I've read 4 "Inspector Ian Rutledge" books previously, and liked them all quite well. This book was ok, but a bit on the marginal side (so, ***- for a rating). Ian Rutledge is a Scotland Yard detective who served in WWI. That conflict was not kind to his psyche and he carries in his mind the thoughts and comments of Hamish, a Scottish Corporal he'd had to have executed. Then too, the love of his life, Jean, jilted him when he came back from the war psychologically damaged. But he went back to Scotland Yard, and has persisted in his duties.
For a time, this basic back story seemed an interesting take. Now, it's getting tedious, despite my sympathy for the ravages of war on the lives of the people sent off by the high-living assholes who send regular folks off to kill and be killed for the asshole's fun and profit.
Anyway, I didn't feel that this particular story held together very well. Rutledge is sent to Dorset to help with a local investigation. The local guy, Inspector Hildebrand, resents the hell out of Rutledge's presence and makes that clear.
So, we have another war-damaged guy, Bert Mowbray, who looks out the window at the Singleton Magna train station and sees what he thinks is his wife, Mary, with their two children and another guy. He's desperate to be let off the train, but it's too late. He gets off at a later stop and returns to Singleton Magna and then spends the next two days badgering everyone any anyone about the woman and children he saw. No one seems to know anything much.
But then, a young woman is found murdered with her face bashed in. She's about the proper size, shape and coloring to be Bert's spouse, Mary. Inspector Hildebrand instantly picks up Bert for the murder. But where are the children? Scotland Yard dispatches Rutledge to Dorset to find them.
Much to Hildebrand's disgust, Rutledge isn't quite convinced that the victim is actually Mary Bowbray. There were reports that Mary and the kids had been killed in a bombing in London several years previously. Also, Bert's description of the children fits the children as they were, but don't account for the fact that they would have become several years older.
Then, we get into a rat's next of red herrings, so to speak. It seems that a young woman, Margaret Tarelton, who and just interviewed for a spot helping with a local museum, has gone missing. She had previously worked for Elizabeth Napier, the daughter of Thomas Napier, a local MP, or something. Perhaps she'd had an affair with Thomas, or perhaps with the father of the guy who was setting up the museum, Simon Wyatt. Simon Wyatt was supposed to have gone into the MP business, but also came back from the war, traumatized. He also came back with a French wife, Aurore. When he had left for the war, he'd been engaged to Elizabeth Napier. But wait, there's more! It seems that they find a second body, also of similar size and shape to the deceased, and also with her face bashed in. But this body is 3 months old. It could be the body of Betty Cooper, who'd been working in the neighborhood some six months previously, but who'd up and disappeared no one knows where. But how could Betty disappear six months ago, but come back unseen only to be murdered three months ago? Then, of course, WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN?????
Well, as you can tell, it's all rather convoluted, and I've left off some other war-traumatized folks. I didn't find the twists and turns particularly interesting or satisfying, and the ending didn't really make a lot of sense. It was just some ad hoc thing to make us all feel better at the end, or something.