Friday, November 27, 2015

A Question of Identity: Review

The archaeological society thought they were prepared for any remains they might find when digging in George Stebbings's back field. Of course, they expected those remains to be at least two centuries old rather than a mere two years, so they're a bit surprised and dismayed when their efforts reveal the moldering fragments of a boot and what is left of the foot within. When they realized they had a much more recent corpse on their hands, they called in Inspector Rudd (originally Finch in Great Britain) to handle the case. 

Rudd has a lot of questions as he begins the investigation. Not the least of which is who is this man? There is nothing in the shallow grave to identify the man, his fingerprints have disappeared from what's left of his fingers, he had false teeth (missing), so there are no dental records to trace. The only thing found near him is a silver-plated crucifix. And why was the man laid out as if someone had taken great care over the ceremony of his burial? Rudd also wonders about the burial site itself. It's quite a distance from both Stebbing's home and that of his nearest neighbor, Geoff Lovell as well as being well away from the road. Whoever killed the man and buried him would have had to tote the body a fair ways from any likely spot.

As Rudd and his assistant Sergeant Boyce start asking questions they find a likely candidate for the corpse. But finding enough evidence to prove their victim's identity positively winds up being trickier than they thought. It all ends with a dramatic show-down at the home of one of the farmers. But will Rudd be in time to prevent any more murders?

This is a very atmospheric piece by June Thomson. From the beginning, Rudd senses the desperation and tragedy surrounding the players in the drama. He isn't able to put all the pieces together until it is almost too late, but the clues are there for those who can pick them up. Desperation is the moving force behind the murder and the reactions of those Rudd questions. Finding the reason for the emotion unlocks the puzzle for him. A Question of Identity is another very good police procedural from Thomson with Rudd featured as an insightful detective attuned to the psychology of both murderer and witnesses. ★★ and a half.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

Sounds like one you'd have to read slowly to take it all in. Great review!