Saturday, March 16, 2013

Review: A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

A Duty to the Dead (Bess Crawford #1)
Author: Charles Todd
Published: August 25, 2009
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
eBook: approx. 336 pages
Source: borrowed from the library

My Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from GoodReads): The daughter of a distinguished soldier, Bess Crawford follows in his footsteps and signs up to go overseas as a nurse during the Great War, helping to deal with the many wounded. There, serving on a hospital ship, she makes a promise to a dying young lieutenant to take a message to his brother, Jonathan Graham: "Tell Jonathan that I lied. I did it for Mother′s sake. But it has to be set right." Later, when her ship is sunk by a mine and she′s sidelined by a broken arm, Bess returns home to England, determined to fulfill her promise.

It′s not so easy, however. She travels to the village in Kent where the Grahams live and passes on to Jonathan his brother′s plea. Oddly, neither Jonathan, his mother, nor his younger brother admit to knowing what the message means. Then Bess learns that there′s another brother, incarcerated in a lunatic asylum since the age of 14 when he was accused of brutally murdering a housemaid. Bess rightly guesses that the dying soldier′s last words had something to do with the fourth brother. Because the family seems unwilling to do anything, she decides that she will investigate. It′s her own duty to the dead.

My Thoughts: Since I'm such a fan of the Maisie Dobbs series, this series of books was something that many people recommended to me. They figured that since I enjoyed Maisie so much, it would be logical for me to enjoy Bess Crawford and her mysteries just as much. And while this is not on-par with a Maisie Dobbs novel, there was something very enjoyable about it. Centering around a wounded World War I nurse who must return home to await her orders, she communicates with the family of a soldier that she nursed who had passed. He gives her a message to pass along to his family and she feels a responsibilty to carry that message, in person, to the family and let them know about the last moments of their son's life. What follows is a family mystery that Bess must unravel in order to make sure that justice is served to those who commit crimes.

I won't give anything away in my review, so you don't need to worry that I might ruin it for you. I will tell you that this was not what I expected in terms of a mystery. Bess has never solved a crime before, so there is a bit of blundering that goes on, in terms of aimlessly wondering about to try and find something related to the case. There was a lot in this novel that could have been edited out because it did nothing to add to the story and just made me lose interest. There were so many times where I had to put the book down because I had read ten pages and couldn't even tell you what had happened, beyond Bess continuing to wonder about a conversation she had with someone.

It was a well-written novel, very much historically accurate, but with some editing, I feel like it could have been much better. The ending was well-done and it is because of that that I was able to give this book three stars. I might check out Bess Crawford again, but it won't be for sometime. If you are a fan of Maisie Dobbs, you might be interested in this series, but be prepared to know that Bess is nothing like Maisie. 

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