Literary Corner Cafe

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Book Review - Mysteries - The Confession by Charles Todd

The Confession is the first of the “Inspector Rutledge” mysteries written by the mother-son team Charles Todd, that I’ve read. I liked the book very much, and I’ll be reading more from this series in the future. The characters were well developed, the mystery was intricate yet believable, and the writing was very good.

Inspector Ian Rutledge, a veteran of the Great War, is Scotland Yard’s premiere inspector. During the course of a routine workday, a man Rutledge has never seen before walks into his office and confesses to the killing of his cousin five years previously. Of course Rutledge presses for details, but the mysterious man, who is dying of abdominal cancer, will only divulge his name and the name of the small village in Essex from which he hails.

Less than two weeks later, the confessed murderer is found floating in the Thames, a murder victim himself. When Rutledge learns the victim isn’t who he claimed to be, it raises a host of questions: What was the man’s real name? Is the man he confessed to murdering even dead? And if so, did the man in the Thames kill him as he said?

A gold locket, inscribed with the letter “E” is Rutledge’s only clue, and it leads the inspector to a small village on the river Hawking, where it seems everyone has something to hide.

I really enjoyed spending time with Inspector Ian Rutledge and putting the puzzle pieces together as he did. I certainly didn’t guess what was going on until near the book’s end, though the culprit was high on my list of suspects. I especially liked the addition of “Hamish,” the Scotsman Rutledge was forced to kill in the war, who now inhabits the inspector’s consciousness almost like a watchful friend. The reverberations of war – its senselessness and its atrocities – are everywhere in this book, and for me, they helped to humanize the characters.

The Todds write excellent prose, and its no-frills transparency is perfect for a convoluted mystery such as this one as it allows the reader to concentrate on character and plot. I did find some errors in printing, however. At least once the river Hawking is called the “Hawkins,” and several times an estate known as “River’s Edge” is called “River’s End.” My only other complaint centers around the number of trips Rutledge made from London to Essex and from Essex to London. At times I felt like I was reliving the horror of reading The Da Vinci Code.

All-in-all, I thought The Confession to be just about everything a good mystery should be. No, it’s not deathless prose or on par with Anna Karenina or Middlemarch, but I don’t think it aspires to be. It is, however, an entertaining way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.


Recommended: Yes. I think most mystery lovers will like this book. The mystery was quite well developed and the main character likable and real.

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