Book Review: Charles Todd’s Proof of Guilt

Posted March 14, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Charles Todd’s Proof of Guilt

Proof of Guilt


Charles Todd

historical mystery in Hardcover edition that was published by William Morrow on January 29, 2013 and has 343 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include An Impartial Witness, A Lonely Death, A Bitter Truth, The Confession, An Unmarked Grave, The Walnut Tree, A Question of Honor, An Unwilling Accomplice, Hunting Shadows, A Pattern of Lies, A Fine Summer's Day, No Shred of Evidence, The Shattered Tree, Racing the Devil, A Casualty of War

Fifteenth in the Inspector Ian Rutledge historical mystery series revolving around a Scotland Yard inspector battling his own demons from World War I.

My Take

For the most part, I was dissatisfied with this story’s events. The clues that Rutledge pulled together seemed bogus, as if invented to fit the story. And part of me wonders if I’m feeling this way simply because I can’t stand the new character’s, Markham’s, approach. Otherwise, I enjoyed Todd’s usual descriptive expertise in setting the manners and scenery of a 1920s England.

I don’t understand the point of chapter one in this. Okay, it introduces us to Matthew Traynor, but how does it relate to the story otherwise? Teasers about Meredith Channing with a quick encounter with former Chief Inspector Cummins. Bowles is still out from his heart attack; too bad, it wasn’t fatal.

For the artists, most of the story takes place in Constable country. Makes me want to visit…

It’s a lot of back-and-forth and twisty turns with no one — especially that sister! — wanting to give one scrap more information than necessary. Combine that with that tidy-up-by-yesterday attitude, and it’s a disaster.

I have to wonder why Rutledge didn’t check out the new garden beds… I also wonder if Belford is part of Rutledge’s future.

Rutledge does a very fine balancing act of following Markham’s orders and his own conscience; he kept me wondering at times.

Oh, at last, a proper pedaling! I was beginning to wonder when I kept finding the curate peddling along.

The Story

A body is dumped on a nice street in London. One for which no identification can be established, although he looks suspiciously like a missing person no one has yet missed.

The Characters

Inspector Ian Rutledge is with Scotland Yard and using the work to keep his own demons at bay. Hamish MacLeod is one of them. A ghost of the man Ian ordered shot on the battlefield. Frances Rutledge is the sister who worries over him. Peter Lockwood was an airman in the war and at school with Ian before that. She’s considering saying yes to his marriage proposal. Dr. Fleming is the man who treated Ian when he got back from the war.

Scotland Yard
Sergeant Gibson used to connive with Rutledge, but now seems to be hunkering down under the rules. Sergeant Fielding is quite good at ferreting out information. Acting Chief Superintendent Joel Markham is an import from Yorkshire. Doesn’t seem the right choice for so many reasons. Not the least of which is he’s much too interested in closing cases, but not closing them with accuracy. He’s the type of cop who gives people reason to not cooperate. Edgar Billings is hunting for someone.

The French family
Howard French is the late grandfather and notable for the watches he gave his son, Laurence, and son-in-law, David Traynor, as well as his dipping his wick outside his marriage. Laurence’s oldest, Michael, was killed in the war; Lewis, the younger son, now runs the London branch and switches between their country home in Essex and the London house. Agnes French is the bitchy sister and she lives at the house in Stratford St. Hilary in Essex. Nan is the maid who has been with her forever. Matthew Traynor, a grandson, runs the Madeira end of the firm.

Frederick Gooding is the senior clerk at the London Branch of French, French, and Traynor, Exporters. Simmons is the junior clerk.

Williams is the curate in Dedham. Mary Ellen Townsend is Lewis’ fiancé. Dr. Townsend is her pleased papa. Valerie Whitman is a previous fiancée…at secondhand; Gooding is her grandfather. Constable Brooks is the local man while retired Sergeant Terrill was on scene that night of the attack. Mr. Hayes — of Hayes and Hayes — is the French lawyer.

Galloway is the jeweler who feels he owes Rutledge. Belford is a bit too quick to deduce; Rutledge thinks he’s MI5. Mr. MacFarland was the French family tutor back when Afonso Diaz stormed the house, angry over being cheated. Billy Harden is a nearsighted witness. Gerald Standish is one of those missing.

Mrs. Bennett and her husband believe they are doing ex-cons a favor by taking them in as servants on their estate. They can’t afford staff anymore, and this is a much cheaper alternative. Dr. Burgess is a drunk, using alcohol to escape his own war demons, and no longer practices, except on the ex-cons. The ex-cons include Bob Rawlings working as a gardener with Diaz.

Baxter and Benjamin R. Waggoner are men in London with whom Rawlings is communicating.

The Cover and Title

The cover is shades of brown, up close and underneath a wooden bridge with a stone tower at one end as the rain is pouring down. I’m guessing it’s that confirming scene toward the end.

The title is Rutledge’s biggest problem, finding that Proof of Guilt.