Watchers of Time (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #5)

Watchers of Time (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #5)

by Charles Todd

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“If anyone can turn a simple village mystery into a brooding Greek tragedy, it’s Charles Todd. . . . Todd handles grave issues with great compassion”The New York Times Book Review 

 In a marshy Norfolk backwater, a priest is brutally murdered after giving a dying man last rites. For Scotland Yard’s Ian Rutledge, an ex-officer still recovering from the trauma of war, it looks to be a simple case. Yet the Inspector finds himself uncovering secrets that the local authorities would prefer not to see explored. Rutledge pares away layers of deception to piece together a chain of events that stretches from the brooding marshes to one of the greatest sea disasters in history—the sinking of the Titanic. Who is the mysterious woman who may have boarded that ship—and who is the secretive woman who survived it? Only Rutledge can answer those questions . . . and prevent a killer who’ll stop at nothing from striking again. 

Praise for Watchers of Time

“One of the best historical series being written today . . . In the grand tradition of English murder mysteries.”The Washington Post Book World

“With his tortured detective Ian Rutledge and the ghost who inhabits his mind . . . Charles Todd has swiftly become one of the most respected writers in the mystery genre. . . . The pair is unique among sleuths.”The Denver Post 

“Outstanding. Todd’s portrait of Rutledge and postwar England remains powerful.”—Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307418715
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/18/2007
Series: Inspector Ian Rutledge Series , #5
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 22,750
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Charles Todd is the author of 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, A Fearsome Doubt.

Read an Excerpt



Osterley Dr. Stephenson turned away from the bed where the dying man lay breathing so lightly the blanket over his thin chest barely stirred. His bony, restless fingers plucking at the edge of the wool were the only signs of life and awareness. Twice the young woman sitting on the bed beside him had tried to still them, covering them with her own, but her father’s hand picked up the silent tattoo again, like a drummer remembering his place, as soon as she released it. He had already frayed an inch of the binding. She gave up and sat back, sighing.

His face was grooved by illness, and a stubble of beard emphasized the lines, like a rough landscape of suffering below the sun-weathered skin of forehead and nose. Shaggy gray eyebrows hung heavily over the sunken lids. Age weighed him down, but there was a certain strength there as well, as if life had made him fight for all he had, and he had not forgotten the battles.

Catching the eyes of the man’s sons, who were standing on the far side of the bed, faces in shadows cast by the scarf draped over the lamp’s shade, the doctor nodded toward the window across the room, out of earshot of the patient. The young woman looked up as they moved away, but stayed where she was. She didn’t want to hear what was being whispered.

Another gust of wind swept the front of the house, and rain was driven heavily against the panes, rattling them. The storm had stalled, as they sometimes did here along the coast, reluctant to move inland and lose itself in the hilly terrain there. For three hours or more it had hovered over the village, flailing everyone and everything out in the open.

The older of the two brothers bent his head to catch the words as Stephenson said softly, “He’s moving comfortably and peacefully toward the end. There’s nothing more I can do. But he might wish to have Mr. Sims here? And I should think your sister would be comforted as well.”

Mr. Sims was the Vicar.

The younger brother answered, “Yes. I’ll go for him, then.” He went quietly across the room to the door. The scarf that shaded the lamp by the bed riffled as he passed, and the light flashed once across his face. There were wet trails of tears on his cheeks.

His sister reached out and briefly took his rough hand.

The other brother sighed. “He’s had a long life, Pa has. But not that long. Sixty-four. We’d thought he’d be with us another five, ten years. His own father lived to just past eighty. And Uncle Tad’s young for seventy-six.” He shook his head.

“Your uncle Thadeus has the constitution of an ox,” Stephenson agreed. “He may well outlive your grandfather’s years. But your father’s heart has given out, and his body must follow.” He studied the grieving man’s face, noting the deep lines of worry and sleeplessness. Hetty Baldwin, his housekeeper’s daughter, was getting a good man in Martin Baker, the doctor told himself. Much like Herbert in character, God-fearing, with strong ties to his family and a fierce sense of duty. It was a sound match. “Everything happens in God’s own time, you know. Even this. And it’s a kindness that he won’t linger.” He spoke the words as comfort, then nodded toward the bed. “See if you can persuade Elly to rest a little. She’s hardly stirred from his side since yesterday morning. We’ll call her if there’s any urgency. She will only wear herself into collapse, driving herself like this.”

“I’ve tried, to no avail.” Martin turned toward the window, lifting the curtain and pulling aside the shade a little to look out. Rain ran down the glass in rivulets, pushed against the house by the wind. A filthy night, he thought. A fitting night for death to come. . . . He dropped the shade back in place and said to Dr. Stephenson, “There’s naught to be done to make it easier on her?”

“I’ll leave something. A sleeping draught. Give it to Elly in a glass of water, when your father is gone. And, Martin, see that Dick doesn’t insist on being one of the pallbearers. That shoulder of his is not fully healed, and the socket will never be as strong as it was. He’s not out of the woods yet. He could still lose the arm if he’s not careful. The army surgeons can’t work miracles without a little help!”

“I’ll remember.”

“Good man!” A clap on Martin’s shoulder for comfort, and then Stephenson walked back to the bed. He reached down and touched Elly’s hands, folded tightly in her lap. They were cold, shaking. “Your father is comfortable. He would want you to be the same. Let Martin fetch you a shawl, at least.”

She nodded, unable to reply. The gray head on the pillow moved, first to the right, then toward the left. Herbert Baker’s eyes opened, and focused on his daughter’s face. He said in a gravelly voice, “I want a priest.”

The doctor leaned down and replied reassuringly, “Yes, Dick has just gone to fetch Mr. Sims.”

“I want a priest!” the old man repeated querulously.

“He’s coming, Papa!” Elly said, fighting her tears. “Can you hear me? He’ll be here quite soon. ”

“Priest,” her father demanded. “Not Vicar.”

“Herbert,” the doctor said soothingly, “let me lift you while Elly gives you a little water. ”

The dark, pleading eyes shifted to the doctor’s face. “I want a priest,” the dying man said very clearly this time, refusing to be distracted.

The bedroom door opened and Dick was ushering in the Vicar. “I met him on his way here,” he told them. “Coming to see if we had need of him.”

Mr. Sims was taller than Dick, thinner, and not much older. “I’ve been sitting with Mrs. Quarles, and thought it best to call on you before going home,” the Vicar explained. Herbert Baker had taken all day to die. Most of the town knew the end was near, a matter of hours at best. Sims had stopped in twice before.

Sims reached out to touch Elly’s arm, saying easily, “Ellen, do you think you could find a cup of tea for us? We could use the warmth on such a wet night.”

She flushed shyly. “Tea? Oh, yes. I’ve just to put the kettle on.”

Smoothing the blanket over her father, she got up, leaving the room with reluctance. Sims took the place on the bed that she’d vacated and squarely met the intent eyes of the old man. “You’ve had a good life, Herbert Baker. You were married to a fine woman, a caring wife and a devoted mother. Both your sons survived the War, and have work. Elly is a lovely girl. God has been kind to you.”

“Thank’ee, Vicar, and I’ll have you say a prayer for me after the priest goes!”

The Vicar looked up at Martin, then said, “Dr. Stephenson?”

“He’s been asking for a priest. Just now, before you came in. I don’t know why, ”

Dick said, “Father James is the only priest in Osterley. He’s a Catholic, ”

“That’s right, he’s the one!” Herbert Baker said with more will than strength. Something in the depths of his eyes flared with hope.

Martin said, “If that’s what he wants, humor him, then. Dick, go and see if Father James will come here.” His brother hesitated, glancing uneasily at the Vicar, as if he’d just been asked to commit heresy. But Mr. Sims nodded encouragement, and Dick went out the door.

Martin said, “You’ll stay?” to Sims.

From the bed came the single word “Stay.” The lined face was exhausted, as if speaking was a greater effort than he could manage.

Sims replied, “I’ll go to the kitchen, then. From the look of her, Ellen is more in need of that tea than I am!” Rising from the bed, he added gently, “I’ll be within call, Herbert. Never fear.” His smile was reassuring.

Herbert nodded; his eyes closed. The wind had dropped again and on the roof overhead the rain seemed to fall softly now, with a summer patter.

Dr. Stephenson said quietly to Sims, “He’s sound enough in his mind. But dying men often have whims like this. Best to humor him!”

“Yes. I knew a wounded man in the War who wanted to be buried with his little dog. Only he didn’t have a dog. But when they came to bury him, his arms were folded across his chest as if he’d held one as he died. Strange comfort, but who are we to question?”

The Vicar went out the door, shutting it quietly behind him. There were voices on the stairs. Sims speaking to Ellen. And then they went down again together.

The room was silent. Martin watched his father for a time, and then said anxiously to Stephenson, “It’ll be an easy passing?”

“As easy as any. His heart will stop. And his breathing will follow. He will be asleep long before that. I didn’t expect him to wake at all. I thought he’d reached the last stage.”

Herbert, roused by their voices, said, “Is the priest here, then?”

“Not yet, Papa,” Martin answered, lowering himself to sit on the bed. “Dick’s gone to fetch him.” He gripped his father’s hands, unable to say anything, a plain man with few graces. But the warmth of his fingers seemed to give a measure of peace to his dying father. Martin cleared his throat hoarsely, warmed in his turn.

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Watchers of Time (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series #5) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
Lonnie More than 1 year ago
I discovered the Ian Rutlege series by Charles Todd and bought all of the books and read them in order. It's wonderfully written and I just ordered the Bess Crawford novel. I hope the mother-son team write many more. I love finding one author and reading all of them. Martha Grimes, Donna Leon, Louie Penny and Elizabeth George figure among my favorites.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book and the last book had no resolution. I find that frustrating not to know how the book ended. Cliffhangers are stupid.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Have read all the Ian Rutledge series in order. Love them all and this one did not disappoint me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I get transported to another time--one less rushed and more quietly reflective when I read this book series. This one did not disappoint in that respect, but it was a bit slow. The ending was also predictable, the only question being which of a family had "done it."
harstan More than 1 year ago
In September 1919 in Osterly, Herbert Baker is near death from congestive heart failure. Instead of demanding the appearance of his Vicar, Herbert asks for Father James to talk to him in private. The kind Father visits Herbert though they are of different religions. Not long afterward, Herbert dies. Father James never seems quite the same after his deathbed visit. A few weeks later, an assailant attacks Father James killing him with a large crucifix. The culprit arranges the crime scene to look as if Father James interrupted a robbery in progress.

Bishop Cunningham asks Chief Superintendent Bowles to dispatch a Scotland Yard detective to assure church officials that the police are running a proper investigation. Bowles sends Inspector Ian Rutledge, who starting with an interview with Monsignor Holstein begins to have doubts that robbery occurred. Advised and lectured by the deceased Corporal Hamish MacLeod, who occupies part of his mind, Ian begins to unravel a much greater tragedy than even the cold-blooded murder of a priest.

The Rutledge historical mysteries are unique because the reader does not know whether Hamish is a ghost or Ian suffers from battle fatigue syndrome. The story line of WATCHERS OF TIME, like its precursors, bring the post World War I era in England (this time the Norfolk area) to vivid life. This enables the audience to taste a bygone period of their parents and grandparents that is quickly fading into the dust of history books. The who-done-it is cleverly devised as expected by Charles Todd, but as usual the charcaters including Hamish make the novel a sub-genre stand out.

Harriet Klausner

bhowell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As always, Charles Todd writes an atmospheric thriller, taking place in England shortly after the first World war. Scotland Yard investigator Ian Rutledge is sent to the village of Osterly, a tightly knit community on the Norfolk coast. to investigate the brutal murder of the village priest. Rutledge is a fragile ex-soldier still suffering from shell shock, and hearing the voice of Hamish MacLeod, a Scottish soldier Rutledge was forced to execute in the trenches.The local police have a suspect and want to close the case but Rutledge is not convinced. The village gradually reveals its secrets and Rutledge uncovers a chain of sinister events that lead to the startling conclusion.Highly recommended.
martinhughharvey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
another wonderful Inspector Rutledge book - my second and what a find. Set on post WWI England Inspector Rutledge a damaged veteran with a very unusual (mental) affliction. I must read the whole series and in sequence.
AdonisGuilfoyle on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not one of the best Inspector Rutledge mysteries to date, I'm afraid. As with 'Wings of Fire', the pace is too slack and the mood overly introspective to sustain interest in the crime being investigated. I was intrigued by the initial premise - a priest is murdered after hearing the deathbed confession of a man who knows too much about the apparent death of a woman on the Titanic - but the story didn't deliver. The connection with the doomed liner is tenuous to say the least, and there isn't enough tension in the case of the dead woman tying all the threads together. I just didn't care, especially after having to plough through half of the book before anything happened. Rutledge spends the first two hundred pages revisting three points of an eternal triangle - rectory, vicarage and hotel dining room - and asking the same witnesses increasingly desperate questions!The one vital development of this novel is actually Rutledge's health, both mental and physical. After meeting another shell-shocked veteran of the War - the scene where he leads the traumatised soldier out of a crowded pub is very emotional - and a woman with troubles of her own, the Inspector almost has a nervous breakdown. Instead of improving with time, the events of the previous novel have carried over as an additional burden, and Hamish's voice becomes louder and more critical of Rutledge's thoughts and actions. In fact, Hamish is very nearly a separate personality in this story, with Rutledge barely able to maintain his self-control on a couple of occasions. (I keep waiting for someone to catch him talking to himself!) On a trivial note, because the mystery was less than arresting in this case, I do wish these books could be re-edited and released for the UK market - it's not the American spelling that bothers me, but when words like 'sweater' start creeping into a novel set in post-WW1 England. I keep imagining farmers' wives dressed in Gap hoodies! 'Jumper' or 'cardigan', please. And on the same level, the word is 'barmy', meaning crazy or angry, not 'balmy'. Nitpicking aside, Charles Todd's attention to historical and cultural detail is beautifully consistent, and I almost feel I was there in Norfolk with Rutledge. The Inspector is that rare type of fictional detective whose private life is more than just a 'hook' to sell another mystery series, though, and I shall definitely keep reading.
mckait on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a pleasant little mystery. It felt dated, due to the fact that it took place after WWI, and there are often references to same. This is the fifth book in the series, and one that was easily available from the library as an ebook. The Poor Inspector was in a bad way, but still managed to muddle through and put together the answers to bring a criminal to justice. He was aided in thisendeavor by Hamish, the voice in his head ( and his back seat).I felt it was a little too descriptive here and there, not getting to the pointquickly enough. I am not sure that I like Rutledge himself, but think that Iwill most likely read a more recent offering to see if my opinion changes. I likedit enough, in other words to give him another chance sometime.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great twist at the end.
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All that build up and not a finally.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Convuluted. Long and tedious at times
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