A Cold Treachery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #7)

A Cold Treachery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #7)

by Charles Todd

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“Stunning . . . the tragic sweep of Todd’s historical mysteries grows more expansive with each novel.”—The New York Times Book Review

Called out into the teeth of a violent blizzard, Inspector Ian Rutledge faces one of the most savage murders he’s ever encountered. He might have expected such unspeakable carnage on the World War I battlefields where he’d lost much of his soul—and his sanity—but not in an otherwise peaceful farm kitchen in remote Urskdale. Someone has murdered the Elcott family without the least sign of struggle. But when the victims are tallied, the local police are in for another shock: One child is missing. Now the Inspector must race to save a young boy before he’s silenced by the merciless elements—or the even colder hands of the killer who hides in the blinding snow.

Praise for
A Cold Treachery

“Todd’s Ian Rutledge mysteries are among the most intelligent and affecting being written these days.”Washington Post Book World

“Brilliant.”Chicago Tribune

“Traditional mystery lovers who prefer their whodunits enriched with psychological insight will heartily embrace A Cold Treachery. . . . A superb effort.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Brilliantly conceived and elegantly executed.”Strand magazine                                                                                                          

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553586619
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/30/2005
Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge Series , #7
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 107,127
Product dimensions: 4.13(w) x 6.84(h) x 1.05(d)

About the Author

CHARLES TODD is the author of The Murder Stone, A Fearsome Doubt, Watchers of Time, Legacy of the Dead, A Test of Wills, Wings of Fire, and Search the Dark. He lives on the East Coast, where he is at work on the next novel in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series.

Read an Excerpt


The North of England
December 1919

He ran through the snow, face into the swirling wind, feet pounding deep trenches into the accumulating drifts. Rocks, their shapes no longer familiar under the soft white blanket, sent him sprawling, and he dragged himself up again, white now where the snow clung, and almost invisible in the darkness. He had no idea what direction he had taken, enveloped by unreasoning panic and hardly able to breathe for the pain inside him. All he could hear was the voice in his head, shouting at him—

"You will hang for this, see if you don't. It's my revenge, and you'll think about that when the rope goes round your neck and the black hood comes down and there's no one to save you—"

The sound of the shot was so loud it had shocked him, and he couldn't remember whether he had slammed the door behind him or left it standing wide.

He could still smell the blood—so much of it!—choking in the back of his throat like feathers thrown on a fire. He could feel the terror, a snake that coiled and writhed in his stomach, making him ill, and the drumming wild in his head.

They would catch him. And then they'd hang him. There was nothing he could do to prevent it. Unless he died in the snow, and was buried by it until the spring. He'd seen the frozen body of a dead lamb once, stiff and hard, half rotted and sad. The ravens had been at it. He hated ravens.

Half the countryside knew he'd been a troublemaker since the autumn. Restless—unhappy—growing out of himself and his clothes. They'd look at what lay in that bloody room, and they'd hate him.

He was crying now, tears scalding on cold skin, and the voice was so loud it seemed to be following him, and he ran harder, his breath gusting in front of his face, arms pumping, pushing his way through the snow until his muscles burned.

"You'll hang for this—see if you don't——!"

He would rather die in the snow of cold and exhaustion than with a rope around his neck. He'd rather run until his heart burst than drop through the hangman's door and feel his throat close off. Even with the ravens eating him, the snow was cleaner. . . .

"You'll hang for this—see if you don't——!

That's my revenge . . . my revenge . . . my revenge. . . ."


Paul Elcott stood in the kitchen beside Sergeant Miller, his face pale, his hand shaking as he unconsciously brushed the back of it across his mouth for the third time.

"They're dead, aren't they? I haven't touched them—I couldn't—Look, can we step outside, man, I'm going to be sick, else!"

Miller, who had come from a butcher's family, said stolidly, "Yes, all right. The doctor's on his way, but there's nothing he can do for them." Except pronounce them dead, he added to himself. Poor souls. What the devil had happened here? "We might as well wait in the barn, then, until he's finished."

Elcott stumbled out the door. He made his way to the barn, where he was violently sick in one of the empty horse stalls. Afterward he felt no better. He could still see the kitchen floor—still smell the sickening odor of blood—

And the eyes—half closed—staring at nothing the living could see.

Had Gerald looked at Hell? He'd said the trenches were worse—

He sat down on a bale of hay, and dropped his head in his hands, trying to regulate his breathing and hold on to his senses. He should have sent the sergeant back alone. He'd been mad to think he could face that slaughter again.

After a while, Sergeant Miller came across to the barn, and the doctor was with him, carrying a lantern. Elcott lifted his head to nod at Dr. Jarvis. He cleared his throat and said, "They didn't suffer, did they? I mean—no one lingered—"

"No. I don't believe they did," the doctor answered quietly, coming to stand by him and lifting the lantern a little to shine across Elcott's face. He prayed it was true. He couldn't be sure until the autopsies. Without moving the bodies, he'd been able to find only a single gunshot wound in each, to the chest, with resulting internal trauma. Sufficient to kill. A surge of sympathy swept Jarvis and he reached out to press Elcott's shoulder. The bloody dead were this man's family. His brother, his brother's wife, their children. An unspeakable shock . . .

The doctor himself had been badly shaken by the scene and found it difficult to imagine how he would answer his wife, when she asked him why the police had come to fetch him in the middle of his dinner. Nothing in his practice had prepared him for such a harrowing experience. It was, he thought, something one might see in war, not in a small, peaceful farmhouse. At length he said gently to Elcott, "Let me take you home, Paul, and give you something to help you sleep."

"I don't want to sleep. I'll have nightmares." Without warning Elcott began to cry, his face crumpled and his chest heaving. His nerve gone.

The doctor gripped the weeping man's shoulder, and looked to Sergeant Miller over his head. "I wish I knew what's keeping Inspector Greeley—his wife told me he'd gone to see if the Potters needed help getting out. I hope to God he hasn't stumbled on anything like this!"

"We'll know soon enough," the sergeant replied.

They listened to the sobbing man beside them, feeling helpless in the face of his grief.

"I ought to take him home," Jarvis said. "He's no use to you in this state. You can wait for Greeley. When you're ready for me, I'll be with Elcott."

Miller nodded. "That's best, then." He glanced at Elcott, then jerked his head, moving to the door. Jarvis followed him. The two men stood there in the late afternoon light, gray clouds so heavy that it was difficult to tell if dusk was coming, or more snow. It had been a freak two-day storm, fast moving with a heavy fall, and the skies still hadn't cleared. The roads were nearly impassable, the farm lanes worse. It had taken Miller a good hour to reach the house, even following in the ruts left by Elcott's carriage.

"There's one still missing." Miller pitched his voice so that Elcott couldn't hear him. "I daresay Elcott's not noticed. I've walked through the rest of the house. He's not there."

"Josh? By God, I hadn't—Is he in the outbuildings, do you think?" Jarvis shivered and glanced over his shoulder at the unlit interior of the small barn, with its stalls, plows, barrows, tack, and other gear stacked neatly, the hay in the loft, filling half the space. Two horses and a black cow watched him, ears twitching above empty mangers. "Gerald Elcott was always a tidy man. It shouldn't take long to search."

Miller counted on his gloved fingers. "Elcott penned his sheep, against the storm. I could see them up there to the east of Fox Scar. Stabled his horses, and brought in the cow. At a guess, then, he was alive this time Sunday, when the snow was coming down hard and he knew we were in for it. But the cow's not been milked since, nor the stalls mucked out, nor feed put down."

"That confirms what I saw inside. I'd say they've been dead since Sunday night." Jarvis frowned and stamped his feet against the cold, torn. "I should stay until you've found Josh. In the event there's anything I can do. . . ."

"No, take Elcott back. If the rest are dead, the boy is as well. I'll manage."

The doctor nodded. He was moving toward Elcott again, when Miller cautioned, "Best to say nothing about what we've seen"—he gestured to the house—"in the village. Until we know a little more. We don't want a panic on our hands."

"No. God, no." Jarvis handed the lantern to Miller and settled his hat firmly on his head against the wind. Raising his voice, he said, "Now then, Paul, let's take you home, and I'll find something to help you get past this."

"Someone has to look after the animals," Elcott protested. "And I want to help search. For whoever it was killed them. I want to be there when you find this bastard."

"That's to your credit," Miller answered him. "But for now, I'd go with the doctor if I was you. I'll see to the beasts, and there'll be someone to care for them tomorrow. Leave everything to us. As soon as we know anything, I'll see you're told."

Elcott walked to the barn door and stepped outside, unable to turn away from the silent house just across the yard. "I wish I knew why," he said, his voice ragged with grief. "I just wish I knew why. What had they ever done to deserve—?"

"That'll come out," Miller told him calmly, soothingly. "In good time."

Elcott followed Jarvis to the horse-drawn carriage that had brought the doctor out to the isolated farm. The only tracks in the snow were theirs, a hodgepodge of footprints around the kitchen door of the house, and the wheel markings of the two vehicles, cart and carriage. Beyond these, the ground was smoothly white, with only the brushing of the wind and the prints of winter birds scratching for whatever they could find.

As if only just realizing that the cart was his, Elcott stopped and said, "Dr. Jarvis—I can't—"

"Leave it for Sergeant Miller, if you will. He'll bring it back to town later. I expect he'll need it tonight"

"Oh—yes." Dazed, Elcott climbed into the carriage and settled himself meekly on the seat, stuffing his cold hands under his arms.

By the time Inspector Greeley had completed his examination of the Elcott farmhouse, he was absolutely certain of one thing. He needed help.

Five dead and one missing, believed dead.

It was beyond comprehension—beyond the experience of any man to understand.

In Urskdale with its outlying farms and vast stretches of barren mountainous landscape, his resources were stretched thin as it was. The first priority was making certain that all the other dale families were accounted for, that this carnage hadn't been repeated—God forfend!—in another isolated house. And there was the missing child to find. All the farm buildings, sheep pens, shepherds' huts, and tumbled ruins had to be searched. The slopes of the fells, the crevices, the small dips and swales, the banks of the little becks. It would take more men than he could muster. But he'd have to make do with what he had, summon the dale's scattered inhabitants and work them to the point of exhaustion. And time was short, painfully short, if that child had the most tenuous hope of surviving.

Overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of what lay ahead, Greeley did what his people had done for generations here in the North: He buttoned his emotions tightly inside and grimly set about what had to be done.

It was well after midnight when he got back to the small police station that stood six houses from the church on the main street of Urskdale. The inspector laboriously wrote out a message and found an experienced man to carry it to the Chief Constable. "Make the fastest time you can," the man was told. "It's urgent."

On his drive back to the police station, Greeley had already compiled a mental list of the outlying farms, roughly grouping them by proximity. And then, to keep his mind busy and away from that dreadful, bloody kitchen, he had considered what the searchers would need—lanterns, packets of food, Thermoses of tea, rope. But that was easier; each man would know from experience what to bring. Locating lost walkers in the summer had taught them all how to plan.

Jarvis had said two days—that the Elcotts had been dead two days.

This madman had already had more than sufficient time to track the boy over the snow, and then vanish. Or spread his net to other victims . . .

What in hell's name would the search parties discover, as they knocked on doors?

Greeley capped his pen and set it in the dish. A general warning now would come far too late to help anyone else. But the search had to go on. A search for the boy, for the killer—for other victims.
As he rose to leave, turning down the lamp on his desk, an appalling thought struck him.
What if the murderer was an Urskdale man? Where had he spent these last forty-eight hours? Safely at home by his hearth? If he hadn't found the boy after all, would he make certain that he was included among the searchers?

What if he, Greeley, was about to set the fox amongst the hounds, unwittingly sending the killer out with an innocent man, to search for himself?

He felt as if he'd not slept for a week—the tension in his body and the nightmare in his mind seemed to envelop him.

In the darkness the inspector rubbed his gritty eyes with his fists. When he walked out the door to face the somber men collecting outside the station, would one of them look away, unable to meet his glance? Would he read suspicion into the turn of a head or the restless stamp of feet?

He knew each individual in his patch too well to believe one of them was a vicious killer. Or—until now he'd thought he did. More to the point, he needed every man he could lay hands to; he couldn't afford to speculate. Still, he would send them out in threes, not twos. Just in case.

As he finally strode down the passage, he could hear the first arrivals talking among themselves, coming in, some of them, as soon as the news reached them. A few at a time, on foot, on horseback, their numbers slowly swelling.

The blast of icy air hit him in the face as he went through the door, a shock to warmed skin. Nothing, he thought, to match his shock at the Elcott farm.

In all his years as a policeman, he had never seen anything like the scene in that farmhouse kitchen. Try as he would, he couldn't imagine the kind of malevolence that could do such a thing. Try as he would, he couldn't shut it out of his mind. He and his men had lifted the five stiff bodies onto blankets and carried each out to the waiting cart. He could still feel the small bodies of the children, resting so lightly in his arms. Blind anger swept him so that he felt sick with it, helpless and for the first time in his life, vengeful.

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Cold Treachery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #7) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In December 1919 in wintry Urksdale, England someone murders five members of the Elcott family, three of them children, in their home. Paul Elcott discovers the grisly remains of his kin, but in his horror he fails to realize that ten year old Josh escaped the brutality. Inspector Greeley assumes the lad is dead as Dr. Jarvis stated that the killings occurred two days ago. Unable to overcome his bias that no local committed the mass murders, Greeley requests help from Scotland Yard¿s Chief Constable.--- While a blizzard hampers travel, the Chief Constable sends Word War I veteran Inspector Ian Rutledge to investigate the vicious killings. Ian keeps his thin grip on sanity through his police work as he feels remorse about Corporal Hamish who he ordered executed for insubordination. As the locals including Greeley and Jarvis insist it is a lunatic outsider, Rutledge looks for clues to find the whereabouts of Josh, not just for altruistic reasons. The murder scene implies deadly passion from someone the family members knew intimately; hence the ten year old is Ian¿s prime suspect; others from the village with fervent motives surface.--- In his seventh appearance, battle fatigue syndrome victim Rutledge seems as if he is getting mentally even more unstable than in his previous tales. Still as his grasp on reality lessens, his inspection skills remain strong. The who-done-it is solid, but it is the powerful historical look at the austere lifestyle of a northern England farm family just after the war that keeps the series fresh and at the top rung of the sub-genre.--- Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A murder story in the best traditions of Christie. Well done, Charles Todd.
Stepupgramma More than 1 year ago
Am in the process of reading all of Charles Todd Ian Rutledge series. Have completed the Bess Crawford series which was superb. This series is a mixed bag. It teaches us about the horrors of WWI, as well as the experience of so many who were engaged in that battle. Ian Rutledge is an enigma - fascinating, thoughtful, extremely competent yet disturbed by his war ordeal. His sub-conscience produces Hamish, Ian's nemisis, guide, provoker, and supporter. Once the reader can accept Hamish, you can get past the interruptions. The only negative in this writing, is the length. At least 50 pages, probably more, could be cut, but the writing is repetitive in details, written with scenes that are totally indirect and irrelevant, in what seems as an attempt to produce X number of words, rather than just complete the story. But, I have enjoyed this entire read - working on his 12th book in this series and would not change direction, but instead read every book because the series is fascinating, educational and entertaining.
lauranav on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Just as interesting and challenging as the others in this series. Inspector Ian Rutledge goes into the cold and snowy north lake country. As usual, there is a lot of time spent developing the characters and showing how the Inspector learns a lot about everyone and then has to decide what is relevant to the case and what is not.There are a number of suspects and weapons, plenty to keep the story going. There is the impatience to get the case solved even when there is not enough evidence. Rutledge is finally figuring out that his superior officer is not out for his best interests and realizes he must solve the case before his replacement arrives.We root for him because we know that he cares about the people and about the truth, not willing to reach an easy answer just to have a "victory" under his belt.
AdonisGuilfoyle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reading Frances Brody's second Kate Shackleton novel prompted me to return to the Inspector Rutledge mysteries by Charles Todd, as both are set just after the First World War. I still enjoy these detective stories, but there is definitely a formula, as with all enduring series - for once, I would like Inspector Rutledge to visit a town or a city (the case in Preston referred to in this story would have been interesting), to challenge or simply escape the village mentality of the rural crime scenes he is constantly being dispatched to! 'December 1919. The North of England'Although Old Bowels is slightly more reluctant to send Rutledge this time, considering the success rate of his recent investigations (see novels 1-6!), the haunted Inspector is already on scene in 'The North' when the Yard is called in to investigate a mass murder in the Lakes. The Elcotts, a farming family with four young children, are found shot to death in their isolated farmhouse in the middle of a blizzard. The small valley community is shocked, with no clues to explain the brutality or identify the murderer - unless they can find 10 year old Josh Robinson, who has somehow escaped his family's fate. Search parties are sent out into the bleak, snow-covered fells of the surrounding landscape, but by the time Rutledge arrives, hope of finding the boy alive is dwindling. Without a witness to the crime, the Inspector must rely on the motives of those closest to the family, including an ex-husband, a jealous brother, and a sister looking for someone to blame. 'Greed. Jealousy. Revenge. The land - the lover - the wife ...' The more Rutledge delves into secret lives, the more like a soap opera the story becomes!The murderer is fairly obvious after the first few chapters, I have to say, but I enjoyed watching Rutledge gather the clues and struggle with his temper all the same. And despite Todd's frequent stereotypical references to 'the North' and its Bronte-esque inhabitants (those who aren't on the lam from London, anyway), the wintry weather and harsh scenery of the mountains contribute a dark and oppressive atmosphere to the story. Evocative and exciting.
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
`A Cold Treachery' (2005) is Charles Todd's seventh Ian Rutledge mystery novel, but the first for this reviewer. Rutledge is a Scotland Yard detective who is haunted by his service in the bloody trenches of the Great War. Rutledge hears voices - more precisely he hears one voice that of Hamish MacLeod, a soldier in Rutledge's unit who died in the war, but lives on in Rutledge's head. Hamish acts as his conscience and advisor. Bit odd, but an innovative story-telling mechanism. The first seven Rutledge stories all take place between June and December 1919 as Rutledge struggles to live with his memories. The story opens with this line: "You'll hang for this-see if you don't! That's my revenge! And you'll think about that when the rope goes around your neck and the black hood comes down...." In the midst of a fierce blizzard, a family has been slaughtered at an isolated farm in the remote north of England. No sign of a struggle, the Elcott family has been gunned down; father, mother, their young twins and his daughter. The 10-year-old son of Elcott is missing. Is the missing Josh another victim? Or is he the perpetrator? Or might it be one of several likely local residents? Or perhaps one of the several outsiders who now live in the isolated Lake District village of Urskdale? A relative perhaps? Todd crafts the tale so that any of the suspects might have uttered that phrase and he plausibly maintains that suspense throughout. An intriguing subtext: "Charles Todd" is actually a mother/son team of Charles and Caroline Todd and the story centers around mother/son and father/son relationships. `A Cold Treachery' is more a suspense/psychological mystery than a thriller. The setting is grim, many of the characters are grim, Ian Rutledge not the least among them. It makes for interesting read, if not especially a fun one.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this book better than any of the series. Better plot and characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
But a good mystery about a psycotic killer who seems the very last you would suspect but not today when would be the first! Reminds me a lttle of another snow bound mystery in scotland and in a run down small castke by a lick
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Jaera More than 1 year ago
I really enjoy the books in this series. The writing is good (not exceptional) and the stories are compelling. The historical accuracy is compelling. Recommended.
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lotto53 More than 1 year ago
This is a great read. Wonderful writting.
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