I am such a fan. I have been since the first Rutledge novel, A Test of Wills (talk about a binge read!), and long before I was privileged to know Charles and Caroline, the mother/son writing team who are "Charles Todd."
Caroline, unfortunately, was one of the many other people who went home from Phoenix with the flu, and she is still really under the weather. So we're going to do something a little different today. I'm going to talk about the book, and then Caroline is going to chat with us in the comments. AND she is going to give a copy of NO SHRED OF EVIDENCE to one of our commenters!
First, here's the synopsis:
In this absorbing new entry in the acclaimed New York Times bestselling series, Scotland Yard’s Ian Rutledge is caught up in a twisted web of vengeance and murder.
On the north coast of Cornwall, an apparent act of mercy is repaid by an arrest for murder. Four young women have been accused of the crime. A shocked father calls in a favor at the Home Office. Scotland Yard is asked to review the case.
However, Inspector Ian Rutledge is not the first Inspector to reach the village. Following in the shoes of a dead man, he is told the case is all but closed. Even as it takes an unexpected personal turn, Rutledge will require all his skill to deal with the incensed families of the accused, the grieving parents of the victim, and local police eager to see these four women sent to the infamous Bodmin Gaol. Then why hasn’t the killing stopped?
With no shred of evidence to clear the accused, Rutledge must plunge deep into the darkest secrets of a wild, beautiful and dangerous place if he is to find a killer who may—or may not—hold the key to their fate.
Oh, there's so much this doesn't say! I'm going to have to try really, really hard not to give spoilers.
This is the 18th Rutledge novel. Can you believe it? If it seems like hardly any time has passed since the beginning of the series, it is in large part because the novels are so gripping. But it is also because little time has passed for Ian Rutledge. Remember we were talking about fluid time with Glen Erik Hamilton the other day, and of how writers must make a decision about how to handle time in a series? A Test of Wills takes place in June of 1919, when Rutledge, suffering from PTSD, takes up the job he held before the war as a detective with Scotland Yard. No Shred of Evidence has moved forward to the autumn of 1920. Less than a year and a half has elapsed. (For a recent reference, the last episodes of Downton Abbey take place in 1924.) So that is my first question for Caroline and Charles: did you decide, at the beginning of the series, that time would move very slowly? It gives the series a great immediacy, almost as if we were living Rutledge's life along with him.
The book takes place in northern Cornwall, and oh, golly, do I wish a map was included in the book! I was too engrossed in the story (the binge read) to stop and look up the geography, but I did afterwards. The sense of place is so strong I find myself thinking about the village as if I'd been there. Why Cornwall, Caroline and Charles? And why this particular part of Cornwall?
And I realize there's probably no easy answer to this, but how do you manage to imagine the setting so realistically as it was then? (Other than time travel, of course...)
The village (is it a real place?) is just there, near Rock and Padstow.
I can't say too much about the plot, but I will tell you that there is a fun twisty-turny time thing. The previous book, A Fine Summer's Day (which I adored) takes us back to 1914, the summer before the beginning of the war. We see Ian Rutledge as he was before the horrors of the trenches damaged him so badly, and there is an almost unbearable suspense in the fact that we know what is coming. We also meet Rutledge's fiance, Jean, and her cousin, a young woman named Kate Gordon. Kate is a strong and engaging character and I hoped to see her again. She is indeed back in No Shred of Evidence, one of the four young women accused of murder. There's an obvious affinity between Ian Rutledge and Kate.
Are we allowed to hope that Rutledge might be allowed to find some personal happiness, Caroline and Charles? Alas, I fear that life can't run too smoothly for our fictional heroes and heroines, but I can't wait to see what happens next. Any hints?
I have to tell a little story on Caroline. When she told me she'd arrived home from Phoenix with a horrible case of the flu, she said, "It's given me a whole new perspective on the Spanish flu..." I think that's taking research a bit too far, Caroline! Armchair only, next time, please!
Readers, please stop and chat with Caroline and Charles in the comments. And join us at JRW in wishing Caroline a huge GET WELL SOON!