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A Duty to the Dead: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries) Hardcover – August 25, 2009

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Product Details

  • Series: Bess Crawford Mysteries
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; First Edition edition (August 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061791768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061791765
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (264 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #344,293 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The winning first in a new WWI series from the bestselling mother-son Todds (A Matter of Justice and 10 other Inspector Rutledge mysteries) introduces Bess Crawford, a resourceful British army nurse who's injured when her ship is sunk in 1916. While convalescing in England, Bess is tormented because she's put off delivering a message from Arthur Graham, a dying soldier under her care for whom she'd developed strong feelings, to his family. Her own brush with death prompts her to travel to Kent and transmit Arthur's cryptic last words to one of his three brothers. Bess becomes further enmeshed in the family's affairs after she learns the obscure message may relate to Graham's half-brother, Peregrine, who was committed to a local asylum for a girl's murder years before. The more Bess seeks to sate her curiosity, the more she suspects that the truth about the murder was suppressed. Fans of independent women sleuths like Maisie Dobbs will welcome this new addition to their ranks. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“Winning....Fans of independent women sleuths like Maisie Dobbs will welcome this new addition to their ranks.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Anyone who cares to loll in early-20th century English villages and mores and follow a plucky heroine as she confronts the stupidity of war will find solace in this old-fashioned mystery.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Todd employs all the elements of a satisfying cozy mystery, with an absorbing plot and a charismatic heroine that will leave the reader wanting more.” (Library Journal)

“Full of rich historical details, this novel contrasts the beauty of the English countryside with the horrors of a war that devastated families....Absorbing.” (Romantic Times)

“Readers who can’t get enough of Maisie Dobbs, the intrepid World War I battlefield nurse in Jacqueline Winspear’s novels, or Hester Latterly, who saw action in the Crimean War in a series of novels by Anne Perry, are bound to be caught up in the adventures of Bess Crawford.” (New York Times Book Review)

“The superb start of a new historical series....A welcome old-fashioned mystery and a brilliant start to a character with plenty more to discover in future books.” (New Mystery Reader)

“A compelling story, a complex mystery and a revealing look deep into human nature.” (Winston-Salem Journal (NC))

“A tense psychological drama, steeped in the tragedy of the Great War.” (Iron Mountain Daily (Michigan))

“Todd’s novels are known for compelling plotting with a thoughtful whodunit aspect, rich characterization, evocative prose and haunting atmosphere, and A Duty to the Dead excels at each. Another moving entry in a growing and distinguished body of work, it is neither easily put down nor easily forgotten.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

“A Duty to the Dead has all the elements of a good mystery—action, suspense, murder, love, a damsel in distress.” (Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City))

“Another winner....Todd again excels at vivid atmosphere and the effects of war in this specific time and place. Grade: A.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“The Todd books offer an insight into and a grim reminder of the avalanche of broken bodies and minds that came back from France in 1918 as well as a reminder of how little was done to restore them.” (Washington Times on A Duty to the Dead)

“An absorbing story that will not disappoint Todd’s fans.” (Contra Costa Times on A Duty to the Dead)

“Here is a brave, smart and likable young heroine who will please Todd fans.” (Evansville Courier & Press on A Duty to the Dead)

“This is a wonderful new mystery series that will let us see the horrors of World War I through the eyes of Bess Crawford, a battlefield nurse. A Duty to the Dead is a richly realistic depiction of both the era and people who lived through it. (Margaret Maron, Edgar Award–Winning author of Death’s Half Acre)

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.

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Customer Reviews

This is my second "Bess Crawford" series book and I will read more.
June Jerger
The plots are great, the mysteries are well written, and the characters believeable.
Judith L. Grant
[SPOILER] The gory scene in the field near the end of the book seemed too easy.
Pat in Northern Utah

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

128 of 133 people found the following review helpful By K. Carroll on July 30, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved this book. The setting is interesting, the characters have depth, and the mystery is complex enough to make a reader think, without being convoluted or confusing. Best of all, the writing is exceptional. I was hooked after only a few pages.

I'm sure comparisons will be made between Bess Crawford and Maisie Dobbs since both worked as nurses during WW1 and are independent, intelligent, and compassionate women sleuths. However, Bess is not an imitation of Maisie. Their backgrounds, personalities, and investigative styles are quite different.

I hesitate to give much of a plot summary, because I don't want to spoil anything for other readers. I was lucky enough to pick up this book without any information beyond the very basic back cover blurb, and I really enjoyed reading without any previous knowledge of where the story was going. (Even the Publishers Weekly review gives away just a bit too much, in my opinion.) So, to give only the most basic outline - the story opens on a hospital ship in the Mediterranean, where Bess works as a nurse. We learn that she was entrusted with a message to deliver to a (dead) soldier's family. The message and its reception leave Bess with an unsettled feeling and the mystery begins to unfold, complicated by the very unusual family dynamics of her hosts in Kent.

"A Duty to the Dead" is a definite original and a great read. The only possible downside that I can imagine is that you will have trouble putting it down until you have reached the end.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By L. M Young VINE VOICE on July 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Bess Crawford, daughter of a British Army officer and a nurse serving aboard the hospital ship Britannic, is invalided home after the ship is torpedoed and her arm is broken. This gives her the chance to fulfill a soldier's dying wish; Arthur Graham's cryptic deathbed message is to be delivered directly--no letters will do--to his brother Jonathan: "Tell Jonathan I lied. I did it for Mother's sake. But it has to be set right." Bess' letter to the family results in an invitation to the Graham home, but to her surprise, there is no reaction when she delivers the message. Jonathan and Mrs. Graham even question if Arthur was in pain or drugged when he said it. But the longer Bess remains in the Graham home, the more questions begin to arise: what did the message mean and why was it so important to Arthur but not to his family? How did Arthur's oldest brother Peregrine become confined to an insane asylum when he was only fourteen? And when Bess is called on to nurse Peregrine through a bout of pneumonia, why isn't he the dimwitted man he has been described to be?

I really enjoyed reading this book and finished it in one long session. I have recently read similar books taking place during or concerning nursing sisters of WWI (Anne Perry's WWI mysteries, the Maisie Dobbs stories, GIFTS OF WAR) and I liked this the most except for the Maisie Dobbs novels. Bess is one of the strong women that emerged at the time of the war, no longer willing to be treated as sweet flowers who were rewards to men. If I have one quibble with the book it is that I would have liked more descriptions of Bess and of some of the supporting characters, but perhaps the author did so on purpose so we could imagine Bess as we wanted her to be.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By J. Lesley TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My first experience with the mother and son co-writing team known as Charles Todd came about when the Amazon Vine Program gave me the opportunity to read A Matter of Justice: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery (Inspector Ian Rutledge Mysteries) back in December of 2008. I was well and truly hooked and have been buying and reading Inspector Rutledge mysteries ever since. When I saw that this book began a series with a new lead character I simply had to read it.

Bess Crawford is a British nurse aboard the hospital transport ship Britannic in 1916 when the ship hits a mine and sinks. Thankfully the ship was not carrying wounded on this portion of their journey or the loss of life would have been much higher. Bess sustains a broken arm made much more serious by assisting in the rescue of one of her fellow nurses. That, plus having to wait for some time to receive good medical treatment, made the break much more serious and therefore very slow to heal. Because she cannot return to duty quickly Bess decides that she can't put off any longer making good on the promise she had made on a previous voyage to Arthur Graham before he died. Arthur had requested that Bess personally deliver a message to one of his brothers at his home in the small village of Owlhurst in Kent. What follows is the story of Bess meeting Arthur's family and discovering that his half-brother has been locked away in an asylum because of a grisly murder he committed when he was 14 years old. The more people Bess meets the more unsure she becomes about exactly what Arthur Graham's message meant and whether his brother Jonathan intends to do anything about Arthur's request.
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