A Pattern of Lies

Written by Charles Todd
Review by Alana White

Canterbury, Kent, autumn 1918. In this seventh book in the Bess Crawford mystery series, Bess (a nursing sister in the last days of World War I) is stranded in Canterbury after accompanying wounded soldiers from France to England. Whiling away the hours until she may travel on to Victoria Station, she encounters a former patient, Major Mark Ashton, who kindly invites her to stay the night at Abbey Hall, where he and his parents live. During the drive there Mark confides he had come to the Canterbury police station to speak to authorities about “a spot of trouble.”

Two years ago, the Ashton family gunpowder factory exploded, causing the deaths of one hundred workers. No one knows what happened. Now, suddenly, the Ashton family is the target of an intense whispering campaign implicating Mark’s father, Philip, in the explosion. When Philip is jailed and likely to hang for murder, Bess not only hunts for the man who purportedly witnessed the horrible explosion, but also questions the Cranbourne villagers who, in their anger, are united in the effort to see Philip suffer for the deaths of their loved ones.

This is a popular series, and most likely readers familiar with Sister Crawford and other continuing characters in the books will settle in and enjoy it. This was the first title for me, and I felt myself playing catch-up all the way. I’m still not exactly sure how Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon or Australian Sergeant Lassiter figure in Bess’s life. Both men seem to appear out of the mist whenever Bess needs to share or collect messages and information regarding her investigation. A few brief lines of explication would have gone a long way in rounding out the story.