The Gate Keeper: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) by Charles Todd

Reviewed by Caryn St. Clair

The Gate KeeperThe Gate Keeper opens with Inspector Rutledge’s controlled life about to be upset as his sister has married and is off on her honeymoon. Following the ceremony, Rutledge starts home but decides to go for a short drive to sort out his feelings on his life with his sister now married. The drive turns out to take him quite a distance from London and ends with him coming across a woman standing over a body lying in the middle of the road. Rutledge stops to help and doesn’t quite know what to make of her story that a man stepped out in front of their car. Her companion got out to ask what the fellow needed and was shot. The man in the road then vanished. Although the woman is visibly upset, he sends her in his car into town to get the constable while he stays with the body and their car. The constable comes and takes over the crime scene and sends Rutledge and the woman on their way. Rutledge books a room at the inn in town. The next morning he goes to see how the woman is and after hearing from her and speaking with the constable, urges him to request Scotland Yard be called in. He then calls his boss and arranges to be assigned to the case.

There are so many layers to this story that putting the book down was really hard. The victim was Stephen Wentworth, a wealthy man who ran the local bookstore. Simple enough except that his wealth came not from his own family as such, but from an aunt who provided for him when it became clear his parents would not. Digging into the victim’s past, he finds that people who knew Wentworth found him to be quiet, serious and as good of man as there is. Everyone felt that way except it seems his family. It became clear that Stephen’s own mother despised him and had gone out if her way to not only cut him out of their family, but to make his life as unpleasant as possible. On top of this, there is a second murder in the community of another quiet, well liked gentleman who had only the occasional contact with the bookseller. Yet it seems clear the tow murders are related. There are mysteries in Wentworth’s past that add some additional intrigue as well as the elaborately carved pieces of wood in the shape of animals that were left near each victim.

Again, as expected, Rutledge makes some unconventional moves along the way to solving the case. I personally thought this was at least among the best books in the series, if not the best, though my judgment might have been swayed by the bookstore element of the plot.

The Gate Keeper is the twentieth book in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series and perhaps a turning point for the Inspector. Long time readers will know that Rutledge is haunted by the ghost of a soldier who fought under him in the war. Over the course of the series, the ghost of Hamish has settled into a sort of ultra ego for Rutledge playing out in his mind as a guardian angel or sometimes devil’s advocate. Coming to this sort of balance has been a long time in coming but without it, Rutledge wouldn’t have recovered from the war enough to hold his job. New readers to the series will catch a bit of this history through the course of the dialogue in the book, but long time followers of Rutledge will especially appreciate the way this one ends.