Charles Todd continues his thrilling sequence of Ian Rutledge mystery novels with No Shred of Evidence, published by HarperCollins Publishers, copyright 2016.
Ian Rutledge is an inspector for Scotland Yard. In the summer of 1914 he was engaged to be married to Jean Gordon. Five years later he released her from that promise after he’d seen the shock and horror in her eyes as she looked at the shell of a man who had returned from France and been in the hospital for months with some undisclosed affliction. Rutledge broke that proposal because he knew that his injury was not one that a woman should have to live with. More of a psychological disability, his condition plagued him in most of his personal thoughts and his reasoning on the job, and yet it helped him to see sides of the crimes he investigated that would not be perceived by most detectives. This so-called affliction would haunt him for the rest of his life and affect any relationships he had, whether they were professional or personal. He would always be challenged with having to deal with what his duty was to do in the First World War.
So he decided to live alone and keep few friends. Solving difficult crimes was what he lived to do. Rutledge is given the assignment of investigating an incident which occurred on a remote lake involving a man, Harry Saunders, whose boat was sinking so he waved to the nearest other vessel. A row boat containing four young ladies acknowledge his dilemma and came to offer their assistance. The boat sank around the man and when they reached him he was too heavy to be pulled aboard. Fortunately a man on the shore had witnessed the incident and swam out to help them pull Saunders into the rowboat and get him to safety. Unfortunately the rescue man had seen one of the woman drop an oar on the drowning man’s head and later told the local police that they were trying to murder him. In fact she was to hold it out for Saunders to cling to while they rowed to shore but it slipped from her hand and walloped him on his forehead.
With the help of this man from the shore they got the now unconscious Saunders to land and then to the hospital. The boatman remained in a coma for some time, but upon the word of the man from shore the ladies were placed under arrest for attempted murder. Ian Rutledge is called upon to interview these very confused women about the incident and is surprised to find that one of them is the close cousin of the woman he had intended to marry upon his return from the Great War.
This was something he was prepared to do, but in this situation it was difficult to discern if a crime had been committed. Harry Saunders was still in a coma with obvious wounds on his head and there was no way to find out his version of what had happened to him before or after his boat sank on that ill-fated afternoon. Rutledge observed few differences in what the women described to him, however the man from the shore who swam out to help save Saunders still held to what he claimed was attempted murder. While inquiring deeper into the background of those involved Rutledge finds animosity between some of the friends and families involved.
Charles Todd is actually a mother and son writing team who have co-authored the Ian Rutledge Mysteries, the Bess Crawford Mysteries, and other fascinating fiction novels. If you pick this one up it will be hard to put down!
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