Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Red Door, by Charles Todd

A different kind of mystery, at least to me. Shortly after the end of WWI, Inspector Ian Rutledge is assigned two investigations: into a man who has been attacking people at night, and into the disappearance of a prominent citizen. He sets his own pace, however, not always showing up where he is expected to be.

The disappearance is of a former missionary, Walter Teller, followed his hospitalization for a mysterious illness. He apparently came out of the paralysis that siezed him and took off out of the hospital, sight-unseen. Teller and his brothers were "assigned" their vocations by their overbearing father, and while they complied with his wishes none of them found their careers satisfying. Some people suspect that Walter was reacting to a call from his church to return to the field, a return he clearly did not want to make.

But there is a wrinkle in the whole family story. A woman is found dead in another community, and it turns out her last name is Teller also, and that she married someone named Peter Teller, the same name as Walter's brother. Coincidence? After all, Peter already has a wife. IS this a relative or is it bigamy or what? This is the question Rutledge has to answer.

We get to know Rutledge in part through his work on these cases. We learn that he is suffering from "shell shock"and hears the voice of a former subordinate in his head. He has bad memories of how this person died and is careful not to let anyone know that he is talking to him. I found his investigative method a little odd. Perhaps I expected more of a standard procedure to be followed. Nonetheless, he followed his own instincts and got there in the end. It's as much a story about Rutledge as it is about the people he investigates. I am always on the side of stories that dig into characters like this.