“The Gate Keeper” is the twentieth novel from Charles Todd in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series. This has a bit of a different kick to it since Rutledge happens across a murder scene within minutes of the act. He is driving late at night after attending his sister’s wedding and encounters a young woman with a gunshot victim at her feet. Luckily, Rutledge has been with Scotland Yard for a while and is able to get himself assigned to the case.
The setting is 1920 England. Rutledge returned from his service in World War I suffering from shell shock, which in his case manifested itself as a voice belonging to a comrade and friend he executed for disobeying orders. Now, Hamish MacLeod is always with him. alternating between taunting and guidance at times. Due the stigma of shell shock, Rutledge keeps his condition a secret as he investigates one perplexing murder after another.
Although this installment relies on a very unlikely coincidence at the beginning, it’s still quite compelling. It seems a fair depiction of what the national mood in the United Kingdom must have been like when the Great War concluded.
The explanation for the title comes pretty late in the story, but it works. Rutledge also learns that sometimes mothers don’t give the expected loving attention to their children as he probes the victim’s background. Then a second murder happens that tells Rutledge that his investigation is going to get even more complex.
I have enjoyed this series quite a bit over the years since I started following it. Even though Rutledge is a fictional character, there is a certain tenacity in him I can respect. I imagine there are loads of real people who persevere through tough duties while struggling with the demons of mental illness. This is also taking place in a setting in which there were probably not many people in serene mental places in their lives.
“The Gate Keeper” is pretty engaging and satisfying even if it doesn’t quite lift the spirits. Rutledge is a fictional character who represents real people still out there seeking justice and answers in spite of their own pain.
I think it’s time to step back into the TARDIS with various incarnations of a certain Time Lord who left his home to seek justice and answers in his own way. Next up on the reading block is a Doctor Who anthology from Big Finish Productions that was first published in 2004 entitled “Short Trip: Life Science”.