A Question of Honor: A Bess Crawford Mystery
Fifth in the Bess Crawford series, A Question of Honor moves between India in 1908, when Bess is fifteen, and England/France in 1918, when Bess is a nurse during WWI. Bess’s father was stationed as colonel of a regiment on the Northwest Frontier in India. Officers often sent their children home to be educated, and as the novel opens, one officer receives word that his daughter Alice has died in England of typhoid. The distraught mother is accompanied back to England not by her husband, who cannot get leave, but by Thomas Wade, an officer who had already planned to go. Weeks after his return to duty, Thomas Wade disappears into the wilds of Afghanistan just ahead of the military police, who accuse him of murdering both a family while in England and his own parents in Agra, India where they worked for the railway. Searches for Lieutenant Wade come up empty-handed, report of his death comes in and, to the disgrace of the regiment’s honor, the crimes go unsolved.
On the Front, Bess hears the dying words of an Indian soldier. The secret he confides to her reopens the painful episode of Lieutenant Wade. With Simon Brandon’s help, her father’s right-hand man, Bess reexamines the old crimes. Todd weaves in themes of the vulnerability of children, hard choices when loyalties conflict, greed, the emptiness of social status, and the strength that comes from family ties. This is a particularly strong addition to this excellent series. Depiction of colonial life in India and the dire effects of WWI on English life are deeply compelling. The plot engages from the first page with surprising twists. Bess deepens and grows in character.