A Duty to the Dead : A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd

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Bess Crawford is a young nurse serving on the hospital ship “Britannic” when it hits a mine and sinks in the ocean near Turkey during the First World War.  While she survives, with only a broken arm, it’s enough to send her back home to England to recuperate and to pass on a message given to her by a dying soldier of whom she was very fond.  The message consists of “Tell Jonathan I lied. I did it for Mother’s sake. But it has to be set right.”  Dutifully, Bess heads to Kent to fulfill her duty and stumbles into a mystery that may be more dangerous that the war.

Bess is the kind of character you’d like to get to know, or someone you’d like to be,  she’s smart and capable and willing to take risks when she sees something needs to be done.  While she’s a strong woman,  the writer’s have resisted making her too modern, so her behaviour conforms to her time period.

Charles Todd is the pseudoymn of the writing team of Charles Todd and his mother, Caroline who also write the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries.  The Rutledge mysteries are set following the First World War while the Bess Crawford series is setting during the actual war.  I’ve always loved this period, especially as mysteries and the Todd’s do a brilliant job capturing the mood of a country at war and the lives of the ordinary population who struggle to make sense of something that is completely senseless.

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