Bestselling author Charles Todd has earned a special place among mystery's elite writers with his acclaimed series featuring Scotland Yard Inspector Ian Rutledge, a former soldier seeking to lay to rest the demons of his past in the aftermath of World War I. But that past bleeds into the present in a complex murder case that calls into question his own honor...and the crimes committed in the name of God, country, and righteous vengeance. A Fearsome Doubt In 1912 Ian Rutledge watched as a man was condemned to hang for the murders of elderly women. Rutledge helped gather the evidence that sent Ben Shaw to the gallows. And when justice was done, Rutledge closed the door on the case. But Shaw was not easily forgotten. Now, seven years later, that grim trial returns in the form of Ben Shaw's widow Nell, bringing Rutledge evidence she is convinced will prove her husband's innocence. It's a belief fraught with peril, threatening both Rutledge's professional stature and his faith in his judgment.
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July 28, 2003
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Excerpt from A Fearsome Doubt (Inspector Ian Rutledge Series: #6) by Charles Todd
The prisoner was standing in the dock, face strained, eyes on the foreman of the jury. His fingers gripped the wooden railing, white-knuckled, as he tried to hear the portly, gray-haired man in the jurors' box reading the verdict. But the roaring in his ears as his heart pounded hard enough to suffocate him seemed to shut out the words. He swallowed hard, then leaned forward a little, concentrating on the juror's lips.
"--guilty on all charges--"
The foreman's voice rose on the last four words, as if he found them distasteful, his glance furtively flicking toward the accused and away again. A greengrocer, he was not sympathetic to theft and murder.
The prisoner's face swung toward the judge as he lifted the black silk square and settled it neatly on his heavy white wig, prepared to pass sentence.
". . . taken from this place . . . hung by the neck . . ."
The prisoner blanched, and turned in anguish toward his wife, seated in the gallery watching, her gloved hands clenched tightly in her lap.
But she offered no comfort, staring straight ahead. Her face was closed and empty. He couldn't look away. His sister, on the far side of his wife, was weeping into her handkerchief, hunched into her grief, but he hardly noticed. It was his wife's coldness that riveted him.
He thought, "She believes it now--"
Inspector Ian Rutledge, the young officer from the Yard whose evidence had all but placed the rope around Ben Shaw's throat, turned away and quietly left the courtroom.
He did not enjoy sending any man to his death. Even this one, whose crimes had shocked London. At such a time he was always mindful of his father, a solicitor, who had held strong views on the subject of hanging.
"I don't believe in it. Still, the dead had no choice in their dying, did they The murderer did. It's on his own head, what becomes of him. He knew from the start what justice would be meted out to him. But he always expects to avoid it, doesn't he There's an arrogance in that which disturbs me more than anything else--"
Ben Shaw hadn't been arrogant. Murder hadn't set well on his conscience. Hanging might come as a relief, an end to nightmares. Who could say
Certainly not Rutledge himself--he had never taken a life. Would that alter his view of murder, would it in any way change his ability to understand a crime, or his attitude toward the killer He thought not. It was the victim who had always called out to him, the voiceless dead, so often forgotten in the tumultuous courtroom battle of guilt versus innocence.
It was said that Justice prevented Anarchy. Law established Order.
Cold comfort to the elderly women Ben Shaw had strangled in their beds.
Still, the silenced victims had not gone unheard in this courtroom. .