March 19, 2013

Book Review: Proof of Guilt


Fans of Charles Todd's Inspector Ian Rutledge will be happy to see him back in action in Proof of Guilt. The book opens with a hit-and-run victim; the only clue to the dead man's identity is a rather ornate watch in his pocket. Rutledge traces the watch back to French, French, and Traynor--a firm of wine importers--and deduces that the dead man must be Lewis French, the head of the English branch of the firm.

But then Lewis French's sister informs Rutledge that the dead man is not her brother, and the inspector is back at square one: Who is the dead man? Where is Lewis French? Was he involved in the murder?

The questions get bigger as people connected to the case keep disappearing; Rutledge suspects another dead body may be linked to the case. The investigation will send him from Essex to London to Surrey and back again, in an attempt to find the truth.

As always, Rutledge's character is what makes Todd's story most interesting. The shell-shocked World War I veteran is haunted by the voice of his slain comrade Hamish, who offers Rutledge advice--and has a knack for warning him to duck in the nick of time. The mystery itself is a bit convoluted, but the authentically likable personality of Inspector Rutledge rescues it. Devotees of World War I-era fiction--such as the Charles Todd's other series starring Bess Crawford or Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs novels--will doubtless find Proof of Guilt fascinating.

I loved meeting Charles Todd at the TFOB last year. But the more of their books I read, the more I'm starting to be able to see their writing style. (Charles Todd is a mother-son writing team, and they don't plot their books ahead of time. Charles will write a scene, email it to Caroline, she'll add a scene, and email it back, etc.) I still enjoyed this one, but I got a little irritated with the meandering plot line.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Should I recommend this to my grandma? Sure!

Have you read Charles Todd?

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