A Bitter Truth

Written by Charles Todd
Review by Ellen Keith

World War I nurse Bess Crawford returns in her third mystery. As in previous outings, Bess’s kind nature and sense of duty enmeshes her in another family’s secrets. Arriving in London on leave from France, Bess finds a battered woman huddled on her doorstep. She gives her refuge for the night and allows herself to be persuaded to accompany the woman home to Sussex to face her husband, a soldier home on leave for his brother’s funeral. A drunken family friend alludes to an embarrassing secret and is found murdered the next day. Bess is reluctantly drawn even further into the family’s life, seeking an orphan in France when she returns to duty at the behest of the wife.

As in Todd’s Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the war looms large. It causes husbands to do things they can’t share with their wives, tests characters, and strains relationships. Todd throws in a few red herrings, enough that I lost sight of the mystery itself, but that didn’t detract from how engrossed I became in this book. Bess’s empathy and humanity at this turbulent period in history make her a character I’ll continue to follow. And Todd holds out hope that she may get a personal life in the next book.