the place an English country village. The crime? The brutally beaten body of an unidentified woman is discovered and a man who has no memory of the killing is arrested. Rutledge is unsure what happened, but as an Inspector with Scotland Yard he must prove or disprove the accused man's guilt.

Anyone who believes that mysteries are the mere fluff of the literary world should read this one. The writing is graceful; the prose fairly sings with well chosen words. The reader feels transported to the English countryside of the 20s, by the wonderful descriptions ... 'The church was strikingly Norman, with a truncated tower just roof high that seemed to be wanting the rest of itself as though the builders had stopped working one day and never returned to finish the job. They caught the sunlight with darkness rather than light, as if they hadn't been intended to shed a glory of color across the nave. There was no grace or symmetry here, only a statement of power and might. He thought the builders might have anticipated using it as a fortress one day, for want of a castle nearby.'

The depth of the characters brings them alive on the page. One not only gets to know them but understands where they are coming from and why they do what they do. The anguish of the accused man who believes he killed his wife is hard to read. With credible insight into the soldier's mind, it seems as though the author strode those battlefields, fought the battles, and suffered the agonies of the aftermath. 'When he himself had stood in the trenches, facing imminent death and seeing it reach out for him in a multitude of disguises, the concept of dying gloriously for King and Country had taken on a different image, a certainty of life ending in a shock of pain and sheer terror, with nothing left of the man he was or might be. Only a bloody ruin to be tumbled into a hasty grave if he was found - if not, lying where he'd fallen, obscenely rotting on the battlefield where even the crows dare not come for him. And in those months when he'd wanted to die, to bring the suffering to an end, he had thought longingly of what might have been ... if there had been no war. Yes, he knew better than most, what the dead have lost.'

Hamish's voice is a heavy brogue so there is never any doubt who is speaking. His presence is an intriguing and ingenious part of the plot. The mystery is tightly written with twists at every turn, its denouement a surprise. Search the Dark is a very well written book, definitely a keeper.

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