Search the Dark (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #3)

Search the Dark (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #3)

by Charles Todd

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The introspective hero of Wings of Fire and A Test of Wills (Edgar Award nominee) returns in Search the Dark, a provocative new mystery by Charles Todd. Inspector Ian Rutledge, haunted by memories of World War I and the harrowing presence of Hamish, a dead soldier, is "a superb characterization of a man whose wounds have made him a stranger in his own land." (The New York Times Book Review)

A dead woman and two missing children bring Inspector Rutledge to the lovely Dorset town of Singleton Magna, where the truth lies buried with the dead. A tormented veteran whose family died in an enemy bombing is the chief suspect. Dubious, Rutledge presses on to find the real killer. And when another body is found in the rich Dorset earth, his quest reaches into the secret lives of villagers and Londoners whose privileged positions and private passions give them every reason to thwart him. Someone is protecting a murderer. And two children are out there, somewhere, in the dark....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312264673
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/01/2010
Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge Series , #3
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 12,350
File size: 405 KB

About the Author

Charles Todd lives on America's East Coast, but he knows England well. Intrigued by puzzles in the human spirit, he is the author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Ian Rutledge series, including A Test of Wills, Wings of Fire, and Search the Dark.
Charles Todd lives on America's East Coast, but he knows England well. Intrigued by puzzles in the human spirit, he is the author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Ian Rutledge series, including A Test of Wills, Wings of Fire, and Search the Dark.

Read an Excerpt

Search the Dark

By Charles Todd

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 1999 Charles Todd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-312-26467-3


The murder appeared to be a crime of passion, the killer having left a trail of evidence behind him that even a blind man might have followed.

It was the identity of the victim, not the murderer, that brought Scotland Yard into the case.

No one knew who she was. Or, more correctly perhaps, what name she might have used since 1916. And what had become of the man and the two children who had been with her at the railway station? Were they a figment of the killer's overheated imagination? Or were their bodies yet to be discovered?

The police in Dorset were quite happy to turn the search over to the Yard. And the Yard was very happy indeed to oblige, in the person of Inspector Ian Rutledge.

It began simply enough, with the London train pulling into the station at the small Dorset town of Singleton Magna. The stop there was always brief. Half a dozen passengers got off, and another handful generally got on, heading south to the coast. A few boxes and sacks were offloaded with efficiency, and the train rolled out almost before the acrid smoke of its arrival had blown away.

Today, late August and quite hot for the season, there was a man standing by the lowered window in the second class car, trying to find a bit of air. His shirt clung to his back under the shabby suit, and his dark hair lay damply across his forehead. His face was worn, dejection sunk deep in the lines about his mouth and in the circles under tired eyes. He was young, but youth was gone.

Leaning out, he watched the portly stationmaster helping a pale, drooping woman to the gate, the thin thread of her complaining voice just reaching him. " ... such hardship," she was saying.

What did she know about hardship? he thought wearily. She had traveled first class, and the leather dressing case clutched in her left hand had cost more than most men earned in a month. If they were lucky enough to have a job.

There had been no work in London. But he'd heard there was a builder hiring down Lyme Regis way. The train was a luxury Bert Mowbray couldn't afford. Still, jobs didn't wait, and you sometimes had to make the extra effort. He refused to think what he would do if he'd guessed wrong and there was nothing at the end of his journey but a grim shake of the head and "No work. Sorry."

His gaze idly followed a porter awkwardly trundling his cart full of luggage across the platform, followed by a pair of elderly women. The cars were already jammed with families on their way to the seaside, but room was found for two more. Then his eye was suddenly caught by another woman outside one of the cars farther down the train, kneeling to comfort a little girl who was crying. A boy much younger, not more than two, clung to the trouser leg of the man bending protectively over them, speaking to the woman and then to the little girl.

Mowbray stared at the woman, his body tight with shock and dismay. It couldn't be Mary

"My God!" he breathed, "Oh, my God!"

Turning from the window, he lunged for the door, almost knocking the wide-brimmed hat from the head of a startled farmer's wife who couldn't get out of his way fast enough. He tripped over her basket, losing precious seconds as he fought for his balance. Her companion stood up, younger and stouter, and demanded to know what he thought he was doing, her red, angry face thrust into his. The train jerked under his feet, and he realized it was moving. Pulling out

"No! No—wait!" he screamed, but it was too late, the train had picked up momentum and was already out of the small station, a few houses flashing by before the town was swallowed up by distance and fields.

He was nearly incoherent with frustration and the intensity of his need. He yelled for the conductor, demanding that the train be stopped—now!

The conductor, a phlegmatic man who had dealt with drunken soldiers and whoring seamen during the war years, said soothingly, "Overslept your stop, did you? Never mind, there's another just down the road a bit."

But he had to restrain Mowbray before they reached the next station—the man seemed half out of his mind and was trying to fling himself off the train. Two burly coal stokers on their way to Weymouth helped the conductor wrestle him into a seat while a prim-mouthed spinster wearing a moth-eaten fox around her shoulders, never mind the heat, threatened to collapse into strong hysterics.

Mowbray had gone from wild swearing and threats to helpless, angry tears by the time the train lurched into the next town. He and his shabby case were heaved off without ceremony, and he was left standing on the station platform, disoriented and distraught.

Without a word to the staring stationmaster, he handed in his ticket for Lyme Regis and set off at a smart pace down the nearest road in the direction of Singleton Magna.

But the woman and children and man were gone when he got to the town. And no one could tell him where to find them. He went to the only hotel, a small stone edifice called, with more imagination than accuracy, the Swan, demanding to know if a family of four had come in by the noon train. He stopped at the small shops that sold food and the two tearooms nearest the station, describing the woman first, then the children and the man. He badly frightened one clerk with his furious insistence that you must have seen them! You must!

He tracked down the carriage that served as the town taxi and angrily called the driver a liar for claiming he hadn't set eyes on the woman or the man, much less the children.

"They're not here, mate," the middle-aged driver declared shortly, jerking a thumb toward the back. "See for yourself. Nobody like that came out of the station today while I was waiting. If you was to meet them here, it's your misfortune, not mine. May be that you got your dates wrong."

"But they can't have vanished!" Mowbray cried. "I've got to find them. The bitch—the bitch! —they're my children, she's my wife! It isn't right—I tell you, if she's tricked me, I'll kill her, I swear I will! Tell me where she's got to, or I'll throttle you as well!"

"You and who else?" the man demanded, jaw squared and face flushed with an anger that matched Mowbray's.

All afternoon he haunted Singleton Magna, and a constable had to caution him twice about his conduct. But the fires of anger slowly burned down to a silent, white-hot determination that left him grim-faced and ominously quiet. That evening he called at every house on the fringes of the town, asking about the woman. And the children. Had they come along this road? Had anyone seen them? Did anyone know where they'd come from, or where they were going?

But the town shook its collective head and shut its collective doors in the face of this persistent, shabby stranger with frantic eyes.

Mowbray spent the night under a tree near the station, waiting for the next day's noon train. He never thought of food, and he didn't sleep. What was driving him was so fierce that nothing else mattered to him.

He stayed in Singleton Magna all that day as well, walking the streets like a damned soul that had lost its way back to hell and didn't know where to turn next. People avoided him. And this time he avoided people, his eyes scanning for one figure in a rose print dress with a strand of pearls and hair the color of dark honey. By the dinner hour he had gone. Hardly anyone noticed.

When a farmer discovered a woman's body that evening, the blood from her wounds had soaked deeply into the soil at the edge of his cornfield, like some ancient harvest sacrifice. He sent for the police; and the police, with admirable haste, took one look at her there on the ground and ordered a warrant for the arrest of the man who had been searching for her. Although there was no identification on the body, they were fairly sure she wasn't a local woman. And the way her face had been battered, there had been a hot, desperate anger behind the blows. The missing wife, then, had been found. All that was left was to see that her murderer was brought to justice.

Late that same evening Mowbray was run to earth, roughly awakened from an exhausted sleep under the same tree outside the railway station. In a daze, not understanding what was happening to him or why, he allowed himself to be led off to the small jail without protest.

Afterward, the inspector in charge, congratulating himself on the swift solution of this crime practically on his doorstep, boasted to the shaken farmer on the other side of his tidy desk, "It was all in a day's work. Just as it should be. Murder done, murderer brought in. Can't stop crime altogether, but you can stop the criminals. That's my brief."

"I thought he was the one hunting all over town for his lost family?"

"So he was. Silly bugger! All but advertising what he was going to do when he found them."

"But where are they, then? The husband and the children? They aren't somewhere in my fields, are they? I won't have your men tramping about in my corn, do you hear, not when it's all but ready for the cutting! My wife will have a stroke, she's that upset already! The doctor's been and gone twice."

Inspector Hildebrand sobered. He much preferred expanding on his success to any discussion of his failure. "We don't know where they are. Yet. I've got my men searching now along the roadside. More than likely he's done for the lot, but so far he's sitting in his cell like a damned statue, as if he's not hearing a word we say to him. But we'll find them, never fear. And they'll be dead as well, mark my words. Probably saved the woman for last, she got away from him, and he had to chase her. Just a matter of time, that's all. We'll find them in the end."

He didn't. In the end, it was Scotland Yard and Inspector Rutledge who had to sort through the tangled threads of deception and twisted allegiances. By that time it was far too late for Hildebrand to retreat from his entrenched position.


Ian Rutledge drove through the countryside with Hamish restive and moody in the back of his mind. Around them in the car the warm air carried the heavy smell of new-mown hay.

The scent of phosgene ...

Will any of us ever be free of that memory? Rutledge asked himself. Of the silent destroyer that had rolled across the battlefields of the Front in clouds of gas? One learned quickly enough to tell them apart—mustard or phosgene or CNS. But familiarity had made them more terrifying, not less—knowing what they could do.

"It's no' the gas I can't forget," Hamish said roughly, "but the haying. August'Fourteen. I did na' know there was an archduke getting himself killed somewhere in some place I'd no' heard of. The hay ... and Fiona dusty with it on the wain, and the horses dark with sweat. God, it was fair, that August, and the MacDonalds swearing like wild men because they couldna' keep up wi' one MacLeod ..."

"Yes, you told me that, the night—" Rutledge began aloud, and then quickly stopped. Corporal Hamish MacLeod had talked to him about the August haying the night he'd died. In France. Odd that memory turned on something as simple as the smell of new-mown hay!

And yet he was accustomed to answering the voice in his head out of old habit. The Somme. A bloodbath for months, the toll climbing astronomically, and men so tired that their minds simply shut down. Assault after futile assault, and the German line still held.

Set against such appalling losses, one more casualty was insignificant. Yet in the midst of such horror, the death of a young Scottish corporal had incised itself on Rutledge's soul.

The man hadn't been killed by enemy fire. He had been shot by a firing squad for refusing a direct order in battle, and it was Rutledge's pistol, in the shell-riven darkness before dawn, that had delivered the coup de grace.

The act had been military necessity. Not cowardice, but exhaustion—and the sheer bloody senselessness of throwing lives away—had broken him. Hamish MacLeod had refused to lead his men into certain death.

Military necessity. For the sake of every soldier watching, an example had to be made. For the sake of thousands of men readying for the next assault an example had to be made. You had to know, facing death, that you could depend on the man next to you, as he depended on you.

Rutledge could still feel the late summer heat. Hear the din of artillery, the rattle of machine-gun fire, the cries of wounded men. Smell the fear and the rotting corpses. He could still see the defeated look in his corporal's eyes, the acceptance that it was a relief to die rather than lead his men back into the black hail of German fire.

And all for nothing!

The artillery shell found its mark an instant later, buried living and dead, officers and men, in heavy, stinking mud. Killing most of them outright and leaving the wounded to suffocate before the search dogs could find them many hours later. And ironically, the next shell sprayed shrapnel into the machinegun position they had failed to take all that long night.

Rutledge had barely survived. Deaf and blind, badly stunned, he lay under the corpse of one of his men in a tiny pocket of air. It had sufficed. He hadn't known until someone told him at the aid station that it was Hamish's blood soaking his coat, Hamish's flesh clotting his face and hair, the smell of Hamish's torn body haunting him all the rest of that day as he lay dazed. Severely claustrophobic from a living grave, severely shell-shocked, bruised and disoriented, he was allowed a few hours' rest and was then sent back to the front. And Hamish went with him. A living reality in his mind. A voice with its soft Scottish burr. A personality as strong in death as it had been in life.

Rutledge never spoke of it. He fought it alone, silently, as certain as the breath in his body that it was only a matter of time before death—or madness—put an end to it. That expectation kept him sane.

And so he had brought Hamish home again, not as a ghost to be exorcised but as a deep-seated presence in the shocked and numbed recesses of his brain where only sleep could shut it out.

He'd shared his thoughts with a dead man for so long it was easier to respond than risk the tap of a ghostly hand on his shoulder to attract his attention or see a white, empty face at the edge of his vision, demanding to be heard. That hadn't happened—yet—but Hamish was so real to him that Rutledge lived in mortal dread of turning too quickly one day or glancing over his shoulder at the wrong instant and catching a glimpse of the shadowy figure that must surely be there, just behind him. Within touching distance. Close enough for its breath to ruffle his hair or brush his cheek.

"There was a picnic, that August," Rutledge said, desperate to change the drift of thought. "Up the Thames, beneath a stand of beeches so heavy the sun came through the leaves in purple shadows—"

And that particular memory led to Jean ... she was as dead to him as Hamish. This very week he'd seen her engagement announced in the Times. To a man who'd served in a diplomatic posting in South America through most of the war. Away from guns and carnage and nightmares.

"He's in line for a position in Ottawa," Frances had said when she called round to offer what comfort there was to give. His sister knew everyone there was to know—few bits of gossip failed to find their way to her. "Away from all this." She waved a languid hand in the air, and he'd known what she meant.

Away from a Britain still wearing the scars of death and pain and the poverty of peace. Away from Rutledge's torment, which had frightened Jean.

"Jean has a knack for ignoring unpleasantness," Frances had added wryly. "You won't let it bother you, will you? That she found someone else so quickly? It simply means, my dear, that you're well out of it, whether you're aware of it yet or not. Shallow women make damnably dull and demanding wives. Although I must say, even I thought there was more to her. Or was that wishful thinking on my part too? Well, never mind, you'll soon meet someone you can truly care about."

Why was it that the mind was so adept at finding its own punishment? Jean—or Hamish—to fill his thoughts.

A bitter choice, Rutledge acknowledged with a sigh. The woman who had promised to marry him or the man whose life he'd taken. There was no surgery to mend a broken heart nor any to mend a broken mind.


Excerpted from Search the Dark by Charles Todd. Copyright © 1999 Charles Todd. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Search the Dark (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #3) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I discovered Charles Todd last year after searching for innovative writers in the mystery genre on this web page and what I discovered is by far one of the most interesting and challenging mysteries of the new age. I love the details about WWI and the complexities of the ghost Hamish in the inspectors head. These are mysteries which invoke comparisons to Henry James and even the great Sigmund Freud. Todd has done for mysteries what Delillo has done for modern fiction, that is to say that it is beautiful, complex and intelligent. In short a fascinating read.
Stepupgramma More than 1 year ago
Discovered Charles Todd (well and his Mom who co-writes with him) and read the entire Bess Armstrong series - Clever - interesting - enjoyable. Started reading the Ian Rutledge series - and even though it has dark moments - the characters are good - the plots are intriguing - my only complaint is - he ((they) are repetivtive too much of the writing. Describing the same feelings of the same person multiple times - telling the history of something the same. You get past it - but sometimes it is annoying. Will continue to read the series - hopefully it will get better from the standpoint of readability.
Onthefly More than 1 year ago
Flowed a lot better than 1 & 2. My Scottish is improving with Hammish! Still, the conversations weigh heavily. Not a simple read for busy places where you can't concentrate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed all of the Inspector Rutledge Series books that I have read so far. I plan on reading all of them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rutledge is a very complex detective with a very complex case. You don't know who, what, or why until the last few pages. I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down!!!
cathyskye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Protagonist: Inspector Ian RutledgeSetting: southern England at the end of WWISeries: #3In 1919, a former soldier is arrested for murder in the village of SingletonMagna after the battered corpse of a young woman is found nearby. Withdrawnand suicidal, the suspect will speak to no one, and the police call ScotlandYard for help in finding the two young children who may have been in thedead woman's care. Rutledge arrives, still carrying in his head the voice ofHamish MacLeod, a Scottish deserter whom he executed during the war andwhose harsh conscience-like presence in the inspector's mind seems to softenas the story progresses. In his investigation, Rutledge meets others whosespirits were ravaged in the war: Simon Wyatt, leader of the local gentry,who has abandoned his plans to serve in Parliament; his French wife,unaccepted by the villagers; Wyatt's former fiancée, who may not have givenup her expectations; a young local man whose head wound has left himmentally diminished; and an independent young woman from London. Thediscovery of a second woman's battered corpse further complicates Rutledge'stask--which is rooted as much in love as it is in war.This series is extremely well-done. Todd does a brilliant job of portrayinga country and its people shattered by a devastating war. Although I found itall too easy to figure out whodunit, I enjoyed the immersion in another timeand place. Unfortunately, the time and the place are so bleak that it wouldbe impossible for me to read these books back to back.
AdonisGuilfoyle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Much better than the previous Inspector Rutledge novel, 'Wings of Fire' - the pacing is tighter (relatively speaking), the characters are sympathetic, and we learn more about Rutledge's personal history. Hamish is also becoming a character in his own right, which is fascinating, but slightly worrying for the poor Inspector! (I love how his ghost varies between Rutledge's conscience and a Watson-like sidekick, depending on how unsettled the detective is by the case at hand. The psychology behind Hamish's 'voice' is interesting to think about.)Rutledge is once again dispatched by his boss, 'Old Bowels', to a far flung corner of the English countryside to investigate what appears to be the murder of an estranged wife and the disappearance of two children. Of course, he finds it's never as simple as he's been told, and soon he is investigating two murders and the secrets of a small Dorset village. The ending, once again, is rather contrived, but I enjoyed the series of red herrings packed into the final chapters - from 'Too obvious!', to 'what an anti-climax', until finally getting to, 'I didn't see that coming!' I love mysteries that make the reader think back through the novel, picking up clues and re-reading crucial scenes, and this didn't disappoint. Again Rutledge discovers that he is not the only man still haunted by the war, and is charmed by the lovely French wife of the local landowner. Todd's characters are much the same - strong women, broken men - but he infuses these figures with so much human frailty and depth of emotion that it's hard not to care for them. And the setting, of both time and place, is picture-perfect once again. Charles Todd rarely trips up, even on the smallest detail, and when he does, any mistakes can usually be attributed to the American editing of his writing.I'm glad I have the next book in the series to hand!
sallyawolf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Search The Dark by Charles ToddInspector Ian Rutledge is sent to a small town to find two missing children but instead of answers he finds more questions. Even though he is constantly haunted by a ghost from his past the inspector expertly wades though the evidence to find the real truth. This is a mystery book so there are several crimes to solve. I found that about halve way though I was yelling at the pages saying all right that's enough time to solve. The clues were subtle but obvious and a casual gumshoe would get it right away. That said I love the fell of this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes mysteries.
cameling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Our war damaged Inspector is once again sent out by his boss to look into the murder of a woman and her missing children. The village police chief, resenting Scotland Yard's intrusion into his territory, believes he's arrested the murderer but Inspector Rutledge appears to harbor doubts. In speaking with the prisoner, he discovers another war damaged soul, but the man is horrified and shocked by what he believes he has done and cannot be drawn into speaking at length about his wife and children without collapsing in catatonic grief. But where are these missing children? And what of the man who was seen with them? At the same time, another body is found. Is there a connection?
kaylol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's a quite good case
richardderus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
What on Earth are the murders of some seemingly unrelated women in the Dorset countryside to do with Scotland Yard? Well, as always, Ian Rutledge and his internal nemesis Hamish are sent where the Yard thinks they stand the best chance of getting rid of them (though the only one they KNOW they're getting rid of is Ian). As always, strict instructions are issued for Rutledge to avoid antagonizing the powerful people involved in this case; as always, he fails; and as always, Rutledge and Hamish bring home the bacon (bad pun--there's a fire in this book that crisps Rutledge a bit) with some tidy last-minute inspiration.But the book's characters, the book's post-WWI England, the book's solid construction provide a happy experience for the seasoned veteran of the Mystery Wars, and a soothing, orderly sense that the guilty will suffer. (My, how they're going to suffer in this book, and not just the murdering guilty. It's *very* subtly, nicely imagined, and almost perfectly executed. I smiled my most Schadenfreude-laden smile those last 20pp.)I don't think the series will appeal to everyone, especially those who find mental challenges unpleasant reading, but the books offer a lot of pleasures of atmosphere and of justice served. I hope many more of you will give them a shot soon.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting story. It's winding through the minds of war survivors and it reveals their fears.
DFY More than 1 year ago
Good read. Todd makes you work to figure out who did it. Nice Scottish color and some humor to balance dark crimes.
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