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A Game of Fear

A Game of Fear By Charles Todd Summary

A Game of Fear: A Novel (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries, 24) In this newest installment of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling series, Scotland Yard’s Ian Rutledge is faced with his most perplexing case yet: a murder with nobody, and a killer who can only be a ghost.

Spring, 1921. Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Rutledge to the sea-battered village of Walmer on the coast of Essex, where amongst the salt flats and a military airfield lies Benton Abbey, a grand manor with a storied past. The lady of the house may prove his most bewildering witness yet. She claims she saw a violent murder—but there is nobody, no blood. She also insists she recognized the killer: Captain Nelson. Only it could not have been Nelson because he died during the war.

Everyone in the village believes that Lady Benton’s losses have turned her mind—she is, after all, a grieving widow and mother—but the woman Rutledge interviews is rational and self-possessed. And then there is Captain Nelson: what really happened to him in the war? The more Rutledge delves into this baffling case, the more suspicious tragedies he uncovers. The Abbey and the airfield hold their secrets tightly. Until Rutledge arrives, and a new trail of death follows…

About the Author

Charles Todd is the New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector IanRutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. A mother-and-son writing team, Caroline passed away in August 2021 and Charles lives in Florida.

A Game of Fear By Charles Todd Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

London, Late Spring 1921

Too often, Rutledge thought as he shut the door of the flat, carried his valise to the motorcar, and set out for the coast of Essex, humor has a malicious twist to it.

Word had got around that Markham had assigned him the murder inquiry in Essex, and as he quickly cleared his desk and took the remaining files down to Sergeant Gibson, he was accompanied by a cacophony of noises that were supposed to represent ghostly sounds. He made the best of it, but he knew that in some cases the noises were intended to remind him of his haunted war years.

Of shell shock. Sharper sounds, pencils rapidly tapping the edge of a desk, more like the rattle of machine-gun fire than Marley’s chains—faces hiding their intent behind friendly grins, while their eyes, staring at him, were cold—and Markham in his doorway, watching without any expression at all . . . He’d had to clench his teeth to prevent swearing at them and instead pretend to be amused.

When he’d questioned Markham about the need to send the Yard to Essex in the first place, the Chief Superintendent had said shortly, “Well, something happened, that much we know. I don’t put much stock in the rest of it. Sort it out. The Chief Constable feels obligated. He says he knows the family. Otherwise he’d have left it to the local man.”

Spring was coming to Kent as Rutledge crossed the county line. The orchards were in bloom, great splashes of white or a soft pink everywhere he looked. The hop fields were a low, bright green, just breaking through the soil, not yet ready for the hordes of Londoners who came down to string up the vines.

The reason he’d chosen to drive this roundabout way, rather than through East London, was a light lunch with Melinda Crawford, at her house. He’d promised her more than once that he would come down, then had had to put off his visit. Not that he was deliberately avoiding her. Twice she’d stood by him in a time of great need. Once when word had come that his parents had been killed in a boating accident off the Isle of Skye. And again when he himself had not known where to turn or who to trust. What’s more, she’d been a close friend of his parents and a part of his childhood. He’d always been fond of her.

The thing was, she saw him too clearly—knew him too well. And he’d had to struggle since war’s end to keep Hamish from her. The voice in his head that had never left him, never given him peace, since the Battle of the Somme in ’16. She knew a little of that part of his war—but not the worst of it.

She was Army, generations of Army. And he wasn’t sure how she would feel about his guilt.

And so he tried to keep his distance when he could.

She was expecting him. When he came up the drive, the door opened as he braked to a halt by the steps.

Hallo,” she said, smiling. “You made good time.”

Rutledge grinned in response. He’d let the big touring car out on the straight stretches. As she must have known he might.

He got down, walked up the steps, and kissed the cheek she presented.

“You’re looking well,” he told her, and meant it. She was wearing a woolen dress in a shade of dark red that she preferred, and with it a heavy gold locket on a gold chain. He knew what was inside it—her late husband’s likeness, painted by a master, giving the sitter a warmth and life that had intrigued Rutledge as a boy. He could remember asking often “to see the Colonel, please, may I?” And she would open the tiny clasp and show him the handsome man in the uniform of another century.

“Come in. Lunch is in half an hour. And you can tell me about this latest inquiry of yours.”

“I don’t know that it will turn out to be much of an inquiry at all,” he said, following her into the high-ceilinged hall, where Shanta was waiting to take his hat and coat.

He didn’t add that it was one of the reasons he felt he could spare the time to come this roundabout way through Kent.

“Essex, you said on the telephone?”

“Yes, the village of Walmer, on the coast.”

He followed her into the library, where she offered him a whisky, then poured a sherry for herself before sitting down across from him.

“The problem is, a murder was witnessed—but no body was found at the scene. Nor has one turned up. At least it hadn’t, by the time I’d left the Yard.”

“Surely sooner or later someone will be reported missing?”

“That’s always what we hope will happen. The witness, meanwhile, has told the local man that she recognized the killer.”

“Then why has the Chief Constable asked for the Yard to step in?”

A very good question, one I asked Markham.” He smiled wryly. “Except for the fact that the name she gave him is of someone who is already dead. The killer, apparently, is a ghost. And for all we know, the victim is one as well.”

Melinda was clearly intrigued. But she said only, “Well. If anyone can get to the bottom of it, you will. Now, give me the news from London.” She went on, asking about his sister, Frances, and a number of friends they had in common, until Shanta appeared in the doorway, announcing that lunch was served.

It wasn’t laid out in the long dining room, which could seat twenty guests with ease. Instead, a small table had been set in Melinda’s sitting room beside the fire that was always blazing at any time of the year. She’d spent her youth and the early years of her marriage in India, and claimed that she had never learned to tolerate the English chill.

It was a pleasant hour or so. Rutledge, looking up at the clock on the mantel, reluctantly rose to take his leave. “Duty calls,” he said.

Melinda didn’t protest. She understood Duty.

She hadn’t mentioned the inquiry at all after that initial bit of conversation when he arrived. Now, at the door seeing him off, she said, “There’s an airfield very close by Walmer, as I remember. Is it anywhere near this house where your only witness lives?”

“There are several wartime airfields along the Essex coast. How close one may be to Benton Hall I don’t know. Why?”

Melinda frowned. “As I recall, there was an incident there during the war. A death that was never explained. You might keep that in mind.”

Rutledge regarded her for a moment. “How did you come to know that? Nothing was said about any incident in the report I was given.”

She looked up at the tall man standing on her doorstep, and said blandly, “A friend of mine was the commanding officer there when it happened. He took it quite hard.”

Melinda Crawford was probably the most astute woman he’d ever met. In her lifetime she had experienced more than most, and her contacts among Army and Foreign Office people were legendary. He was never really certain what she’d had a hand in, for she never spoke of victories—or defeats.

He said, “Is there anything else you can tell me?”

“No. I only remember it because it upset a friend.”

Rutledge let it go—he knew her well enough to understand that this was all she intended to say. Otherwise she wouldn’t have waited until he was leaving. He kissed her again and went out to his motorcar. She waved farewell as he left, her dark red dress a splash of bright color against the facade of the house as he rounded a bend in the drive.

He made good time to Gravesend, where the ferry crossed the Thames to Essex.

It was another two hours to Walmer, up the main north road and then a turning into a network of country lanes. It was flat terrain, crops and grazing, with fertile soil that often turned to mud after the winter rains. He was delayed twice, by a slow-moving muck cart, and again by half a dozen geese waddling across the road from a farm pond.

The village proper was set on a hill that sloped down to the water. Here the River Chelmer met the Blackwater Estuary, where long fingers of land protected it on either side all the way to the sea, like a deep inlet.

Rutledge drove through the streets, noting the odd tower on one of the churches, then found his way down to the harbor. The sea was invisible from here, but the estuary glinted in the sunlight. He found several pubs and the usual shops that catered to several fishing boats and one or two smaller craft. One of the pubs was called The Salt Cellar, with its large wrought iron cellar hanging above the door, and the other The Viking, with a sign of a suitably fierce and bearded figure brandishing an axe.

The weather had faded the painted background to a dull gray, but someone had touched up the head of the axe, and the brightness caught the eye. The windows were grimy, the general appearance as faded as the sign above the door.

Beyond the harbor where the salt flats and the weathered wooden sheds where seawater from the flooded flats was pumped into basins, cleaned, boiled, then dried before the flakes were raked up and shoveled into tubs. The business of supplying salt had once been king here, just as wool had before it, but it was no longer quite so profitable, and so Walmer had faded into a quiet backwater. Rutledge had a sudden memory of his grandmother keeping Walmer Salt in a special jar with a ceramic top.

Satisfied that he had a general plan of the village in his head, Rutledge turned back to the police station on one of the side streets just off the High. There he was informed that Inspector Hamilton was having a very late lunch in the back garden of a hotel just down the way.

He left his motorcar at the station and walked there. The High was fairly busy, women stepping in and out of shops as they did their marketing, while overhead gulls swooped and called. It was impossible to see the harbor from this part of the village, much less the sea. It could, he thought, be any inland village, except for the gulls. It was almost as if Walmer had turned its back on the water, now that it was no longer the main source of income.

The Swan Hotel was small, no more than four stories, gray stone with large windows. He stepped inside and was shown to a rear door leading out into the garden. Half a dozen tables had been set out there, for dining and drinking in fair weather, but the lone man seated at one of them was paying little attention to the sunny day. His head was buried in what appeared to be reported, spread out in the space where his empty dishes had been pushed aside, and he didn’t look up as Rutledge crossed to his table.

Just set it there,” he said, motioning beyond the dishes. “Where it won’t drip.”

“Inspector Hamilton?”

He looked up then. A small man, slim but strongly built, with graying dark hair and a trim moustache, he was at first annoyed by the interruption. Then realizing that Rutledge was neither a waiter nor anyone else he recognized, he got to his feet and said, “You must be the man from London.”

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A Game of Fear

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Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN0062905597, 978-0062905598
Posted onFebruary 1, 2022
Formatpdf
Page Count320 pages
AuthorCaroline Todd

A Game of Fear By Charles Todd PDF Book Free Download - HUB PDF

A Game of Fear: A Novel (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries, 24) In this newest installment of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling series, Scotland Yard’s Ian Rutledge is faced with his most perplexing case yet: a murder with nobody, and a killer who can only be a ghost.

URL: https://amzn.to/3K9agjw

Author: Caroline Todd

Editor's Rating:
4.6
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