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A Duty to the Dead
Bess Crawford # 1

by Charles Todd

    In keeping with her family's tradition (her father is a colonel in the British Army) Bess Crawford volunteers as a nurse at the outbreak of the World War. She has served at the battlefront and is currently assigned to the hospital ship Britannic. One of her patients, Lt. Arthur Graham, for whom she has developed strong feelings, in his dying moments has her promise to deliver a cryptic message to his brother, Jonathan, at his home in Kent.

In the press of her duties she doesn't deliver the message. On one of its trips Britannic is sunk and Bess is injured. While convalescing in England Bess is tormented because she has put off delivering the message. Her brush with death and the urging of her father prompt her to travel to Kent to deliver the message to one of Arthur's three brothers. But the family fails to respond to the message. While Bess becomes enmeshed in the family's affairs she learns that Arthur's half brother Peregrine has been confined in an asylum for a girl's murder years ago and wonders whether Arthur's cryptic message may refer to Peregrine. She suspects that the truth of the murder had been suppressed. When Peregrine escapes from the asylum determined to learn the truth, Bess aligns herself with him and together they begin to probe the past.

Charles Todd (in reality mother and son Caroline and Charles Todd, writing as a team) have put aside their excellent character, Detective Ian Rutledge, to introduce us to a new and welcome addition to their laurels. Bess is a plucky, intelligent, compassionate, resourceful heroine. The sinking of the Britannic and rescue is very graphic. The author explores the stress of battle, showing the horrors of war through the eyes of Bess. The writing offers a realistic depiction of the era and the people who lived through the horrors of war, and shows how the war changed Great Britain by breaking down the class system.

I look forward to more adventures of Bess Crawford.

Highly recommended.

Reviews of other titles in this series

Duty to the Dead, #1  [review]
Impartial Witness, #2  [review]
Bitter Truth, #3   [review 1] [review 2]
An Unmarked Grave, #4
A Question of Honor #5  [review]
An Unwilling Accomplice #6  [review]
A Pattern of Lies #7 [review]
The Shattered Tree # 8 [review]

The Book

William Morrow / Harper Collins
August 25, 2009
9780061791765 / 0061791768
Mystery / England 1916, World War I

The Reviewer

Barbara Buhrer
Reviewed 2009
© 2009