Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

At the outbreak of WWI, independent-minded Bess Crawford follows in her officer father's footsteps and volunteers for duty. She serves in the nursing corps and goes from the battlefields of France to the doomed hospital ship Britannic. On one voyage she grows fond of the young, gravely wounded Lieutenant Arthur Graham and promises to deliver a message to his brother after his death.

But when Bess arrives at the Graham house in Kent, Jonathan Graham listens to his brother's last wishes with surprising indifference. Unsettled by this, Bess is about to take her leave when sudden tragedy envelops her. She quickly discovers that fulfilling this duty to the dead has trust her into a maelstrom of intrigue and murder that will endanger her own life and test her courage as not even war has.

A Duty to the Dead is the first in the series featuring Bess Crawford by the American mother/son duo who write as Charles Todd. I've enjoyed several of the Ian Rutledge series and am always surprised at how well they create such an evocative English atmosphere.

Bess Crawford is one of the new type of women who would emerge after WWI. She's practical and independent and perfectly capable of looking after herself. She becomes involved in the mystery surrounding Arthur Graham's brother, not because she has any desire to be a sleuth but from a natural curiosity and a strong  dislike of injustice.

The story begins with the sinking of the Britannic which leaves Bess with a broken arm, symbolic of so much  that has been broken, physically , mentally and emotionally. In the quiet Kentish village she visits, the occupants mourn the fathers and sons who will never return and struggle to cope with the maimed and shell-shocked victims who have come back. The vicar ....
"...mended his church because he couldn't mend the broken lives and minds brought to him for comfort."
 I really liked the historical background and the many secondary characters who added depth and interest to the story. The mystery had enough twists to hold my attention - easy, pleasant reading and I enjoyed it.


  1. I just picked this one up from the library. I am looking forward to reading it!