A Question of Honor (Bess Crawford Series #5)

A Question of Honor (Bess Crawford Series #5)

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by Charles Todd

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In the latest mystery from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd, World War I nurse and amateur sleuth Bess Crawford investigates an old murder that occurred during her childhood in India, a search for the truth that will transform her and leave her pondering a troubling question: How can facts lie?

Bess Crawford enjoyed a wondrous childhood

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In the latest mystery from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd, World War I nurse and amateur sleuth Bess Crawford investigates an old murder that occurred during her childhood in India, a search for the truth that will transform her and leave her pondering a troubling question: How can facts lie?

Bess Crawford enjoyed a wondrous childhood in India, where her father, a colonel in the British Army, was stationed on the Northwest Frontier. But an unforgettable incident darkened that happy time. In 1908, Colonel Crawford's regiment discovered that it had a murderer in its ranks, an officer who killed five people in India and England yet was never brought to trial. In the eyes of many of these soldiers, men defined by honor and duty, the crime was a stain on the regiment's reputation and on the good name of Bess's father, the Colonel Sahib, who had trained the killer.

A decade later, tending to the wounded on the battlefields of France during World War I, Bess learns from a dying Indian sergeant that the supposed murderer, Lieutenant Wade, is alive—and serving at the Front. Bess cannot believe the shocking news. According to reliable reports, Wade's body had been seen deep in the Khyber Pass, where he had died trying to reach Afghanistan. Soon, though, her mind is racing. How had he escaped from India? What had driven a good man to murder in cold blood?

Wanting answers, she uses her leave to investigate. In the village where the first three killings took place, she discovers that the locals are certain that the British soldier was innocent. Yet the present owner of the house where the crime was committed believes otherwise, and is convinced that Bess's father helped Wade flee. To settle the matter once and for all, Bess sets out to find Wade and let the courts decide.

But when she stumbles on the horrific truth, something that even the famous writer Rudyard Kipling had kept secret all his life, she is shaken to her very core. The facts will damn Wade even as they reveal a brutal reality, a reality that could have been her own fate.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Todd (the pseudonym of a mother-and-son writing team) once again demonstrates his talent at depicting the horrors of war in his excellent fifth mystery featuring English nurse Bess Crawford (after 2012’s An Unmarked Grave). As the carnage of WWI finally nears its end, Bess finds herself investigating murders committed a decade earlier on two different continents. In 1908, Bess was living in India with her parents when a member of her father’s regiment, Lt. Thomas Wade, came under suspicion of killing his parents. But before he could be apprehended, Wade vanished near the Khyber Pass. Although no body was recovered, he was presumed dead. While Bess is serving in France in 1918, the last words of a dying soldier persuade her that Wade might have survived. Her innate curiosity and knowledge of how traumatizing the scandal was to her father lead her to again play sleuth. In the process, she also examines the triple murder of an entire family that Wade may have committed in England before leaving for India. The extremely clever plot builds to a satisfying resolution. Agent: Jane Chelius, Jane Chelius Literary Agency. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
Ten years after an army officer apparently killed five people, deserted his regiment and died in Afghanistan, he's back to bedevil nursing sister Bess Crawford, and vice versa. Asked to accompany Lt. William Standish's wife, Mary, home from India after the death of her 6-year-old daughter, Alice, in 1908, Lt. Thomas Wade not only agrees but wins praise from all hands for his kindness, sensitivity and consideration. So it's all the more shocking to hear that during his brief stay in England, he allegedly killed an entire family in Hampshire and then murdered his parents in cold blood before returning to the regiment commanded by Bess's father, Col. Richard Crawford. What's even more astonishing is that as the Great War limps on long after Wade's body has been spotted deep in the Khyber Pass, Subedar Shanti Gupta tells Bess just before he dies of his wounds in France that he's spotted Wade alive and serving in His Majesty's troops. Bess' mission is clear. In order to clear her father's regiment of the stain of Wade's desertion, she needs to find Wade under whatever false name he's using. In order to expunge the stain of his murders, she needs to satisfy herself whether he really killed Henry and Isabella Caswell and their daughter Gwendoline. All this while Bess is still on active duty, dealing with the horrific wounds inflicted by the war. This time around, however, Todd (An Unmarked Grave, 2012, etc.) keeps the front at a greater distance than usual, passing lightly over much of Bess' service. The war's relation to the mystery is equally discontinuous, so that anecdotes of Bess' nursing provide the same sort of background as the heroine's domestic life or romantic entanglements in less-fraught whodunits. Despite some loose threads unsatisfyingly tied up, the mystery is as strong as any Bess has confronted.
Library Journal
When Bess learns that an earlier crime committed in India involves her father, she must grapple with disturbing truths. Number five in this series (after the award-winning An Unmarked Grave) for the mother/son writing duo.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Bess Crawford Series, #5
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

A Question of Honor

By Charles Todd

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Charles Todd
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-223715-6

Chapter One
England, Summer 1918
The afternoon sun was warm on my face as I stepped out
the door of Rudyard Kipling's house in East Sussex. Simon Bran-
don, his expression unreadable, followed me, pulling the door shut
behind him.
I wasn't sure why he wasn't his usual steady self.
As we turned to walk together around the house, toward the
back lawns and the stream and water meadows beyond, I said, refer-
ring to our host, “He's still grieving. Poor man.”
As soon as war broke out in 1914, Rudyard Kipling had urged his
only son to join the Army. Jack had been killed at Loos barely a year
later. His body had never been recovered. He'd been eighteen, still a
“I remember Jack,” I went on. “Once or twice he visited Melinda
when I was there.”
“You can't find a house in England that isn't grieving. We've lost
a generation, Bess. The best we have.”
I knew that all too well. I'd watched so many men die.
“Mr. Kipling is going to be on the Graves Commission. It's fit-
ting, don't you think?”

Charles Todd
“He'll know what words to put on the monuments,” Simon an-
swered. “That will matter.”
Melinda Crawford had asked Simon to drive her down to Bate-
man's to call on Mr. Kipling. Worried about him, she made a point
of regular visits. But this time her driver was suffering from a bout
of malaria. Just home from France on a brief leave, I'd decided to
come with them. I hadn't been to Kent in some time—it was where
Melinda lived—and on the long drive down to East Sussex we'd en-
joyed each other's company.
As we rounded the house and walked on to the gardens Simon
commented, as if it had been on his mind most of the day, “She's
talking about returning to India.” I didn't need to ask who she was.
“Once the war is over. She wants me to take her there.”
Surprised, I stopped, staring down at the reflection of the
summer sky in the quiet surface of the pools. “Is that a good idea?
It's such a long journey at her age.”
Simon was looking back at the house. “I don't know.” I'd always
had a feeling that Simon didn't want to return there. If anyone could
persuade him, it was Melinda.
Her father, like mine, had been an officer in the Army, and she
had grown up in India, just as I had, although of course decades
apart. Indeed she had been something of a heroine as a child during
the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857, for she and her mother had been
caught in the dreadful Siege of Lucknow. She had married another
officer stationed out there and later lost him to cholera. Afterward,
alone but for her Indian servants, she'd traveled the world while she
I turned to look too, thinking as I had on other visits how really
beautiful the Kipling house was. Someone moved past one of the
upstairs windows, and I waved.
Mr. Kipling had told Melinda that it was love at first sight when
he came to Bateman's. Born in India of British parents, he'd finally
settled in England. The house couldn't be more different from those

A Question of Honor
in Bombay or Delhi or even Simla. Like Melinda Crawford, he'd put
down roots in this cooler climate, but a part of his heart was still in
the East. It showed most clearly in his writing.
“Perhaps she wants to visit her husband's grave again,” I sug-
gested as we walked on. “Surely most of the people she knew are
long since dead as well.”
“It's possible.”
I watched fluffy summer clouds drifting across the pool, almost
as real as the ones in the sky above us. Then we walked on in a
companionable silence, taking the path through the copse that led
toward the high grass of the meadow. The hem of my skirt caught
on the dry stalk of a spring wildflower, and Simon bent to set it free.
“Do you want to go back?” I asked him, curious. “To India, I
“I don't know,” he said again.
We paused on the bridge over the stream, looking down at the
slow-moving water below. The sound of it passing over the stones in
the streambed was a soothing murmur. But I could sense the ten-
sion in the man beside me.
I didn't press. Whatever Simon had left behind in India, he had
never spoken to me about it. I wondered sometimes if my mother
knew. Simon was devoted to her, and I'd always had a feeling that
something had happened to him in India before my father's regi-
ment had been sent home from that last posting. It would explain
why he was in her debt.
At the time, I'd been considered too young to be included in
family secrets, but had Melinda known? Was that why she wished to
return to India? For Simon's sake—as well as her own?
Changing the subject, I said lightly, “I haven't had a chance to
ask. Are you well enough to return to duty?”
Neither my mother nor I knew what services my father, the
Colonel Sahib, and Simon Brandon performed for the Army. Expe-
rienced men, both of them, they would disappear for a day or a week

Charles Todd
without explanation. It often had to do with training and some-
times went well beyond training. I was certain that Simon had gone
behind enemy lines more than once, but I'd said nothing to anyone
about that.
Simon smiled. “I've been told I'm sound as a bell.”
I was glad for his sake, but I was also worried. The war was cer-
tain to end before very long—the arrival of the American forces
under General Pershing was helping turn the tide at last—but until
it did, Simon would be in the thick

Excerpted from A Question of Honor by Charles Todd. Copyright © 2013 Charles Todd. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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