‘Proof of Guilt’ the 15th book in the popular Inspector Rutledge series by Charles Todd, set in post-World War 1 England went on sale January 29, 2013. If you aren’t familiar with this series, Inspector Rutledge is a Scotland Yard inspector and a World War 1 Veteran. The time frame is the same as Downton Abbey, the popular PBS series.
This book opens in Funchal Harbor, Maderia on December 3, 1916. I love books that take me to new locations and I wasn’t familiar with this island off the coast of Portugal. (Please see the video for more information on Maderia.) By the next chapter we travel to Sussex, England in the summer of 1920 where a body that has washed up on shore. In chapter three, a body appears in the Chelsea neighborhood of London in the late summer of 1920 apparently hit by a car and dragged. However, everything is not as it seems and the only clue is an expensive watch found in the vest pocket of the victim. Thus begins a complex mystery which explores relationships both personal and business.
All of Charles Todd’s books feature outstanding characters. Inspector Rutledge offers the reader a complex character. Unlike many policeman of the day, he is University educated and from a middle class family. His father was a lawyer and his mother an accomplished pianist. He spent four years in the trenches during World War 1 and has struggled with the demons from the war. One of the demons is Hamish MacLeod, a soldier he admired and was forced to execute for disobeying orders. Hamish now resides in Rutledge’s head even when he is investigating and sometimes offers his opinion.
Additionally, all of Charles Todd books offer a master class in descriptive writing. They walk that fine line between descriptive writing and action, doing both exceedingly well. One passage I particular thought was almost poetic occurs as Ian is remembering the war: “Hot, unable to escape the heat, helmets seeming to burn straight into the brain, thirsty, never enough water, never mind fresh water, and then the final agony, charging across No Man’s Land. No chance to bathe, shaving only because the gas mask had to fit, even a fresh uniform filthy before it could be enjoyed, and always the knowledge that if rain came, it would be worse, and sometimes the low-lying mists afterward hiding the deadly gas. He was never sure that winter was any better, the helmet cold, the strap chafing chapped skin, and half –frozen fingers on the trigger of his revolver.”
I am a huge fan of Charles Todd, and I don’t normally gravitate to historical mysteries. Charles Todd is actually a mother and son writing team. They have another series featuring Bess Crawford, a nurse during World War 1 (see my review of ‘An Unmarked Grave’) and two standalone novels (see my review of ‘The Walnut Tree’).
Five stars out of five.
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In accordance with FTC guidelines for reviewers, I would like to clarify that this book was provided to me by the publisher free of charge. I am not compensated by the author or publisher for my review. All they expect is an honest review of the work