An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd – Book Review

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins

This is the second book in the Bess Crawford series. I previously reviewed the first book, A Duty to the Dead.

Transporting injured troops back to England is one way to temporarily escape some of the horrors of war, although bringing home grievously injured men has horrors of its own, particularly when the men have been disfigured. One such soldier is Meriwether Evanson. Horribly burned in a plane crash, Meriwether is on suicide watch, but seems to be buoyed by the thought of his wife, whose picture he keeps pinned to his uniform. After looking at Marjorie Evanson’s picture pinned to Meriwether’s coat for days, Bess Crawford has her face basically memorized and cannot fail to recognize the woman when she runs into her at the train station, even though Marjorie is sobbing and pleading with a man who seems completely uninterested. Bess is headed back to France and war, but before long the news reaches her that Marjorie was murdered later that same day, and Meriwether killed himself with grief. Having witnessed the teary scene at the train station, Bess feels involved, and is determined to find out who murdered Marjorie.

The Bess Crawford series is really shaping up to be a good one. In An Impartial Witness, we once again find Bess pulled into a situation in which she never intended to find herself. After A Duty to the Dead, it is not surprising that Bess can’t bear to sit on the sidelines and simply trust that everything will get sorted out. She shows herself to be strong and smart, if occasionally not as cognizant as danger to herself as she should be. The highlight of An Impartial Witness, though, may be Bess’s back and forth relationship with Simon, her father’s right hand man. Their relationship is one of mutual respect, and his support for her intelligence and skills is particularly attractive considering the book is set in 1917. He is protective of Bess without being smothering or infantalizing her. I have to say, I really, really hope there’s a romantic relationship between them in the future, because I adore their interactions  and am not sure that many other men would fully accept and support the strong woman Bess is.

If I wasn’t participating in Book Club Girl’s Book Time with Bess readalong, I probably would just read the rest of this series straight through, but I’m trying to hold off so I can participate in the discussions more fully.  Still, I’m looking forward immensely to the third book, A Bitter Truth, and the soon-to-be-released fourth book, An Unmarked Grave. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Contest run by publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd – Book Review

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd
Published by Harper Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins

This is the first book in the Bess Crawford series.

As a nurse aboard a WWI hospital ship, Bess Crawford feels a duty towards her patients. Some more than others, of course. Arthur Graham was one such patient. Well loved not only by Bess, but by the entire hospital staff, Arthur was a man Bess could have pictured herself marrying – had only he survived. But even now that he is dead, Bess still feels that she must respect his final wishes and deliver a cryptic message to Arthur’s brother Jonathan, “Tell my brother Jonathan I lied. I did it for mother’s sake, but it must be set right.” While delivering the message to the Grahams in Kent, Bess finds herself drawn first into two medical emergencies and then into the mystery of an old murder. All may not be as it seems at the Graham’s estate.

In many ways, it is difficult not to draw comparisons between the Bess Crawford and Maisie Dobbs series. Both involve women who are or were WWI nurses, and both involve the solving of mysteries. Thus far, at least, Bess stumbles into her mysteries, instead of approaching them deliberately as Maisie does. In many ways, Bess is also more self-assured. Unlike Maisie she was born into the life of relative privilege and status she currently enjoys, and thus is not forced to work through the slightly angsty class mobility issues that Maisie has.

It is, of course, not fair to A Duty to the Dead to only compare it to another series, though, it must stand on its own. It does this quite well, really. The story moves along believably; it would have been easy for Bess’s entry into the Graham family mystery to come off feeling contrived, but the events of the plot flow naturally and with the character traits that Todd establishes for Bess, it would have been less believable had she not gotten involved. The first books in long-running series occasionally suffer from too much desire on the part of the author to create the character and setting (I refer partly to Maisie Dobbs, the first book in the series of the same name, which almost failed to compel me to move ahead in a series I now adore), but Todd manages to work the setting and character development into the plot so that the story isn’t bogged down in the service of the following books.

All in all, a strong and intriguing start to a new-to-me series. I can’t wait to read the next one! Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Personal copy.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2012