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Book Review: The Black Ascot

by Jessica Asbell

Ten years ago, a murder took place during one of the biggest horse races in England, the Black Ascot. A jealous man tampered with the car belonging to the woman he loved and her husband. Thus, on a straight and narrow road, on a bright sunny day, the life of Blanche Fletcher-Munro ended, and her husband became crippled for life.

Alan Barrington, the suspected murderer, goes on the run. After 10 years with no leads, Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge gets a tip from a convict that Barrington is back in England. Searching for a ghost, Rutledge reopens the case.

As he digs deeper into the life of Barrington, Rutledge soon learns that all is not as it appears to be. And as he begins to learn more about the life of Blanche Fletcher-Monroe, he starts to question what really happened. While he chases the ghost of Barrington through the streets of England, he begins to find holes in the original investigation. But when he gets close, disaster strikes.

Rutledge wakes up in the hospital to discover that he attempted suicide. But why? Did the ghost of Hamish (a soldier who mutinied) finally drive him over the edge? Why would he attempt suicide on his front porch in broad daylight? As Rutledge is forced to take a leave of absence from the Yard, he continues to quietly work on the Barrington case. And as he gets closer to the killer, he finds that things are not always as they seem.

Charles Todd, a mother/son writing duo, isn’t afraid to delve into the stigmas of post-WWI England. Rutledge is hiding a secret: shell shock. But shell shock isn’t something a Scotland Yard inspector can have. Attempted suicide is another stigma for post-WWI soldiers. In this winding tale of a cold case, Todd is masterful at weaving together a diverse cast of characters whose lives intertwine in places far beneath the surface.