Customer Reviews for

A Duty to the Dead (Bess Crawford Series #1)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

13 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

Charles Todd has started another winning historical mystery series.

In 1916, British army nurse Bess Crawford is injured when the hospital ship she is on is hit. However while she recovers she promised dying soldier Arthur Graham she would deliver his last words to his brother Jonathan that he lied for their mother's sake.

Believi...
In 1916, British army nurse Bess Crawford is injured when the hospital ship she is on is hit. However while she recovers she promised dying soldier Arthur Graham she would deliver his last words to his brother Jonathan that he lied for their mother's sake.

Believing strongly she owes A DUTY TO THE DEAD, Bess heads to Kent to transmit the message. She learns that another brother of Arthur, Peregrine, has been locked up in an asylum since he was a young teen for murdering the housemaid; he is also dying from pneumonia and desperately needs expert nursing; Bess agrees to provide it and after spending some time with her new patient concludes he is sane though he has selective amnesia not recalling the tragedy that condemned him. As she tends to Peregrine, another patient of hers commits suicide, but something about the death disturbs Bess. When Peregrine recovers much of his health, he flees taking Bess with him as he tries to regain his lost memory of what happened to Lily. Bess further learns of other suspicious deaths since Peregrine was locked away that makes her suspect other family members including her favorite patient, the late Arthur.

Although Inspector Rutledge takes a needed rest, fans will enjoy this strong WWI village amateur sleuth starring a spunky lead character, reminiscent of Winspear's Maisie Dobbs early years, caught in the middle of a family drama. The story line brings out the horrors of war through Bess' ailing and dying patients while the whodunit is cleverly devised so the audience and the nurse will keep guessing until the climax. Charles Todd has started another winning historical mystery series.

Harriet Klausner

posted by harstan on August 15, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Mother/son writing team debut new character

I find it odd that a mother/son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States have chosen to tell stories about England in the early 1900s, however they seem to make it work. Writing under the pen name Charles Todd, this duo has a bestselling series about...
I find it odd that a mother/son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States have chosen to tell stories about England in the early 1900s, however they seem to make it work. Writing under the pen name Charles Todd, this duo has a bestselling series about Ian Rutledge and is venturing out with a new character, war nurse Bess Crawford in "A Duty to the Dead."
Bess is on active duty during WWI on a hospital ship when a dying soldier makes her promise to take a message back to his family, "Tell Jonathan that I lied. I did it for Mother's sake. But it has to be set right," he tells her.
Soon after, the ship she is on is sunk by a mine and Bess makes it out alive, although suffering from a broken arm. During her convalescence she decides she needs to deliver the dying soldier's message to its rightful recipient. Bess's father, a highly decorated retired soldier, worries about her injuries, as well as her wanting to carry out her new mission. Against her father's wishes, Bess travels by train to the town where the family lives, then is taken by horse drawn carriage to their home.
Upon arriving, she is taken directly to her room, where she retires for the evening. The next day she meets the dead soldier's mother as well as two of his three brothers. She decides to wait until she can speak with his brother Jonathan privately to deliver the message. While waiting for the appropriate moment, she finds much time to roam around the town and meet various townfolk. She loves to talk, and tries to gather background on the soldier's family as she meets people. She also gets dragged into a situation where the local doctor is treating a wounded soldier who has returned home and is suffering from shell shock.
When Bess finally is able to deliver her message, Jonathan acts like he has no idea what it means. Bess is disappointed to have gone through all this for naught, and decides to leave the following day. However, as fate would have it, the third brother falls sick and is sent home from the mental asylum where he had been institutionalized since childhood, in order to die in his home. Bess ends up staying on to make sure he dies comfortably.
Bess ends up nursing this brother back to health, beyond anyone's expectations, and when he is lucid he tells her things that pique her curiosity and make her decide to begin an investigation into what the dying soldier really meant with his message.
An extremely slow-starting story, this turned out to be worth the read. I would hope that in further installations of this character, the author(s) would get to the point of the story much more quickly, as the real mystery of this book didn't reveal itself until over halfway through.

posted by mandersj on April 12, 2010

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Charles Todd has started another winning historical mystery series.

    In 1916, British army nurse Bess Crawford is injured when the hospital ship she is on is hit. However while she recovers she promised dying soldier Arthur Graham she would deliver his last words to his brother Jonathan that he lied for their mother's sake.

    Believing strongly she owes A DUTY TO THE DEAD, Bess heads to Kent to transmit the message. She learns that another brother of Arthur, Peregrine, has been locked up in an asylum since he was a young teen for murdering the housemaid; he is also dying from pneumonia and desperately needs expert nursing; Bess agrees to provide it and after spending some time with her new patient concludes he is sane though he has selective amnesia not recalling the tragedy that condemned him. As she tends to Peregrine, another patient of hers commits suicide, but something about the death disturbs Bess. When Peregrine recovers much of his health, he flees taking Bess with him as he tries to regain his lost memory of what happened to Lily. Bess further learns of other suspicious deaths since Peregrine was locked away that makes her suspect other family members including her favorite patient, the late Arthur.

    Although Inspector Rutledge takes a needed rest, fans will enjoy this strong WWI village amateur sleuth starring a spunky lead character, reminiscent of Winspear's Maisie Dobbs early years, caught in the middle of a family drama. The story line brings out the horrors of war through Bess' ailing and dying patients while the whodunit is cleverly devised so the audience and the nurse will keep guessing until the climax. Charles Todd has started another winning historical mystery series.

    Harriet Klausner

    13 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2013

    This is a new author for me, and I enjoyed it very much.  The st

    This is a new author for me, and I enjoyed it very much.  The story line left you guessing, I was particularly interested
    in how PTSD was treated in that era.  The main character, Bess, did not let up when obstacles got in 
    the way of finding out the truth.  I look forward to more from this author.  You will not be disappointed.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2013

    A must read...

    A story based on time period of the Great War, it was very descriptive of the time. My interest was kept from beginning to end.
    You can see and feel how it was to live during that time frame. What was expected of women of the time. Bess Crawford is an independent woman who can think on her feet and solve mysteries. I immediately bought the next two in the series and am awaiting impatient;y for the fourth. Very nice read.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2013

    Suspense till the end

    Bess Crawford is that kick-butt relative you wish you had in your family tree. Right off the bat the author shows that Bess is not one to be underestimated. The author also shows how soldiers were treated back then with PTSD. But Bess was such a compelling character, never taking anything at face value and then just doing whatever the heck she was going to do anyway. Whether it was questioning a suicide as murder or helping an escaped mental patient she's going to do what she wants. Especially when she has her father's extremely loyal friend Simon Brandon always willing to protect her. (Though come on he is totally in love with her she's just really slow on the uptake). But I totally recommend this book and the rest of the series to anyone.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2012

    A good historical mystery

    I enjoyed reading this book. Takes you back to World War 1.
    There is some suspense especially at the end of the book. The
    lead character Bess is likeable and believable. I definately want
    to read the next book in this series.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2010

    A Mystery in line with Massie Dobbs series

    I have been a devoted reader of the Massie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. A Duty to the Dead is of the same genre. The heroine Bess Crawford is very likable. Hopefully there will be more in this series. The book held me from the beginning to the end. Well written. Very unusual that a mother and son would write such an engaging book.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2013

    Good story.

    I had a little bit of a hard time getting into this book. Once I did, I found myself thinking of the characters when I wasn`reading. This was a new author for me. I will purchase another one of his books.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 12, 2010

    Mother/son writing team debut new character

    I find it odd that a mother/son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States have chosen to tell stories about England in the early 1900s, however they seem to make it work. Writing under the pen name Charles Todd, this duo has a bestselling series about Ian Rutledge and is venturing out with a new character, war nurse Bess Crawford in "A Duty to the Dead."
    Bess is on active duty during WWI on a hospital ship when a dying soldier makes her promise to take a message back to his family, "Tell Jonathan that I lied. I did it for Mother's sake. But it has to be set right," he tells her.
    Soon after, the ship she is on is sunk by a mine and Bess makes it out alive, although suffering from a broken arm. During her convalescence she decides she needs to deliver the dying soldier's message to its rightful recipient. Bess's father, a highly decorated retired soldier, worries about her injuries, as well as her wanting to carry out her new mission. Against her father's wishes, Bess travels by train to the town where the family lives, then is taken by horse drawn carriage to their home.
    Upon arriving, she is taken directly to her room, where she retires for the evening. The next day she meets the dead soldier's mother as well as two of his three brothers. She decides to wait until she can speak with his brother Jonathan privately to deliver the message. While waiting for the appropriate moment, she finds much time to roam around the town and meet various townfolk. She loves to talk, and tries to gather background on the soldier's family as she meets people. She also gets dragged into a situation where the local doctor is treating a wounded soldier who has returned home and is suffering from shell shock.
    When Bess finally is able to deliver her message, Jonathan acts like he has no idea what it means. Bess is disappointed to have gone through all this for naught, and decides to leave the following day. However, as fate would have it, the third brother falls sick and is sent home from the mental asylum where he had been institutionalized since childhood, in order to die in his home. Bess ends up staying on to make sure he dies comfortably.
    Bess ends up nursing this brother back to health, beyond anyone's expectations, and when he is lucid he tells her things that pique her curiosity and make her decide to begin an investigation into what the dying soldier really meant with his message.
    An extremely slow-starting story, this turned out to be worth the read. I would hope that in further installations of this character, the author(s) would get to the point of the story much more quickly, as the real mystery of this book didn't reveal itself until over halfway through.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    Great start to a series.

    If you like a story set in England, read this. Todd incorporates the history of WW2
    with a family that is deceptive and cruel. You will be drawn into this story and won't let go until the end. Then, you will want more.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 5, 2012

    A Duty to the Dead

    I read a lot of books and discovered this writer and Bess Crawford
    series much to my delight. I ordered all the complete series as they
    are very intriguing and suspense right down to the last few pages.
    I highly recommend this book and the rest of the series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2012

    A Duty to the Dead

    Good read. This is my 1st Todd read but not my last. Worth the time. It isn't a Jacqueline Winspear but it does keep you turning the page.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2012

    Really Enjoyed This

    The stories, like the Ian Rutledge series by the same authors, are well written, with sympathetic characters and good plots. These take place during WWI in England. Bess Crawford is a nurse alternately at the front and back in England on leave. One character overlaps in both series. I liked these well enough to be reading my way through them and passing them on to a friend who also loves them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Brilliant

    I don't read a lot of historical fiction and I've never read anything by Charles Todd. After reading A Duty to the Dead, I have to say that I've been missing out. Todd is a brilliant writer. He weaves an old-fashioned mystery around a World War I nurse. Todd does a masterful job of immersing the reader in the characters' world. You will feel like you've stepped out of the 21st century and back into the early 1900s. A truly enjoyable read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2014

    Interesting era, heroine too perfect

    I am a fan of the Ian Rutlege series,but thought Bess was abvery narrowly drawn character. The mystery was drawn out way too long. I kept hoping it would end but she kept at it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2014

    Very enjoyable

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It had a good mystery with some WWI history thrown in. Not too intense or gorey, but a very good story that kept me hooked until the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2014

    dm

    Excellent. Can't wait to read the next one.

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  • Posted May 29, 2014

    Well-written with a compelling lead character.  The mystery kept

    Well-written with a compelling lead character.  The mystery kept me guessing, while the historical settings and behaviors added another level of interest.  I look forward to reading more from this impressive writing team.  

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  • Posted March 28, 2014

    Very Interesting

    Enjoyed reading the first book in this series. Kept you guessing until the end. Good mystery. good history for WWI information.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2014

    This is a marvelous book - the first in a series of 3.

    I loved this book and immediately purchased the next 2 in the series. It takes place during WWI, in France and England, and really makes the war real. We learn so much about how it affects everyday life. Of course it's a mystery......and I couldn't figure out who did it until revealed in the last chapter, always a sign of a good author. This is not a book to skim in a hurry, but one to savor!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2014

    Great book!

    The novel starts with a shipwreck in the middle of World War I, but soon turns the heroine from a hospital ship nurse into a first class sleuth when she finally agrees to deliver a message from a dead soldier. While I was already a fan of the Ian Rutledge series by the author, I now look forward to more from this series.

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