The Confession by Charles Todd

The ConfessionReviewed by Patricia Reid

A man walks into Rutledge’s office at Scotland Yard and identifies himself as Wyatt Russell. From Russell’s appearance, it is obvious that the man is very ill. Russell admits to Rutledge that he is suffering from cancer and does not have long to live. His purpose for visiting Scotland Yard is to confess that he killed a man in 1915 and was never apprehended. Russell states that confessing is the only way to clear his conscience. He names his victim as his cousin, Justin Fowler.

Rutledge is curious but confused. Although Russell admits to the murder, he is not willing to offer many details and eventually states that his confusion is due to the morphine that he is taking. Without enough evidence to open a murder inquiry Rutledge still cannot just let the matter go. His curiosity will not allow it. When a body is found floating in the Thames with a bullet in the back of the head, it turns out that the body is that of Rutledge’s confessor to murder of a few weeks ago. There is a gold locket around the man’s neck containing a picture of a young woman.

Rutledge takes the locket and travels to Essex and the village of Furnham, the home of Wyatt Russell. Although the community of Furnham does not welcome strangers, Rutledge is able to speak to the minister who informs Rutledge that the picture of the dead man is not that of Wyatt Russell.

It turns out the dead man who passed himself off as Wyatt Russell is actually Ben Willet, the son of a fisherman, who grew up in the town of Furnham. Wyatt Russell resided at River’s Edge, an estate near the town. Wyatt’s mother took in a cousin Justin Fowler to raise after Fowler’s parents died. Cynthia Farraday also came to live at River’s Edge after the death of her parents. Wyatt’s mother disappeared from River’s Edge and her body was never found. Servants attested to the fact that the gold locket found around the neck of Ben Willet was actually owned by Mrs. Russell and there was a picture inside of Mr. and Mrs. Russell. Mrs. Russell was known to wear the locket daily.

Rutledge is left with a puzzle of so many pieces it seems impossible to put together but he is determined. It seems that there are many mysteries surrounding River’s Edge to say nothing of the town of Furnham. The residents have good reason to keep strangers away. Rutledge has at least three deaths to puzzle out. Mrs. Russell who disappeared and is believed dead in 1914, Justin Fowler’s reported death in 1915 and now Ben Willet, who confessed to the killing of Justin Fowler when passing himself off as Wyatt Russell.

The story is intriguing and the outcome is not one that I expected. Hamish McLeod, the ghost that rides shotgun with Rutledge, is present in The Confession but his presence is not as predominant as it has been in past Rutledge novels. I found this novel to be a great addition to the Ian Rutledge series but can be read as a stand-alone.

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