An Impartial Witness

Written by Charles Todd
Review by Ellen Keith

World War I nurse Bess Crawford returns in her second outing in this new series by Charles Todd, pseudonym for a mother-son writing team who pen the Inspector Ian Rutledge series. While Rutledge deals with the aftermath of the Great War, Bess is in its midst. On leave in England to shepherd injured soldiers to a convalescent home, she recognizes the wife of one of her patients at the railway station—with a man who is not her husband. When the woman is murdered, Bess realizes she was one of the last people to see her alive. As in her first outing, Bess feels compelled to seek the truth, on behalf of her patient, who dies of grief, and his dead wife.

Todd’s mysteries are far from British cozies. Bess sees death in her field hospital in France, and home in England, on precious leave, she sacrifices time with her family to prevent an innocent man from being unjustly hung. What I appreciate about the Rutledge mysteries holds equally true in this new series—war touches everyone, not just those serving at the front. By the same token, Bess’s investigations reveal that life goes on during wartime; jealousies and fears still exist, and shared sacrifices do not confer sainthood.