Book Review: The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd

Posted April 9, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd
Genres: Mystery, Historical
Published by HarperLuxe on February 6, 2018
Pages: 480
Format: Paperback
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Question of Honor, An Unwilling Accomplice, Hunting Shadows, A Pattern of Lies, A Fine Summer's Day, No Shred of Evidence, The Shattered Tree, Racing the Devil, A Casualty of War, A Forgotten Place, The Black Ascot, A Divided Loyalty

Twentieth in the Inspector Ian Rutledge historical mystery series set in England just after World War I, December 1920 to be more accurate, and revolving around a shellshocked Scotland Yard inspector.

My Take

The Gate Keeper was compelling with the questions it raised, the bitterness, and the mystery of how all these dead men connect. A reveal that is heartbreaking in its simplicity and meanness.

We read the story from Rutledge’s perspective in single third person point-of-view, so we know about Rutledge’s interactions with Hamish as well as his thoughts on the case. Bitter thoughts for it’s a two-sided bitterness. One is the greed for money and the other is the greed to hurt. And the weakness that allows this bitter greed to continue.

It’s a rare mix of the horrible with the truly decent, and through it all, Todd takes us back to the England of 1920 with its dress, mores, lifestyle, social interactions, and the technology. They definitely make me feel the period, and it makes me mourn for it. Although, I’m damned grateful for cellphones, let alone a landline in every house!

I do find these post-World War I novels fascinating to read, as they reflect the changes that occured in the traditional pre-war lifestyle that led to what we experience now. That women’s lib, y’know. So few men returned from the battlefields, and so many women had had to do a man’s work while the soldiers were gone.

What’s truly sad is that Stephen’s death is actually easier than his life had been. Then there’s Robin, and as his character is revealed, you can’t help but pity him. Todd did a beautiful job on the psyches of these people. Wrenching, but very well done.

The Story

A man admired with hardly an enemy in the world is killed. Murdered in the night. On a lonely road. A body Inspector Ian Rutledge almost stumbles across.

He’s desperate to stay out of London now that Frances is married, and this body is a godsend. Until he begins to uncover the bitter hatred and absolute love in which Stephen Wentworth is held. Until the next man is murdered…and the next.

The Characters

Detective Ian Rutledge came home from the war a broken man who struggles to survive from day to day, solving the problems of others in his job with Scotland Yard. Frances is the beloved sister who married Peter that afternoon. Corporal Hamish MacLeod is the resolute soldier whom Rutledge shot on the battlefield in 1916, and his ghost now follows Ian everywhere.

Scotland Yard, London
Chief Superintendent Markham, a Yorkshireman of few words, is Rutledge’s boss. Sergeants Gibson and Williams run interference for Rutledge. Inspector Vernon was suggested to head up the investigation. Inspector Stevenson is sent to Surrey.

Mallard is a friend of Melinda’s with the Home Office. Mr Haldane, who claims to be a member of the Foot Police, knows far too much. Matthew Williamson is a book dealer. Garamond is a bookbinding firm.

Wolfpit, Suffolk
A twin and former captain in the Royal Navy, Stephen Wentworth appalled his family when he bought the local bookshop from Mrs Delaney when her husband, Tom, died. (Tom’s first wife had been Josephine.) Dickens is Mrs Delaney’s King Charles spaniel. And the story behind that love of books is also heartbreaking. Nanny, a.k.a., Hazel Charing, had been Stephen’s only solace; she now lives in Primrose Cottage in Winthrop with Sally. Lydie Butterworth is the protective housekeeper — with a bit of the foretelling — for the family home in Wolfpit. Howard and Margaret Wentworth had been the grandparents. Robbie was the twin who died.

Elizabeth MacRae is the friend Stephen was driving home. Audrey Blackburn is Elizabeth’s aunt and quite intelligent. Lily is the maid. Will Holden (Matilda is his wife) and Geoff Marshall (his wife, Betty, left him) had been Stephen’s childhood friends. Miss Frost and Miss Dennis are the local schoolteachers who live in Mr Grady’s house; both their fiancés were killed in the war.

Constable Penny is in charge at Wolfpit, who he knuckles under. Dr. Brent is the local physician. Blake is a solicitor for Wentworth and Templeton; Danby is his clerk. Oliver Pace is the mysterious church sexton. Miss Goodwin is one of the older ladies in town and plays the church organ. Thomas Abbot is the rector of St. Mary’s. I’m not sure where Constable Burke fits in.

The lively Hardys are local gentry. The reckless Robin Hardy is the younger son. His cousin Evelyn Hardy lives with her widowed mother in the dower house. Harry, Evelyn’s brother, had been great friends with Stephen. Mark Quinton is the wrong fiancé for Evelyn.

Edgar and Mrs Peterson and George and Mrs Farrow were guests at the dinner party. Another dinner party was hosted by FitzSimmons in Kent with the Drysdales and Desmond and Prue Montgomery (they have a son, Julian).

Frederick Templeton, a former major in a Devon regiment, is a gentleman farmer who takes an intense interest in improving his farm and has a reputation for better farming practices. His wife, Rose, died of the flu while he was over there. Mrs Cox is the housekeeper. Sally Beddoes is the head housemaid. Mr Martin is a farmer. George Davies was a contemporary. Bill is Davies’ steward. Harold Young requested aid of Templeton. The gossipy Wilma Smythe was one of Templeton’s neighbors; Tom had been her husband. Private Andrew Watts was temporarily Templeton’s batman in the war. Mrs Gentry, Rose’s sister, is Templeton’s heir.

Stowmarket is…
…a larger town with a bigger police force. The insecure and controlling Inspector Larry Reed, who shouldn’t be a cop, took over in 1919. He was married two weeks ago to Carrie. And if that ain’t scary! Alice. Georgine ran a milliner’s shop. Constables Talley and Neal are grudgingly lent out.

Norwich is…
…a city where Patricia, Stephen’s widowed sheep of a sister, lives; Jocelyn Courtney had been her husband. Laurie is one of their two children. Mr and the very disappointed Mrs Wentworth are the parents. Constable Brown is part of the Norwich police force.

Singleton, Surrey, is…
…a small village where Harvey Mitchell was a solicitor. Broughton was his clerk. Vivian Moss had been a governess for a family but left when it was learned she was pregnant. Her son, Eric, is at Oxford. Lawrence had been the father.

Oxford is…
…where Dorothea Mowbray lives, the woman Stephen was to have married. Jane. Arthur is Dorothea’s brother who finally died.

Little Tilton, Essex
Constable Wiggins is the local copper. Teddy and his wife run the local pub. Mr Warren is the local solicitor.

The brilliant Melinda Crawford (she also appears in Todd’s Bess Crawford series) is a widow who knows everyone who’s anyone and is a very good friend of the family. Shanta is Melinda’s Indian housekeeper; Ram is her chauffeur. Winston.

Kate Gordon is a young woman, Jean’s cousin, whom Ian first encountered in A Fine Summer’s Day, 0.5 (pub.17).

Dr. Fleming is the doctor who has counseled Ian through his PTSD. Jean Gordon is the woman who jilted Ian. Sergeant Scott and MacDougal were also under Rutledge’s command. O A Manning is a woman poet whom Rutledge revered. Fiona was the beloved to whom Hamish wanted to go home. David Trevor, Ian’s godfather, is a well-known architect. Ross had been David’s son, killed in the war, and David is raising Ross’ son, Ian.

The Cover and Title

The cover suits the darkness and is a metaphor for events within. The black wrought iron gates ajar with the truth spilling out, a car’s headlights beaming back along the private and straight drive lined with trees revealing that which had been hidden in that dark and cloud-ridden night of a past. Most of the text is in white: the info blurb at the top, the author’s name below that, and the series information at the bottom with the publisher’s name in the bottom right. The red is in the title just below the author’s name and above the gate.

The title is where it all began, with The Gate Keeper.

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