***Read on to find out how you could win a paperback copy of another one of Charles Todd’s Inspector Rutledge mysteries, The Confession! (US only)***
Here is the book blurb:
Proof of Guilt
An unidentified body appears to have been run down by a motorcar and Ian Rutledge is leading the investigation to uncover what happened. While signs point to murder, vital questions remain. Who is the victim? And where, exactly, was he killed?
One small clue leads the Inspector to a firm built by two families, famous for producing and selling the world’s best Madeira wine. Lewis French, the current head of the English enterprise is missing. But is he the dead man? And do either his fiancée or his jilted former lover have anything to do with his disappearance — or possible death? What about his sister? Or the London office clerk? Is Matthew Traynor, French’s cousin and partner who heads the Madeira office, somehow involved?
The experienced Rutledge knows that suspicion and circumstantial evidence are not proof of guilt, and he’s going to keep digging for answers. But that perseverance will pit him against his supervisor, the new Acting Chief Superintendent. When Rutledge discovers a link to an incident in the family’s past, the superintendent dismisses it, claiming the information isn’t vital. He’s determined to place blame on one of French’s women despite Rutledge’s objections. Alone in a no man’s land rife with mystery and danger, Rutledge must tread very carefully, for someone has decided that he, too, must die so that cruel justice can take its course.
About the Author
Charles Todd is the author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. A mother and son writing team, they live in Delaware and North Carolina, respectively.
Proof of Guilt is an installment of Charles Todd’s Inspector Rutledge Mysteries, but it reads fine as a standalone.
In post-WWI London, Inspector Rutledge is called to the scene of an apparent hit-and-run. Efforts to identify the victim leads Rutledge to a firm famous for manufacturing an selling Madeira wine. The head of the English enterprise is missing, but is he the dead man? And who is responsible for his disappearance? As Rutledge delves deeper, the list of suspects grow, and he soon finds himself a target as his investigation takes him closer to the killer, and the truth.
Todd set up the mystery well, and the descriptions and dialogue were well-written, placing me right in 1920s London. Rutledge is a likeable, sympathetic protagonist scarred by his experiences in the trenches, and I found myself rooting for him (and Hamish — you’ll have to read the book to find out about him!) early on. To be honest, I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second half. Whilst there is no lack of mystery or suspects to keep the reader guessing, the large cast of characters that only appear sporadically, means that I sometimes find myself losing track of who’s who. About three quarters of the way through the book, it was clear who the culprit was, and Rutledge’s attempts to prove their guilt dragged on a bit. Despite some interesting and exciting turns of events, it got a bit predictable towards the end, and after all that, we never really found out what happened to Lewis French, one of the partners in the Madeira wine firm.
One additional bug bear is the first chapter. Set in Madeira during the War, it succeeded in drawing me into the story, but in the end it appeared that was the only point of the chapter: to grab attention. Apart from introducing one bit character, it added nothing to the rest of the plot or story. I felt slightly cheated by the fact that this engaging first chapter was merely a ploy to get a reader to read on.
All in all, though, this is a decent little mystery. I enjoyed reading about the era, I enjoyed the setting, and I liked the main character, and would not say no to reading another Inspector Rutledge mystery.
I understand reviews can be very subjective, so don’t just take my word for it. Check out what others are saying about Proof of Guilt by visiting the other stops in this blog tour.
Giveaway! (US only)
Intrigued by the premise of Proof of Guilt? Then perhaps you’d like a chance to win a paperback copy of The Confession, a prequel to Proof of Guilt:
Declaring he needs to clear his conscience, a dying man walks into Scotland Yard and confesses that he killed his cousin five years earlier during the Great War. When Inspector Ian Rutledge presses for details, the man reveals little else, only that he hails from a village somewhere east of London. With scant information to go on and no corpse, Rutledge cannot launch an official inquiry, but he is intrigued enough to look into the case on his own. Everything changes when the body of the confessed killer is found floating in the Thames, a bullet in the back of his head, and Rutledge discovers that the guilt-stricken alleged murderer was not who he claimed to be.
With but one clue to go on, a gold locket found around the dead man’s neck, Rutledge finds himself drawn to an insular village in Essex, where the residents will do anything to keep out of the public eye. For notoriety could bring attention to a centuries-old act of evil that, even now, could damn them all.
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