"The Red Door" by Charles Todd

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"The Red Door" comes in as the twelfth entry in Charles Todd's mystery series featuring Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard. In it, our hero struggles with an arcane murder case while trying to deal with a tireless voice in his head. The murder mystery starts out as a case of an important missing person, and suddenly people involved in the case start turning up as corpses. The voice in Inspector Rutledge's head belongs to a fallen comrade - a soldier who was subordinate to him in the gruesome Battle of the Somme.
Taking place in England after the Great War, "The Red Door" features a wealthy and influential family, one of whose members goes missing briefly, purportedly "tired," or "ill." He returns soon enough, but his brothers and sisters take unaccountable and extreme umbrage at his behavior. This forms the start of the Inspector's observations as he eventually suspects one or more of the siblings in the eventual murder.

"The Red Door" is a good example of a slowly-unfolding mystery. We learn little by little, as Rutledge does, of the crooks of deceit and the nannies of recrimination in this prominent but beleagured family. Their story includes a repudiated marriage, a case of false identity, and a staunch unity in maintaining their lies. In fact, I found the array of brothers, sisters, in-laws, and grandparents a little confusing. There are slightly too many of them; I don't think the authors meant them to seem so interchangeable. It strikes me as an undistinguished set.

I will quibble also with the peripatetic performance of the good detective. I'm sure it was possible to drive from London to Lancashire in 1920, but I had trouble believing it could be done quite so often, over and back, within the time frame set forth here. The plus side of the ledger includes the device of the voice in Inspector Rutledge's head. It proves useful on more than one occasion, and one can imagine it lasting for a few more books as the detective begins to rely on it. The mystery itself will appeal to inveterate readers, because it has depth, twists, turns, surprises and a pretty good resolution.
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