A Casualty of War

Written by Charles Todd
Review by Ellen Keith

Armistice Day brings no peace to nurse Bess Crawford. In the waning days of the Great War, she nursed a patient, Captain Alan Travis, who is convinced that he has been shot by a distant cousin rather than the enemy. Bess believes he is credible, not crazy, and feels a certain sense of responsibility when she discovers that he has been confined to a clinic, strapped to a bed with no light or exercise, his accusations deemed to be the ravings of a madman. True to Bess’s sense of duty, she spends the entirety of her leave in England in the small Suffolk town where the captain’s late cousin lived. Yes, the cousin had been killed in the war prior to Travis being shot, so there are grounds for the captain’s confinement, but Bess believes there is more to this story.

I had wondered what Todd would do with Bess once the war had ended. It’s barely over, but it’s clear that its effects will linger. Bess, accompanied by faithful family friend Sergeant Major Simon Brandon, finds that the loss of the cousin, James Travis, has touched almost everyone in the town. As in Todd’s Inspector Rutledge series, questioners are treated with suspicion; there is no warm welcome for Bess and Simon. It takes them all of Bess’s leave to untangle the mystery, which makes it clear that Bess’s post-war life will follow the same principles, putting patients first.

I’m a fan of this series, but this outing could have used a little more introspection and less selflessness on Bess’s part. It’s been hinted throughout the series that Simon and Bess may have feelings for each other besides friendship, but once again, that can is kicked down the road. I look forward to more of Bess’s personal life in the succeeding books as she faces her next steps.