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An Impartial Witness: A Bess Crawford Mystery Hardcover – August 31, 2010


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Product Details

  • Series: Bess Crawford
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061791784
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061791789
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (211 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,227,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Set in the summer of 1917, Todd's excellent second mystery featuring British nurse Bess Crawford (after 2009's A Duty to the Dead) smoothly blends realistic characters with an intricate plot. When Bess accompanies Lt. Meriwether Evanson, a severe burn victim, from the Continent to England, she's surprised to spot the pilot's supposedly devoted wife, Marjorie, crying on another man's shoulder at a train station. After returning to saving lives under German fire in France, Bess is stunned to read in a newspaper that Marjorie has been stabbed to death in London. Soon after, the depressed lieutenant commits suicide by cutting his own throat. Unable to resist involving herself in the murder investigation, Bess seeks to identify Marjorie's unknown companion, the possible killer. In addition to supplying a challenging puzzle, Todd (a mother-son writing team) does a superb job of capturing the feel of the battlefield and the emotional toll taken on those waiting back home for a loved one's return.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In the second Bess Crawford novel (after A Duty to the Dead, 2009), the World War I battlefield nurse is escorting several injured soldiers back to England. Job done, Bess prepares to take a two-day leave, but, at the train station, she’s startled to see the wife of one of her patients in a rather emotional situation with another man. Later, after Bess learns that Scotland Yard is very interested in locating the woman, she finds herself on the trail of a killer. Todd—the pen name of a mother-and-son writing team—turns in another winning performance with a smartly plotted, well-told mystery. The Crawford novels are a nice change of pace from the heavier Inspector Rutledge books, and fans of mysteries featuring strong, appealing heroines will certainly embrace this one. Highly recommendable, especially (but not exclusively) to fans of the author’s previous books. --David Pitt

More About the Author

Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.

Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvelous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great-uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.

Charles learned the rich history of Britain, including the legends of King Arthur, William Wallace, and other heroes, as a child. Books on Nelson and by Winston Churchill were always at hand. Their many trips to England gave them the opportunity to spend time in villages and the countryside, where there'a different viewpoint from that of the large cities. Their travels are at the heart of the series they began ten years ago.

Charles's love of history led him to a study of some of the wars that shape it: the American Civil War, WWI and WWII. He enjoys all things nautical, has an international collection of seashells, and has sailed most of his life. Golf is still a hobby that can be both friend and foe. And sports in general are enthusiasms. Charles had a career as a business consultant. This experience gave him an understanding of going to troubled places where no one was glad to see him arrive. This was excellent training for Rutledge's reception as he tries to find a killer in spite of local resistance.

Caroline has always been a great reader and enjoyed reading aloud, especially poetry that told a story. The Highwayman was one of her early favorites. Her wars are WWI, the Boer War, and the English Civil War, with a sneaking appreciation of the Wars of the Roses as well. When she's not writing, she's traveling the world, gardening, or painting in oils. Her background in international affairs backs up her interest in world events, and she's also a sports fan, an enthusiastic follower of her favorite teams in baseball and pro football. She loves the sea, but is a poor sailor. (Charles inherited his iron stomach from his father.) Still, she has never met a beach she didn't like.

Both Caroline and Charles share a love of animals, and family pets have always been rescues. There was once a lizard named Schnickelfritz. Don't ask.

Writing together is a challenge, and both enjoy giving the other a hard time. The famous quote is that in revenge, Charles crashes Caroline's computer, and Caroline crashes his parties. Will they survive to write more novels together? Stay tuned! Their father/husband is holding the bets.

Customer Reviews

The book does move along, maybe a bit too quickly, and the writing is okay.
C. Klaassen
Overall, it's one of Todd's best and I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the Bess Crawford series, "A Bitter Truth", which is due to be published soon.
Mike in Glen Head, NY
This book was extremely well written, great character development, great plot that kept you thinking, and I couldn't put it down.
Sara E. Cain-bartlett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Esther Schindler TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sometimes, if you interrupt me while I'm reading a book to ask how I like it, I'll respond, "Oh, it's good," in a quiet sort of 4-star way. But then I'll tell you to shut up because I'm busy reading. And then I stay up late, way past my bed-time, to finish the book. I realize only after I'm done that this is a 5-star book. That pretty well describes my response to An Impartial Witness. It's really, really good, but not in a manner to make me shout aloud.

The back cover suggests that this book will appeal to those who like Jacqueline Winspear's novels -- and I can see why. In both cases, the protagonist is a World War I nurse who gets involved in solving a mystery. Winspear's heroine is (or rather becomes) a professional detective, though. This Bess Crawford novel would be considered a "cozy mystery" but for the historical setting.

Bess has nursed an aircraft pilot for quite a while after he was severely burned in France; the man held onto a photo of his wife to give him hope. Right after delivering the pilot to longer-term care back in England, Bess sees the wife crying all over a serviceman at the train station. The woman is distraught enough that Bess runs after her, to no avail. But soon thereafter, she learns that the pilot's wife was murdered that night. Thus she becomes involved in finding out who did it...

The mystery is a good one (though I confess I solved some of the plot points before Bess did) and obviously, given my sleepiness this morning, held my interest all the way through. But what makes this book so enjoyable is the writing style (which is gentle, even when describing a war scene), entirely plausible characters (even the obnoxious ones), and the historical detail that brings the era to life.
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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Holly TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I gave the first book in this series, "A Duty to the Dead" a 5-star review. I loved that book and thought it was one of the best mysteries I had read in a long time. It was the perfect balance of atmosphere, mystery and character. I was eager to read this one when it was published and grabbed it quickly. To be blunt, I was fairly disappointed.

The novel's main character is Bess Crawford, a British nurse serving in France during World War I. Bess finds herself caring for a badly burned pilot and ends up attending to him during the transport back to England. His injuries are severe but he hangs on to the will to live due to his intense love for his wife - the desire to be with her again keeps him alive. Upon arrival back in England, Bess is convinced she sees his wife with another man at the train station and the book is off and running from there.

While I enjoyed the previous book immensely, this one didn't work for me. 1) There were WAY too many coincidences to be anywhere near believable. 2) The main character of Bess became irritating to me after a while (she regularly reminds the reader how brilliant she is because she trained as a nurse, she often takes offense to the way people treat her since she has all this intellectual power, and her over-developed since of responsibility was grating). The mystery itself drug along to the point I no longer cared about the person(s) who died and who killed them. I pretty much just wanted it to be over but kept reading since I knew the first one had been so good that I thought it would pick up.

I am sad to report that a wonderful debut was followed up with a book that was less that satisfying. The sense of place, strong female role and interesting mystery of the first novel were replaced by something that left me disappointed at best. My high hopes were dashed with this one.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on September 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is the second in Todd's Bess Crawford series following "A Duty to the Dead." The book opens in 1917 with Bess accompanying a shipload of wounded soldiers back to England from the tenches in France. After turning her charges over to others, Bess sees a woman she knows, but only from the photograph pinned to one of her severely wounded patients. The woman is her patient's wife. Bess is shocked to see the woman in tears talking to a man who was obviously her lover. When the woman is later murdered, Bess reports what she has seen to the Scotland Yard detective in charge of the case.
When the husband commits suicide, Bess feels she must investigate the woman's murder instead of letting Scotland Yard conduct the investigation.
Todd has a rich cast of characters each met in his/her turn as Bess begins peeling back the layers of the dead woman's life to find out why she was murdered. The obvious suspects are eliminated one by one. In the end, Bess' life is in danger from the murderer.
This is not a fast-paced mystery. The reader is with Bess as she uncovers each piece of evidence and as she tries to puzzle out who killed the young woman and why. With each new piece of evidence, she gets closer to answering her own questions. Unbeknownst to either Bess or the reader, each piece of the puzzle as it slips into place, draws her ever closer to real danger. When the killer attempts to kill another young woman, a cousin of the first victim, Scotland Yard arrests a wounded soldier whom Bess has spent time with. Bess is convinced that he is innocent which, of course, only spurs her on. Bess is not omniscient, she believes the people she likes who often withhold key pieces of evidence.
As the case evolves, Bess narrows the suspects to two.
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