Review: The Confession

The Confession

by Charles Todd

Reviewed by Judith Reveal | Released: January 3, 2012

Publisher: William Morrow (352 pages)

“As with any good mystery, the tension ramps up as the story progresses, pulling more and more characters into the fray, weaving three murders flawlessly into a tight tale. Mr. Todd’s characterization is his strength. . . . He plots his stories with many levels of unanswered questions; he takes the reader to a point of almost answering the first question, when out of nowhere appears the second; and the third; and the fourth. With each new level, the reader must revisit the prior questions and may find that the first answers were not the correct ones. A riddle within a riddle and a good read.”

Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard meets Russell Wyatt under most unusual circumstances. Wyatt introduces himself and confesses to a murder, several years old. But there is no body and upon further inspection, Rutledge learns that Wyatt is dying and in fact has a very short time to live; the inspector believes the confession may be the medication talking. It is a short two weeks later that Wyatt is found murdered.

It isn’t long before Rutledge determines that Wyatt was not who he said he was, and the deeper the inspector digs, the more bodies he finds. The search expands from just one person making a questionable confession to unsolved murders dating back several years, a town history of smuggling that has gone on for 200 years, and a powerful unrequited love.

Author Todd takes the reader into dark places in the Essex Marshes not far from London, where the residents of several small towns are suspicious of strangers, especially when they come from London and carry a badge.

During the investigation, Rutledge has to wrestle with his own devils, carried back from his time fighting in World War I. In particular, he carries the ghost of Hamish MacLeod, a casualty of the war, with him throughout the investigation—sometimes helping, sometimes hindering, but always just below the surface.

The drama becomes more complex when Rutledge discovers that Russell Wyatt is indeed alive, and the man he is supposed to have murdered is also alive. Rutledge unmasks the identity of the murdered impersonator but in doing so, finds more questions than answers. Why the false confession? What are the relationships between these characters? How do old crimes wrap around the new murder? These questions Rutledge unravels, frequently with the aid of Hamish MacLeod.

As with any good mystery, the tension ramps up as the story progresses, pulling more and more characters into the fray, weaving three murders flawlessly into a tight tale. Mr. Todd’s characterization is his strength. He develops Rutledge as a methodical officer who follows logical paths to find his answers, even when the questions seem illogical.

Even Hamish—an ethereal character who constantly occupies Rutledge’s conscience—is clearly drawn for the reader. Each character receives the attention he or she deserves based on their role in the story. The heroes have flaws, and the villains have strengths, as such, they are distinctly three-dimensional.

Mr. Todd’s settings are perhaps not quite as thoroughly defined, but the reader is comfortable in the place and time established. He plots his stories with many levels of unanswered questions; he takes the reader to a point of almost answering the first question, when out of nowhere appears the second; and the third; and the fourth. With each new level, the reader must revisit the prior questions and may find that the first answers were not the correct ones. A riddle within a riddle and a good read.

This book review was prepared for the New York Journal of Books and is reprinted with their permission. Please visit their website: www.nyjournalofbooks.com for a complete listing of book reviews.

Reviewer: Judy Reveal lives in Maryland. She is the author of Around Greensboro and the Lindsey Gale Mystery series including Cheating Death, The Music Room, A House to Kill For, and historical fiction (2013) The Brownstone.

© Roy Bartels 2012