“The Gate Keeper,” by the mother/son team known as Charles Todd, is a mystery with a huge ending twist. Fans of this series will see Scotland Yard Detective Ian Rutledge having to solve a case from a different point of view. He is not only the investigator but is the first person on the scene, so he has become a witness as well.
Because this is a different type of mystery, The Todds wanted to make sure readers understand that it is not a puzzle where “there is a race between the writer and the reader as to who figures it out first. This novel has Rutledge pursuing the truth and finding a solution. He has a dogged determination to keep tracking the killer.”
Having left his sister’s wedding in a distraught mood, Rutledge decides to take a car trip. He encounters on a deserted road a woman standing next to a murder victim. She reports how a stranger stepped in front of the car and without warning fired a shot killing Stephen Wentworth immediately. With a list of persons of interest piling up, Rutledge must sort through the many different aspects of the case. He is helped along by a voice in his head, Corporal Hamish MacLeod, the ghost of the Scottish officer he had executed for cowardice, who comments persistently inside this detective’s weary ear. Rutledge always listens and appears to have given Hamish a life that was taken away. Hamish is real to Rutledge, sometimes antagonistic, sometimes supportive, sometimes part of his unconscious perception, an inner-self.
An interesting piece of the storyline is the similarities between the victim, Stephen, and the detective, Rutledge.
“They both had someone close to them killed in the war, although Rutledge played more of a role. They were also both jilted by the woman they loved.” The Todds noted. “Stephen is the ultra ego of Rutledge in some ways, and that is probably one of the reasons why he wanted to follow through and find the killer. They both developed levels of coping skills and were solitary people. Neither became involved in a relationship after their engagement was broken. Yet, Ian came from a loving family, and Stephen from a dysfunctional one.”
One of the secondary characters can best be described as an early 20th Century “Mommy Dearest.” The mother of Stephen is vicious, spoiled and uncaring who tried to thwart any happiness her son might achieve. “We wanted to write a character where the mother hated her son all his life. She sees him as a monster, an ugly duckling. She has no redeeming qualities. She enjoys painting him in a dim light. Basically, just a terrible person who is bitter and self-centered.”
Because World War I plays such an important role in the storyline, readers get a glimpse into the emotional wounds of many of the men, including Rutledge. “We wanted to humanize those who have served. Our goal as writers is to show how they were ordinary people and then were trained to be warriors. When they come back they must learn to trust again and to relate to those outside of their unit, the band of brothers. They can talk amongst their peers because they know there is a sense of understanding. Having experienced horrors first hand they cannot just shut out what they saw on the battlefield.”
“The Gate Keeper” by Charles Todd is a who-done-it type of mystery. Readers will enjoy the investigative process Ian Rutledge must go through to find the culprit.