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Bess Crawford Mysteries

Recently I enjoyed reading A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd.  A Bess Crawford mystery set in England during World War I, the novel is part of a series featuring Crawford, a battlefield nurse and sometime investigator. 

Library Journal reviewed the book:

“Todd brings World War I England and France to life with an intriguing plot and an intrepid sleuth. A Bitter Truth is recommended for all British wartime mystery aficionados who like plucky investigators similar to Maisie Dobbs.

At the outset of Todd’s outstanding third Bess Crawford mystery (after 2010’s An Impartial Witness), Bess returns to London in December 1917 on leave from her nursing work in France to find an attractive, well-bred woman of about 25 huddled in the doorway of her lodging house. The tearful woman, who reluctantly gives her name as Lydia, accepts Bess’s invitation to come inside. Lydia later reveals that she’s fled to London from Sussex after her husband struck her in the face. The tenderhearted Bess agrees to accompany Lydia back home so she can provide moral support. On arrival in Sussex, Bess finds herself in the midst of a family devastated by untimely death and hiding poisonous secrets. When a murder occurs, the local police suspect Bess is involved. The Todd plausibly inserts the heroine yet again into a criminal investigation, besides providing a usual depth of characterization.”

Charles Todd is the joint pseudonym for the mother-and-son writing team of Charles Todd and Caroline Todd, pseudonyms of David Todd Watjen and Caroline L.T. Watjen. The two share a fondness for English authors, and Charles grew up listening to bedtime stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Shakespeare, which his mother read to him. There is a history of storytelling in their family, with both authors having enjoyed hearing their fathers and grandfathers tell stories of their own childhoods. One grandmother shared ghost stories, while a great-uncle recounted his experiences as a flyer in World War II. They each cite the influence of childhood reading for their interest in writing, and especially their interest in mysteries. In an interview, Charles Todd remarked: “I can’t remember not having a library card. Or my parents not reading to me. Or not finding stacks of books on every imaginable subject all over the house. And I liked the puzzle of a mystery--I liked figuring out why it worked.”

Titles in the Bess Crawford Series:

A Duty to the Dead (Aug. 2009)
An Impartial Witness (Aug. 2011)
A Bitter Truth (May 2012)
An Unmarked Grave (June 2012)

The Todds also write the Ian Rutledge series. From a Library Journal review of Wings of Fire (1998):

“Called to Cornwall, Scotland Yard’s Inspector Ian Rutledge investigates three suspicious deaths in the same prominent family. First, a crippled woman and her half-brother apparently commit suicide; then, another half-brother dies in an accidental fall. Not only does Rutledge’s search expose well-hidden family skeletons and motives for murder, it also provides ample opportunity for input from the inner voice he has heard since returning from the trenches of World War I. Splendid imagery, in-depth characterization, and glimpses of more than one wounded psyche: an excellent historical mystery for all collections.”

Visit charlestodd.com to view a timeline of the Inspector Ian Rutledge series set during the post war years from June 1919 to June 1920.

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