A Duty to the Dead
Todd (the pseudonym for a mother-son writing team) departs from the Inspector Ian Rutledge series in this engrossing mystery featuring World War I nurse Bess Crawford. Injured in the sinking of the hospital ship Britannic, Bess uses her leave to fulfill a promise to a dying patient: deliver a mysterious message to his brother, “Tell Jonathan I lied.” The Graham family is singularly uninterested in Arthur’s last words, and Bess finds her curiosity piqued and her nursing skills in demand in their small town in Kent. Through a series of events, she finds herself investigating an event that occurred fifteen years ago, stonewalled at every turn.
As with the Inspector Rutledge series, the effects of World War I permeate the lives of the characters. Bess, with her front seat at the theatre of war, has more compassion than most when she encounters a shell-shocked patient. She also encounters family secrets that include adultery and an attempt to thwart primogeniture. I absolutely devoured this mystery. Unlike the Rutledge books, it is told in the first person, and Bess’s voice is a compelling one. Some threads are dropped, but that is a minor complaint. If this is the first in the Bess Crawford series, it is an excellent debut.