Friday, February 1, 2013

PROOF OF GUILT By Charles Todd

Amazing!  With their 15th Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery the mother/son writing team who write under the name Charles Todd give us a suspense filled tale as fresh as today as engrossing as always.

Scotland Yard Detective Rutledge continues to be plagued by the aftereffects of his World War I experiences, primarily the haunting voice of Hamish, a man Rutledge had to have executed for disobeying an order.  Yet Rutledge remains as determined as ever to find the truth even when confronted by an especially complex case, a myriad of trails to follow and a superior hectoring him for closure.

It is 1920 and an unidentified dead man is discovered in London’s usually quiet Chelsea neighborhood.  Lying in the street he could have been a hit and run victim but there are signs that he has been dragged. The only clue to his identity is an expensive gold French-made watch found in his pocket.  With the aid of a jeweler friend Rutledge traces the origin of the watch which leads him to the offices of French, French and Traynor, a firm noted for producing the best Madiera wind ever poured.  It seems that Lewis French inherited the watch after his brother was killed in the war.  However, he’s not available for an interview - in actuality he’s missing.  Could the dead man be Lewis French?

Rutledge is told French is in Essex waiting for the his partner, Matthew Traynor, who looks after the firm’s Portugal office.  Traynor’s boat does eventually arrive but without Traynor on board.  An interview with French’s sister reveals sibling rivalry as well as a years ago appearance of a man who appeared to be deranged at the French home.  Another trail takes Rutledge to the home of Mrs. Bennett whose household staff is composed of prisoners and mental patients who have been consigned to her care.

With his superior determined to arrest a woman Rutledge believes innocent he has scant time to find the real murderer and at the same time protect himself from the vicious killer.

Fans of this series will be delighted with the latest and first-time readers will enjoy a fascinating whodunit.

- Gail Cooke

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