An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford Series #2)
  • An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford Series #2)
  • An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford Series #2)

An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford Series #2)

3.8 67
by Charles Todd

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World War I nurse Bess Crawford, introduced in A Duty to the Dead, returns in an exciting new mystery in which a murder draws her inexorably into the sights of a cunning killer

It is the early summer of 1917. Bess Crawford has returned to England from the trenches of France with a convoy of severely wounded men. One of her

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World War I nurse Bess Crawford, introduced in A Duty to the Dead, returns in an exciting new mystery in which a murder draws her inexorably into the sights of a cunning killer

It is the early summer of 1917. Bess Crawford has returned to England from the trenches of France with a convoy of severely wounded men. One of her patients is a young pilot who has been burned beyond recognition, and who clings to life and the photo of his wife that is pinned to his tunic.

While passing through a London train station, Bess notices a woman bidding an emotional farewell to an officer, her grief heart-wrenching. And then Bess realizes that she seems familiar. In fact, she's the woman in the pilot's photo, but the man she is seeing off is not her husband.

Back on duty in France, Bess discovers a newspaper with a drawing of the woman's face on the front page. Accompanying the drawing is a plea from Scotland Yard seeking information from anyone who has seen her. For it appears that the woman was murdered on the very day Bess encountered her at the station.

Granted leave to speak with Scotland Yard, Bess becomes entangled in the case. Though an arrest is made, she must delve into the depths of her very soul to decide if the police will hang an innocent man or a vicious killer. Exposing the truth is dangerous—and will put her own life on the line.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in the summer of 1917, Todd's excellent second mystery featuring British nurse Bess Crawford (after 2009's A Duty to the Dead) smoothly blends realistic characters with an intricate plot. When Bess accompanies Lt. Meriwether Evanson, a severe burn victim, from the Continent to England, she's surprised to spot the pilot's supposedly devoted wife, Marjorie, crying on another man's shoulder at a train station. After returning to saving lives under German fire in France, Bess is stunned to read in a newspaper that Marjorie has been stabbed to death in London. Soon after, the depressed lieutenant commits suicide by cutting his own throat. Unable to resist involving herself in the murder investigation, Bess seeks to identify Marjorie's unknown companion, the possible killer. In addition to supplying a challenging puzzle, Todd (a mother-son writing team) does a superb job of capturing the feel of the battlefield and the emotional toll taken on those waiting back home for a loved one's return. (Sept.)
Library Journal
To help or not to help? That is the question. Todd's second Bess Crawford mystery (after a Duty to the Dead) opens as Bess arrives in London on approved leave from the battlefield of World War I France. At the train terminal Bess sees Marjorie Evanson, the wife of one of her severely burned patients, sobbing while clutching the arm of an officer who is not her husband. Weeks later Bess reads an advertisement asking for witnesses with information to the murder of Marjorie, which occurred shortly after Bess's sighting. Bess comes forward and begins her own investigation. She discovers that Marjorie led a secret life while her husband was away on the front lines and that someone was desperate enough to kill in order to protect it.Verdict Readers will enjoy Todd's plucky, determined sleuth and a thrilling mystery that proves murders on the home front don't stop just because there's a war. Recommended for historical mystery enthusiasts who like intrepid heroine investigators similar to Maisie Dobbs.—Susan O. Moritz, Montgomery Cty. P.L., MD
Mystery Scene on An Impartial Witness
Romantic Times on An Impartial Witness
“This second book in the Bess Crawford series places this mother-son duo at the top of their plotting game, with intricate twists and plenty of viable suspects. The meticulously realized period detailing is an intrinsic part of a story that is much more than a whodunit.”
Booklist on An Impartial Witness
“A smartly plotted, well-told mystery.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch on An Impartial Witness
“A superb whodunit—just when you think you have it figured out, Todd throws a curve—and a moving evocation of a world at war.”
Strand magazine on An Impartial Witness
“Finely plotted and full of meticulous period detail and deft characterizations, An Impartial Witness testifies to the lasting appeal of historical mystery fiction.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch on An Impartial Witness
“A book rich in atmosphere and dense with plot.”
Washington Times on An Impartial Witness
“Bess Crawford is a strong and likable character.”
New York Times Book Review on An Impartial Witness

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Bess Crawford Series, #2
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Charles Todd is the author of eleven Ian Rutledge mysteries, the first Bess Crawford mystery, and one stand-alone novel. A mother-and-son writing team, they live in Delaware and North Carolina, respectively.

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An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford Series #2) 3.8 out of 5 based on 2 ratings. 67 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1917, British nurse Bess Crawford escorts several severely injured soldiers from the trenches of France back to England. One of her patients, severely burned pilot Lieutenant Meriwether Evanson is unrecognizable as he barely clings to his life; his seemingly only reason to live is the photo of his beloved wife pinned to his garb. Thus she is taken aback at the London train station to see that woman from the picture crying on the shoulder of a man who is not Meriwether. After another deployment in France, Bess is shocked to read in the paper that someone murdered Meriwether's wife by brutally stabbing Marjorie. Already despondent and in excruciating pain, Evanson learns of his beloved spouse's murder and commits suicide. Bess feels a tie to the late pilot so she makes inquiries into whom that officer Marjorie was with when she was weeping at the station and whether that person is her killer. Readers will be fascinated with the second Bess Crawford WWI amateur sleuth tale (see A Duty to the Dead) that deals with the impact of the war in the trenches of France and on the home front. The mystery is fun to follow but Bess' motives for her investigation seems weak at best and what she does as a nurse makes it seem impossible to add a murder inquiry onto her already traumatic job. 1917 life in France and England makes for a vivid and engaging historical mystery. Harriet Klausner
macabr More than 1 year ago
"Early Summer, 1917 "The burn victim, swathed in bandages.was frightful to see, his skin still raw and weeping, his eyes his only recognizable feature. I knew and he knew that in spite of all his doctors could do, it would never be enough. The face he'd once had was gone, and in its place would be something that frightened children and made women flinch..he had a framed photograph of his wife pinned to his tunic, and it was what kept him alive, not our care." Bess Crawford has just escorted more of the wounded and maimed to England from the battlefields of France. She has a few hours in London before having to return to the battle field hospital and all she wants is to sleep. As she walks through the train station, she notices a woman crying inconsolably, a man in uniform standing near her but not comforting her. As Bess walks by, the woman lifts her head and Bess knows, without question that the woman is the wife of Lieutenant Meriwether Evanson, the burn victim. She has seen that picture too often not to be certain of the woman's identity. Bess watches the man board the train without a backward glance. The woman, still crying, hurries from the station. Bess tries to follow her but she disappears into the crowd. Back in France, Bess sees a pen-and-ink drawing of a woman with the caption, "Police Ask for Witnesses - Evanson Murder Still Unsolved." Bess sends a letter to Scotland Yard and is most surprised to be sent back to England for an interview with Inspector Herbert. She might not have seen much but she is the only person to have come forward with any information. Before she returns to France, she decides to visit Lieutenant Evanson; when she arrives at the hospital, she is told that the lieutenant had killed himself six days earlier. He had been despondent since learning of his wife's murder. Bess returns to France and seems to be granted an inordinate amount of leave for a nurse working on the front lines of battle. This allows her to visit many people, new friends and old, so she can find the man with the Wiltshire Regiment badge, whose face she didn't see clearly, at the train station with Marjorie Evanson just before she was killed. The body count rises as more deaths of young officers recuperating near London are reported. Then another woman is attacked in the same manner as Majorie Evanson. Who knew both women well enough to want them dead? I enjoyed this book more than the first Bess Crawford, A DUTY TO THE DEAD. AN IMPARTIAL WITNESS could have had the length shortened a good bit if the authors eliminated some of the characters who make very brief appearances. The authors people the story with army officers but, for most, they give so little detail that it is difficult to find a personality that would make them memorable or help separate one from another. I look forward to other books in the series.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The second is just as good as the first. Will purchase series.
Grammykf More than 1 year ago
Really like this series. This book was a little wavy in that they did seem to know which way to go with it. The fact an innocent sighting would set off the whole mystery is... well not up to their standards, but it set itself right later in the book. If you hang with it the return is good.
BookLoverCT More than 1 year ago
After having read all the Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd, I am now enjoying the Bess Crawford books. The story of Marjorie Evanson's murder, and how it evolved was well told. A real who dun it?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Charles Todd gets you right into the middle of the reality of WWI. You go from the genteel drawing rooms of England to the horrors (but not unduly graphically) of the war in France. A chance sighting at the railroad station makes Bess "an impartial witness", but what comes after begins to strain her impartiality. These are really well developed books. The characters and the locations are fully "fleshed" out. A very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amber1MA More than 1 year ago
...being disappointed by the first book in the series. However, I'm so glad I did! It grabbed me on the first page and kept me intereted right to the end. In fact, when I was forced to put the book down, it was difficult to mentally leave it aside and come back to reality. Do read it! You won't be sorry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoy Bess Crawford and this series in general.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little slow in parts but generally works very well. Sets the scene of WWI in a way that really takes you back to the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like the voice of Charles Todd. I think it's great that there is just a detective story and no unnecessary relationship stuff to hack through to get to the meat of the tale. Well done and I seem to always have a hard time figuring out who the culprit is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a slower paced book, however, I really did enjoy it. I plan to read other books by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having read the first book in the Bess Crawford series, I was eager to continue with the series. I was very pleased with this one. It was accurate in details of the period of WWI and hard to put down. Now I'm looking forward to reading the next ones.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Set in war-torn London during the second WW, the authors of "Impartial Witness" weave an intriqueing tale filled with interesting characters. A most pleasant read. Nancy L
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was a bit 'disjointed'. But was impelling in leading one to keep reading. It drew me because my mother lived and worked in England at that time. She suffered thru the bombings and uncertainty from day to day. It was surprizing to find that someone, like this nurse, could be so determined to become so deeply involved in following thru to find the real murderer of someone she did not know. It speaks of a need to find some justice in a shattered world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago