Sunday, July 9, 2017

WATCHERS OF TIME by Charles Todd

Charles Todd’s Watchers of Time was one of the more ordinary Inspector Ian Rutledge novels.

Again Chief Superintendent Bowles sends Rutledge on what looks to be a fruitless case. In 1919, someone murders the local Catholic priest in Osterly. The bishop and his assistant want Scotland Yard involved.

Local authorities find a likely suspect. The case seems open-and-shut. But Rutledge thinks what is happening has to do with an unusual visit Father James made to a dying Anglican man. The man asked his own vicar to get him Father James for a private conversation.

Then Father James ends up brutally murdered. And the whole thing ties back to a wealthy family in the local community.

Local authorities want the original suspect to be guilty. He’s an outsider. To convict him would make it clear no local resident would murder the beloved priest.

The case comes to involve the Titanic (one local woman was thought to have died on the ship); Rutledge’s own war experiences; Hamish, the voice in Rutledge’s head; and Rutledge’s dogged persistence against impossible odds.

Like the other Rutledge books, Watchers of Time has several psychologically penetrating insights. The rich man has a strange statue in his garden, the watchers of time. It is four baboons sitting, looking, and watching. They know everything that happens but cannot tell about it.

“I’ve always hated those damned baboons in the garden,” one family member tells Rutledge. “They stare at me as if they can look through the flesh and blood into my very soul.”

Father James was a watcher of time. He knew more about this small town and its history than he could tell.

Much about the case mirrors Rutledge’s haunting World War I experiences. By the end, a totally exhausted Rutledge is still struggling to put his own ghosts at rest.

Watchers of Time is the fifth book in the Ian Rutledge series. I am reading through the series. I put myself on the waiting list at our local library for the fourth book and went on to the fifth. Watchers of Time refers to the earlier book in ways that make me look forward to reading it.

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