Proof of Guilt

Written by Charles Todd
Review by Judith Starkston

The fifteenth Inspector Rutledge mystery will not disappoint Todd fans and should encourage new readers. The plot, set between 1916 and 1920, takes us to Madeira and throughout England as Rutledge tries to identify a corpse, apparently dragged by a car. The only clue is a watch, owned by a wealthy wine merchant, but that revelation doesn’t get Rutledge far. As the case progresses, key persons turn up missing and presumed dead, but there’s no solid proof of who the guilty party is. Acting Chief Inspector Markham, Rutledge’s new boss, is sure he’s identified the murderer and his accomplice, but Rutledge’s instincts and Hamish’s insistent warnings drive him on despite his boss’s opposition. Rutledge is a PTSD victim from WWI, and Hamish, part specter and part mental delusion, has been his “companion” ever since. He’s one of many deeper characterizations that make this a worthwhile series. For all Rutledge’s inner turmoil, he trusts his sense of justice—enough to turn himself into bait to catch the murderer. He persuades himself it’s better to risk his life than send an innocent woman to jail, but perhaps it’s his heart speaking.