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A Question of Honor: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries) Paperback – June 10, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Author One-on-One: Charles Todd and Deborah Crombie

Deborah CrombieCharles Todd

Deborah Crombie is the bestselling author of 15 mystery novels featuring Scotland Yard Detective Inspector James, and Detective Superintendent Kincaid, including her latest, The Sound of Broken Glass.

Deborah Crombie: Even though this is the fifth book in the "Bess Crawford" mystery series, it reads like a stand-alone novel. What's your trick to writing a series novel that can be enjoyed by a newcomer as well as a fan?

Charles Todd: We try to put ourselves in the readers’ shoes, so that he or she can start the series anywhere, and still feel right at home. That means concentrating on the current plot and setting, to make it as exciting as if it were the first time Bess ever tried to solve a mystery. That keeps the character fresh too, because our enthusiasm for Bess comes through.

DC: There is a wonderful subtext to the relationship between Bess, the WWI battlefield nurse, and Simon, her father's right-hand man in the military. What's really going on there?

CT: Simon and Bess haven’t told us yet. There’s most certainly chemistry there, a lot of it. Perhaps it hasn’t dawned on them yet that there might be something more between them. Still, every once in a while, a twinge of jealousy crops up…

DC: The scenes of the British Army in India during the Colonial era (which form the background for the current story) are so colorful and fascinating, not the usual stuff of a mystery series. What inspired you to give Bess and her family a history in India?

CT: India made Bess such an intriguing character to work with. We didn’t want her to be a staid Victorian. Instead she experiences Army life and understands duty. Her education includes a different, exotic culture. And the memory of the 1857 Indian Mutiny is always fresh, a constant reminder of danger. If you’re going to write about a woman who can stand on her own two feet, there has to be an explanation of how she learned to be so independent. A traditional background wouldn’t have worked.

DC: Will Bess ever meet up with Inspector Rutledge, the protagonist of your other mystery series?

CT: So far, we haven’t come up with any good reason for letting them meet. But there is one character who is in both series—Melinda Crawford. She’s a cousin of Bess’s family and has an Army background in India herself. She’s also a close friend of Rutledge’s family. Who knows if she’ll ever introduce these two? And what will Simon have to say to that?

DC: Bess is such a wonderful character, she feels so contemporary while still being true to her time. She has a real talent of drawing information out of others. What--or who--was your inspiration for Bess?

CT: The familiar Victorian woman, repressed and living under the thumb of her father and then her husband, is only one side of the picture. Intrepid Englishwomen traveled the world as missionaries or like Melinda Crawford, for adventure. Even the Suffragettes were ready to endure prison for their cause. The nurses who served in France, saving lives, were remarkable for their courage and devotion to duty. These are the real-life women who inspired Bess, women on the threshold of our time but still a very real part of their own.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

A battlefield nurse familiar with the horrors of trench warfare, Sister Bess Crawford is tirelessly competent, stubborn, and endlessly in motion, though perpetually exhausted. Lieutenant Wade, previously with Bess father’s regiment, reputedly killed five civilians in India and two in England and was presumed killed while attempting to flee. Wade was therefore never brought to justice, casting a pall over regimental honor. Now, years later, Bess bumps into him on the battlefield before he disappears again, and in her moral indignation she sets off in search of an explanation. While on leave, Bess takes shameless advantage of her friend Simon, forcing him to drive her around as she vets shifty and suspicious characters connected to Wade’s childhood and leaves a trail of deadly consequences in her wake. Despite this flitting about, suspense is lacking in this heavily interpretive fifth installment in the series, though series fans will enjoy another adventure of the intrepid and endlessly curious Bess—a heroine whose intuition rivals tht of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs but whose spunk doesn’t quite match that of Anne Perry’s Hester Latterly. --Jen Baker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Bess Crawford Mysteries (Book 5)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (June 10, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062237160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062237163
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (237 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,936 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Carol S. VINE VOICE on May 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
For several books, we've learned about Bess Crawford, a colonel's daughter working as a nurse just behind the front lines of WWI. An integral part of Bess's background is her childhood in India; her father was a colonel stationed there and we have heard through the various series in the book how living in India--and how being a respected colonel's daughter--shaped Bess. "A Question of Honor" begins with a prologue harkening back to that time in India. Bess is a presumably a young teenager and she and her family are shocked to hear of the sudden death of a fellow military family's daughter. The daughter was left in England in the care of a sort of foster family, which apparently was a common thing at this time for fear of the many dangers (disease and civil unrest at the top of the list) that living in India presented to a military man's family. We see how deeply this child's death affects Bess's family, and several others stationed with her, including some of the men in her father's regiment. Shortly afterward, one of her father's men is accused of several vicious murders. This cast a long shadow over Bess's father, making him, as leader of his regiment, look bad and troubling all those who had known this Lt. Wade. No one could have predicted he was a murderer; when Wade escapes military custody, there is no trial to bring the facts to light.

Fast forward to 1918. Bess is still working at the front, trying to save soldiers' lives with her nursing skills. A dying patient confides in Bess that he has seen Wade, that he is alive. Bess has always been troubled by the conflict between the Lt. Wade she knew and the one who supposedly killed several people, and so she begins digging around a bit to see if she can learn more.
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49 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Too Old For This on November 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Where can I even begin?
1. This was a slow slog from the get-go. It took several weeks to finish, when I'd normally be done in a day or two.
2. The characters are flat and underdeveloped.
3. Some scenes and characters (e.g. Simon and his cottage) are an obvious rip off from Jacqueline Winspear's work.
4. The writing is choppy, like a high-schooler trying his/her hand at a first book. The sentences are short and the dialogue is uninventive. Note the frequent (and maddening use) of "she grinned", "he grinned", "they grinned."
5. The authors are so unfamiliar with England, that they have decided that swishing out a teapot with boiling water before making tea is for cleaning out the pot. Do they really think Brits don't wash up the tea dishes, pot included? Swishing the tea pot for boiling water is for warming the pot, so that the end product—a good cuppa—is nice and hot. If an occasional used tea leaf is dislodged in the swishing process, so be it.
6. The authors are under the impression that "putting up food in jars" is a World-War-One Britishism. This concept even turns up as a repeat motif in the book. Er, NO: it is a very American expression from at least as far back as the Depression. In England, the term "bottling" is used, for instance, in preserving gooseberries.
7. The authors have assumed that it is easy to drive hither and yon in England and that it always has been. One moment Bess Crawford is in Kent, the next in Somerset, the next up in London. Then there are trips to Dover, apparently at the drop of a pin. Have the authors even tried those drives under current conditions on the motorways? Have they even tried getting from Point A to Point B, from one county to the next now?
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Bella Rosa VINE VOICE on July 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This fifth installment in the Bess Crawford series begins with a prologue set during Bess' teenage years in India, when one of her father's trusted officers is accused of five gruesome murders. The man flees into the Khyber Pass and is assumed to have died. Chapter one picks up ten years later, when a dying man tells Bess he's seen the officer, Lieutenant Wade, alive and serving in the nearby trenches. Within a few days Bess has glimpsed Wade herself, bringing back all the old confusion about his guilt or innocence. In true Bess fashion, she decides to investigate.

Bess is still asking busybody questions of complete strangers, but at least this time around several people find that annoying and one gets downright hostile, so that was refreshing. Bess' connection to this mystery is more personal than usual as well - Lt. Wade's alleged crimes smeared the reputation of her father and his regiment, so getting to the truth is as much about vindicating her father as it is her natural nosiness. Thankfully, there are none of the off-stage machinations from Simon and Colonel Sahib that pushed the plot in the last book, and while there's still no way for the reader to guess the culprit before the end, that works with the structure of this story.

Overall, this was the most satisfying entry in this series since the first. I'm glad I decided to ignore the fact that I'd sworn off this series and grabbed this one for review.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By K. Burke on September 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I love the Rutledge books. This, however, is a mess. Rambling, pallid, hard to follow and even harder to believe in. It reads as though the co-authors took turns writing chapters and skipped the editing process.
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