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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Duty to the Dead

Todd, Charles A Duty to the Dead.

A new series for the mother and son team that write as Charles Todd, features Bess Crawford, a WWI nurse.  After the sinking of the hospital ship on which she served, Bess returns to England for recuperation.

While in England, Bess feels required to carry out a promise to a wounded soldier with whom she had become very close.  Arthur Graham, shortly before his death, asked Bess to take a cryptic message back to his brother.  Bess decides to perform this duty in person, but she finds some unsettling feelings in the Graham home.  When some tragic circumstances delay her departure, Bess finds herself wondering about the truth about events past and present.

What I liked:  details about England and the effects of the first World War.  I like historical novels and have always enjoyed the Todd team's series about Inspector Ian Rutledge and looked forward to a different perception of the war from the Bess Crawford  character.  I think that part was a success.  Looking at the war and its devastating effects, physical and emotional, from a woman's pov appeals to me.

What I didn't like:  The writing felt less cohesive and much of the plot lacked plausibility. 

Some spoilers: The idea of a child who had been emotionally abused, segregated from his family, kept in virtual seclusion, labeled as odd and learning disabled,  told he was responsible for a horrendous murder and committed at 14 to a mental institution in the early 1900's for another 14 years, then emerging pretty much in tact...well, I couldn't quite swallow that.  Also had trouble with the mother's role; not that there don't exist truly wicked people, but the character seemed to lack any depth.

I didn't want to put the novel down; I did want to see how it ended, but was disappointed that it didn't live up to my expectations of the authors of the Ian Rutledge series.  However, I have hopes that the Bess Crawford character will evolve and the Todd team will become more comfortable with the character and the new series.

Also, need to add that I am again in the minority on this one.  Most reviews I saw were entirely positive.  

Fiction.  Historical Mystery.  2009.  329 pages.


  1. Jenclair, I'm glad you shared your thoughts on this book. Charles Todd's books are some that I have meant to read for a long time. I own this one and will read it this year I hope. I agree that it does sometimes take a book or two for an author to settle into a character, maybe especially if the author already has another series going. Sounds good though.

  2. KAY - You are so right about how it takes a book or two for an author to find the right path for a character and a series. Some of my favorite series, don't begin all that auspiciously.

    do try the Inspector Rutledge series!

  3. I had no idea Charles Todd was a writing team. The things I learn on blogs! I have a couple of Charles Todd's books in my TBR pile and am eager to give them a try. It's too bad the writing and plot wasn't better in this one. Hopefully the series will improve as it goes along.

  4. LF - Yep! Although I can't think of the names right now, there are 2 other writing teams that I enjoy. One is a mother/daughter team that write the Monkee Wrench mysteries.

    I can't imagine how two people manage to write novels this way, but there are at least 3 series that I enjoy with two authors.

  5. I really liked this one, while I will agree it was not a perfect read. I really must pick up some of the Rutledge books--I've read the first few but just haven't gotten back to them.

  6. Danielle - I had problems with the Peregrine character, but that didn't keep me from reading avidly all the way through!

    Some of the Inspector Rutledge novels are better than others, but do begin at the beginning of these to get some background on Hamish.