Merrimon Book Reviews

HMHS Britannic as a hospital ship

WWI nurse dressing a gas burn
by Baldridge, Cryus Leroy (1889-1977)

From Merrimon Book Reviews
A Duty to the Dead
A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd
by Charles Todd
  Wonderful debut to a new historical mystery series!

In 1916 aboard the hospital ship Britannic, nurse Bess Crawford cares for lieutenant Arthur Graham, promising to carry home a message as he lay dying.  Home recuperating from an injury suffered during the sinking of the Britannic, Bess remembers the promise she made a while ago.  Determined to honor his request, she visits the Graham family.  Her message does not receive the welcome she expected.  While there, she helps the ill, serving a patient suffering from shell shock and a case of pneumonia.  Certain unsettling facts and reactions to the sick lead her to investigate more deeply into the background behind the message she came to deliver.  Murder and family secrets converge, leading Bess to ferret out the truth, honoring the duty she pledged to Arthur Graham in spirit as well as deeds, a decision that might cost her her life.

In A DUTY TO THE DEAD, mother and son writing team, renowned for the Ian Rutledge series, now embark on a new series featuring nurse Bess Crawford.  Independent in spirit, brave in the face of danger and a woman who speaks her mind, Bess Crawford feels an obligation to her patients, not just to their bodies but to soothe their spirit.  For Bess, the mind is part of the patient's health and the promise that she made to a dying man haunts her, motivating her to go beyond what some would consider the call of duty. 

Charles Todd takes the reader into the heart of World War I through the eyes of the first person narrative of a strong, independent woman.  Charles Todd does an excellent job in portraying the dangers and emotions of those serving as medical personnel through the setting of the hospital ship Britannic.  Bess is a thoroughly likable character both in herself and the story as she tells it.  Although the mystery seems obvious in the beginning, new discoveries lead to somewhat surprising twists as she narrows down the clues.  The puzzling aspect of the case has enough puzzles to please mystery lovers while the historical setting will please fans of WWI literature.  Fans of the Maisie Dobbs WWI series will enjoy this debut of a new series, for the similarities but also for the differences in tone.  While both heed the psychological aspects of WWI and indeed the psychological dimensions of their characters, A DUTY TO THE DEAD has more of a traditional yet very exciting hunt for clues and connections.  A DUTY TO THE DEAD is an engaging historical mystery that begs reading in one sitting.  A DUTY TO THE DEAD just gets more and more enthralling with each page.

Publisher: William Morrow (August 25, 2009)
A Bess Crawford Mystery

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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