Bantam, Jan 2005, 25.00, 384 pp.
In December 1919 in wintry Urksdale, England someone murders five members of the Elcott family, three of them children, in their home. Paul Elcott discovers the grisly remains of his kin, but in his horror he fails to realize that ten year old Josh escaped the brutality. Inspector Greeley assumes the lad is dead as Dr. Jarvis stated that the killings occurred two days ago. Greeley requests help from Scotland Yard's Chief Constable.
While a blizzard hampers travel, the Chief Constable sends Word War I veteran Inspector Ian Rutledge to investigate the vicious killings. Ian keeps his thin grip on sanity through his police work as he feels remorse about Corporal Hamish who he ordered executed for insubordination. As the locals including Greeley and Jarvis insist the killer is a lunatic outsider, Rutledge looks for clues to find the whereabouts of Josh, not only for altruistic reasons. The murder scene implies deadly passion from someone the family members knew intimately; hence the ten year old is Ian's prime suspect; but others from the village with fervent motives surface.
In his seventh appearance, battle fatigue syndrome victim Rutledge seems as if he is getting mentally even more unstable than in his previous tales. Still as his grasp on reality lessens, his inspection skills remain strong.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner