Proof of Guilt

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, we're pleased to present a review for the newest book in the Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery series, Proof of Guilt, by Charles Todd.  Keep scrolling to check out our review and then enter to win a copy for yourself!

By Charles Todd
Published on January 29, 2013
Published by: William Morrow
Source: Finished copy from publisher for blog tour
Scotland Yard's Ian Rutledge must contend with two dangerous enemies in this latest complex mystery in the New York Times bestselling series.

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.
Proof of Guilt is the fifteenth book in the series of Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries; however, like most long-running mystery series, it's possible to jump right in without having much, or any, previous knowledge of the series.  That held true for this book for the most part, although there were some confusing aspects and I think I overall would have been more satisfied with it had I been a long-time reader.  Rutledge, who fought in WWI, is still living with the after-effects, most of which are easy to understand, save for the occasional voice in his head belonging to a dead soldier named Hamish. This isn't explained at first so I thought I'd missed out on Hamish's introduction; it takes a few mentions of Hamish before the narration explains it. Also, there's very little time given over to physical description of Rutledge or other returning characters, so I spent the entire book not actually having a clear mental picture of the main character -- not a big deal for all readers, but it threw me for a bit of a loop.

That said, Proof of Guilt is a pretty standard crime procedural, with the added bonus fact that it takes place in England in the 1920s.  There are a lot of different social habits and rules that had to be observed back then, and it was neat to see those in a mystery rather than a romance. I'm used to modern crime stories, so it was a nice change of pace to read something unfamiliar, even if 2013-me was flailing on the inside because of how different investigative procedures were in the 20s. I did a lot of hand flapping over spoliation of evidence and confidentiality and looking for evidence that fits your theory instead of looking at evidence in an unbiased way.

But, never mind that.  This is a book with a lot of twists and turns, and just as Rutledge (and the reader) starts to think that he's got a handle on the crime he's investigating, several more angles pop up to complicate the matter.  There are a lot of characters to keep straight, a lot of backstory, a lot of motives. Many characters have similar names, too, which makes it harder to keep up.  I could have used a list of characters, like fantasy books have, so I could remember at any given time what role a character played in the story.

The book started off slow, and the first few chapters were a bit of a chore to get through, but the pace definitely picked up by the end.  I was left a little unsatisfied by the ending as I felt like all the loose ends were not tied up, but I'm guessing they were left open to be addressed in future books.  I'd be interested in going back and checking out earlier books in the series, especially to get more context and background on Rutledge.  For being a crime/mystery novel, the book is very clean - there was no bad language that I could recall, no romance/love side plots, and though there are deaths in the book, they are never described in great detail.

Check out the Rafflecopter below to win a copy of this book for yourself! Open to US readers (or international readers who have an address in the US where they can receive mail) only.

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