Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Bitter Truth-Charles Todd

A Bitter Truth
Charles Todd
Morrow, Sep 6 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780062038302

In 1917, battlefield nurse Sister Bess Crawford leaves the front in France to spend Christmas with her family in Somerset, England. Bess stops at a London boarding house for the night with plans to complete the journey home the next day. Instead she finds a battered, cold and wet woman curled in a fetus like position at her door. She brings twentyish Lydia Ellis inside.

The next morning Lydia tells Bess she is leaving her abusive husband Roger for hitting her. Lydia persuades Bess to come with her to her home Vixen Hill in Sussex so she can confront her spouse. At Vixen Hill, family friend George Hughes swears he saw a child in France who looked like Juliana, Roger's late sister who died as an infant. Everyone including Roger’s mother and grandmother assume he sired a child while he was on the continent. Someone murders George with the police suspecting Lydia. Bess returns to France looking for the child and soon with the help of an Aussie finds Sophie who she brings to Sussex as another homicide occurs.

The latest Bess Crawford WWI amateur sleuth (see An Impartial Witness) is an exhilarating multilayered mystery. Kindhearted Bess cannot stop herself from helping someone in need, a trait readers will admire. France and England seem geographically small considering the state of transportation in 1917 and especially since nothing is quiet on the western front as Bess runs into others too frequently. Still Team Todd once again provides the audience, as he does with the Inspector Rutledge police procedurals, a tale that deeply condemns war.

Harriet Klausner

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