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Watchers of Time: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery    by Charles Todd order for
Watchers of Time
by Charles Todd
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

Watchers of Time is the fifth book in an engrossing series set just after World War I in England. The protagonist, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge is one of the most unusual in modern mystery fiction. Having suffered greatly in the trenches of wartime France, he returns to his police job still haunted by the ghost of a man with whom he served (to say more about the reason for this haunting would be a spoiler for those who have not read the earlier books in the series).

Rutledge and the ghost, Hamish MacLeod, form an almost symbiotic relationship. On the one hand Rutledge is greatly troubled by Hamish and stuggles to maintain a facade of normalcy so others will not suspect how psychologically wounded he is. On the other hand their two-way conversations help the lonely detective in solving these mysteries - they call to mind the Anne Perry Inspector Monk mysteries, in which Monk struggles to function while having lost most of his memory.

Todd does an excellent job of depicting 1919 England, a country traumatized by the war and still grieving over the extremely heavy losses of young men. The war was truly a watershed in English history, and the reader really gets a sense of it from this series. Watchers of Time, like its predecessors, is set in a small English town, this time a seaside village in Norfolk. The atmosphere is well-portrayed so that the reader will feel she can see and smell the marshes of Osterley.

Inspector Rutledge is called to Osterley to investigate the murder of Father James, a Catholic priest. Although it appears that the murderer was a thief interrupted by the priest while stealing church bazaar receipts, James' bishop is convinced it is more complicated. Rutledge also soon decides it is not a simple burglary gone wrong and then has to struggle to continue digging in opposition to the local police. His investigation of the various aspects of Father James' past, and the people whose lives he has touched, is fascinating.

Todd shows an excellent understanding of human emotions and what motivates people's behaviors, and creates a very interesting cast of characters. The reader will be well-satisfied with the plot resolution. I found it lingered in memory, and thought about the book and wanted to get back to it when I had to put it aside for other activities.

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