Publication Order of Bess Crawford Books
|A Duty to the Dead||(2009)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|An Impartial Witness||(2010)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|A Bitter Truth||(2011)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|An Unmarked Grave||(2012)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|A Question of Honor||(2013)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|An Unwilling Accomplice||(2014)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|The Maharani's Pearls||(2014)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|A Pattern of Lies||(2015)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|The Shattered Tree||(2016)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
Bess Crawford, determined and independent of spirit, is the protagonist of a series of historical mystery books by the best selling author, Charles Todd (actually the pen name of a mother and son writing team, Caroline and Charles Todd, from the eastern United States).
The historical-mystery series is generally very well reviewed, one of the series, “An Unmarked Grave” was nominated for an Agatha award for ‘Best Historical Novel’, and the following book in the series won that accolade the following year. Many readers have fallen in love with the strongly honorable heroine, and others have praised the fidelity of the descriptions of war, and of the historical period.
Brought up in India, where she was taught values of duty, honour and integrity by her Officer father, Bess Crawford, a British nurse, has signed up for service in France, where she tends diligently to the many wounded of the first world war. Her interest, however, is always piqued by a mystery, and she feels compelled to find all the answers, leading to this character’s secondary vocation as an amateur sleuth. Doing the right thing is important to Bess Crawford, and she always strives to follow the moral code bequeathed to her by her upstanding soldier Father. This sense of duty and morality has drawn her into some tricky and even dangerous situations.
“Duty to the Dead”
We first meet Bess Crawford in the 2009 novel, “Duty to the Dead”. It is 1916, and Bess Crawford has signed up with the nursing corp.. She has made her way from India, where she was brought up, via England and bloody, war-tornFrance to the medical ship, Britannic. On the hospital ship she meets and befriends a young Lieutenant, Arthur Graham. Arthur Graham is on his death bed, gravely wounded and troubled by his conscience. Secrets from the past lie heavy on his mind, and to ease his passing, Bess Crawford promises to deliver a message to the dying man’s brother.
It is several months before Bess is able to fulfil her promise and return to England, but when the hospital ship is destroyed by a mine, and Bess’s arm is broken, she returns home, and is determined to keep her promise and deliver the message. In her injured state, she travels to Kent and visits the Grahams. Bess is disconcerted and confused when Jonathan is surprisingly unmoved by her declaration of Arthur Graham’s death-bed proclamations. He appears indifferent to the words spoken by his brother on his death bed and neither he nor his mother, nor the other brother, Timothy, admit to understanding what the message could possibly mean.
Bess is about to leave, but before she does she discovers the family secret. There is a fourth brother. He was sent to a lunatic asylum at the age of fourteen, after he was accused of the horrific murder of a housemaid. Bess surmises that the dying man’s message somehow concerns this other brother. The family are seemingly unwilling to do anything, and so Bess feels that it is her duty to look into the matter. She quickly discovers, however, that in fulfilling this duty, she is putting her own life in danger, catching her up in a net of intrigue and deception and testing her mettle in ways that even the war itself never has.
“The Impartial Witness”
The second Bess Crawford novel, “The Impartial Witness”, finds her back in England, having escorted home a group of severely wounded soldiers. It is the summer of 1917. One of the wounded men is a pilot, Lieutenant Meriwether Evanson, whose features are all obscured by serious burns, who carries a precious photograph of his wife, Marjorie. Now she has brought the wounded safely home, Bess Crawford prepares to spend a couple of days of leave in England. At the train station she sees a woman grief-stricken and emotional as she bids a passionate au revoir to an officer. She recognises her as Marjorie, the wounded pilot’s supposedly devoted wife.
Later, back in France, Bess is shocked to read in a newspaper that Marjorie has been stabbed, killed on the very same day that Bess saw her at the train station. Scotland Yard are appealing for information. Then, not long after, Lieutenant Meriwether Evanson commits suicide by cutting his own throat. Bess Crawford is unable to resist becoming involved in the investigation. She gets leave and goes to speak to Scotland Yard. Determined to find the identity of the man she saw Marjorie with at the station, she becomes embroiled in the case. The police make an arrest, but is he the real killer, or an innocent man? Bess must call on all her resources and look deep within herself to decide. But finding the truth is never easy, nor is it safe, and Bess risks her own life to peel back the layers of the murdered woman’s life to find out who really killed her.
“An Unwilling Accomplice”
There are, to date, six Bess Crawford novels, the latest of which was “An Unwilling Accomplice”, published in August 2014. In this latest outing for the well-liked character, the reader is returned once more to the time of the Great War. It is 1918, and Bess Crawford is still a battlefield nurse. Home on leave, she is asked to take a severely wounded soldier, Wilkins, to Buckingham Palace, as he is to receive a medal from the King. Bess is told to take charge of him until he is collected by an orderly the following morning, but when Bess returns to collect him, she finds his hotel room empty.
Bess is in serious danger of losing her job, as both the nursing service and the armed forces blame her for the disappearance of the war hero. As if the situation were not already complex enough, things get even trickier when Wilkins, now considered a deserter by the army, is suspected of a man’s cold-blooded murder. Bess is questioned by Scotland Yard, and she determines to find Wilkins in order to clear her own name and prove that she was not his accomplice. She, and her friend Simon Brandon, search for Wilkins and are drawn into the dark and terrible mystery.
If you enjoy the Bess Crawford novels, then why not try the other series by the same authors? This series is set just after the First World War and features Inspector Ian Rutledge, an officer at Scotland Yard, struggling with the shell shock he suffers after his experiences in military combat.Book Series In Order » Characters » Bess Crawford