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Children's Book Reading Challenge...For Adults!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

WWI Mystery Series Intrigues With Compelling Characters, Atmospheric Setting

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After being at the Front for so long, nurse Bess Crawford should welcome an easy week's journey aboard the hospital ship Britannica.  With no wounded soldiers on board, she's free to rest, enjoy the fresh sea air and catch up on her letter writing.  All of which equal a very boring journey, indeed.  As the ship steams toward Greece, Bess is lounging on deck, searching for something—anything—interesting to write home about, when an explosion knocks her off her feet.  Britannic plunges into the sea and Bess, who has just narrowly escaped her death, is sent home to England to recover from her injuries.

Unable to sit still for long, especially not knowing when next she'll have leave, Bess decides to make efficient use of her time at home.  She's waited long enough to fulfill Arthur Graham's dying wish; it's high time she kept her promise to deliver a message to his family.  Bess can't make heads or tails of the cryptic lines—Tell Jonathan I lied.  I did it for Mother's sake.  But it has to be set right.—she's only hoping it means something to the Graham Family.

And it does.  At least Bess thinks it does.  The more time she spends with the Grahams, the less she understands them.  It's obvious, though, that they're hiding something, a family secret so devastating that it haunted Arthur until his dying day.  Bess knows she shouldn't stick her nose in someone else's tragedy, but she can't help herself.  Before she knows it, she's so entangled in the doings of the Graham Family that she can't break away.  Even though a murderer is on the loose.  Even though she's next on his/her list.  The no-nonsense Bess Crawford will not fail to do her duty to the dead, even if it kills her.  And it just might.  

A Duty to the Dead is the first book in the Bess Crawford mystery series by mother-son writing team, Charles Todd.  I don't read a lot of historical mysteries, but this one intrigued me with its compelling characters, atmospheric setting, and absorbing plot.  It didn't have the most original of premises, true, and yet, the story sucked me right in.  Bess' forthright personality does get a little annoying—besides that, though, I enjoyed this one a great deal.  It's clean, it's interesting and, most of all, it kept me entertained.  You can't go wrong with a series that does that, now can you?  

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Bess Crawford series, including An Impartial Witness; A Bitter Truth; and An Unmarked Grave; Also reminds me of the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for mild language (no F-bombs) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find 


  1. I only skimmed your review because I haven't read it yet -- but was thinking about picking it for as LDS book club -- suitable? Discussion worthy?? any thoughts?

    1. It's definitely clean enough for an LDS audience. There's a little bit of mild language and some violence, but that's it. It would be a difficult one to discuss, though, because really, it's just a murder mystery. No big discussion points come to mind, you know?

    2. Good to know!! Thanks...will think of something else to suggest for my pick in July. Still plan to read it though.

  2. Sounds refreshing - no disturbing sex acts, gore or tough talk. Not that I dislike reading that stuff - I love a good naughty and messy romp every now and then. But I like the mystery without all the flashy parts too sometimes. Thanks for sharing your find.


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