Monday, June 11, 2012

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

This weekend I took a break from reading Victorian and whizzed through the second book of this series featuring amateur sleuth and WWI nurse, Bess Crawford. I read the first A Duty to the Dead earlier this year.

It is the summer of 1917 and once again Bess has returned to England from the trenches of France with a group of severely wounded men, including a pilot who clings to a photo of his wife. While passing through a London train station, Bess notices a woman bidding an emotional farewell to an officer. Then she realizes that it is the woman in the photo, but the man is not her husband.
Back in France, Bess learns that later on that same day ,the woman had been murdered. Granted leave to talk to Scotland Yard, Bess's natural curiosity soon has her caught up in the hunt for a killer.

Easy, relaxing reading with a mystery that has a sad story at its heart and enough twists to keep this reader's attention. 
The story follows Bess as she moves between France and England - I did think she seems able to get leave from her duties a bit too easily!

I've always appreciated the ability the American mother/son author duo has in creating a wonderfully atmospheric English background and An Impartial Witness is no exception. Whether it's the damp, foggy streets of a London or a village fete I can imagine the surroundings and enjoy the glimpse of British life of the era.
So I was a little disappointed that the parts set in France didn't have the same effect and left me feeling detached from, what I imagine,  the horrors of a WWI field hospital were really like. And I'm sure Bess's experiences would result in more than her feeling 'a bit tired.'

Minor quibbles - I still liked it enough to know I'll read the next in the series.


  1. I've enjoyed these as well, and I'm in the line at the library for the new one. One of continuing mysteries for me is her relationship with Simon. Have you read their other series? I understand they are darker stories.

    1. I've read three of the Inspector Rutledge series which at this point I like better. They are darker stories with more focus on police investigation.