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A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

A Duty to the Dead

by Charles Todd

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Bess Crawford (1)

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1,0137312,822 (3.78)141
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A duty to the dead is the first Bess Crawford mystery by the writing duo of Caroline and Charles Todd, mother and son. Bess is a nurse in World War I and is back in Britain after her hospital ship, Britannic, hits a mine and sinks in the Aegean Sea. Luckily most were rescued and Bess is sent to England to recuperate from her broken arm and other injuries. While she is there, she goes to see the brother of a patient who died in order to give him a message. It seems a wrong needs to be set right. Of course, all is not as simple as it seems and Bess is one determined young lady.

At first, it seemed that there were similarities to Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series, the first volume appearing in 2003, six years before this novel. However, this prooved not to be the case as each woman solved mysteries in an entirely different way, Maisie using psychological training and observation while Bess has a need for the truth of the situation. Maisie comes from the lower classes and has raised herself through sheer determination while Bess is the daughter of an army officer who served in India. Maisie's stories take place in post war Britain while, for Bess, the war is still going on.

This book should appeal to those who enjoy reading about the Great War as well as mystery fans.

Note: The HMHS Britannic did indeed sink in November of 1916. Thirty people were killed and 1035 survived. ( )
  fdholt | Jul 13, 2019 |
It is exceedingly slow with long passages that I believe is an attempt to provide background for a character that has never seen print and paper before. I also believe that Bess's behavior was unbelievable considering that it was 1916 and she was a woman. Complete strangers were willing to be interrogated by a young single woman about circumstances that were clearly none of her concern ?... I don't think so. It is however the first book in the series and this is NOT 1916 so I know that reader were forgiving and embraced the series since there has been 10 years worth of books in this series since this one. I did enjoy the story so 4 stars. ( )
  Carol420 | May 19, 2019 |
I have previously read book seven in the series; A Pattern of Lies a little while ago and I just absolutely loved that book. And, of course, I wanted to read the series from the beginning and lucky me; I own the first book as an eBook.

Bess Crawford works as a nurse during WW1 and is home now after being onboard a hospital ship that sunk. She survived with a broken arm and since she can't work decides to travel to Kent to visit the mother and sibling of a dying soldier last word; "Tell Jonathan that I lied. I did it for Mother's sake. But it has to be set right." But the strange thing is that neither the mother nor the brothers admit knowing what the message is about. But then Bess learns that there is another brother, incarcerated in a lunatic asylum…

I think this series is starting to be one of my favorites. Now I have only read two books, but I feel that the WW1 milieu and the characters are truly well-done. Bess Crawford is not an amateur sleuth, she is a nurse and the mystery she happens to stumble on isn't something she had planned to solve. She just happens to be the one that starts it all, the one that sets everything in motion. And, that is one thing I really love about this book, Bess feels like a solid character with her feet steady on the ground. There is no romance luring left and right on the book. No sweetheart. I mean I'm not against romance in books, but mostly I want it to have a smaller place in the story.

I found the first book in the series quite good. The mystery of the message and the brother everyone is trying to forget was really good and I was gripped by the whole story.

I think one of the reasons I find this series so appealing is that it does remind me of Laurie. R. King's series about Mary Russell. I stated the same thing in A Pattern of Lies and I feel it still. I believe if you like of Laurie. R. King's series about Mary Russell you will like this series too. ( )
  MaraBlaise | May 19, 2019 |
A Duty to the Dead
4 Stars

On leave after being injured during the sinking of the hospital ship Britannic, nurse Bess Crawford takes the opportunity to fulfill the dying wish of a young soldier under her care. Traveling to Kent, she encounters the Graham family and their many secrets including the existence of unwanted sibling incarcerated in a lunatic asylum. As Bess delves deeper into the meaning of Arthur Graham’s message, she uncovers an horrific crime and a travesty of justice that may have far reaching consequences for her personally.

Compelling characters and an interesting mystery albeit a little drawn out at the end.

The setting of Britain during the Great War is absorbing, especially the descriptions of English “stiff upper lip” and the varied reactions to the traumas suffered by the returning soldiers whether physical or mental. There are moments where it is necessary to remember the time period and not judge people’s harshness and cruelty according to 21st century moral and social principles.

The mystery builds slowly but surely as Bess uncovers one clue after another. While the evidence of Peregrine’s innocence and his stepmother’s appalling mistreatment of him is glaringly obvious, the identity of the villain remains in question almost till the end. The climax is exciting although the resolution could have been written more compactly. Moreover, it is disappointing that Timothy escapes the justice he so richly deserves by committing suicide.

Bess is a spirited and engaging heroine. The only questionable aspect of her personality is her intense affection for Arthur Graham, which has little if any basis in reality, and tends to skew her judgement.

All in all, an entertaining listen and my first book narrated by Rosalyn Landor whose performance was excellent. ( )
  Lauren2013 | May 24, 2018 |
Reads like an Americanized English WWI novel with a mediocre mystery. I might be mistaken, but several things in the story seemed to be there for modern convenience than any nod to the historical setting. I didn't like the first-person narrative.

An example of a nitpick: yes, we understand that Bess is stubborn and doesn't always do what her father says, but where the heck did she get the money to buy the automobile behind her father's back?

In general, the sense of the money value of things seemed out of whack, even for wartime. Or maybe especially for wartime. Admittedly, this is just an impression, since I have no expertise in the matter.
( )
  natcontrary | May 21, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 76 (next | show all)
Readers who can’t get enough of Maisie Dobbs... or Hester Latterl... are bound to be caught up in the adventures of Bess Crawford

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Toddprimary authorall editionscalculated
Landor, RosalynNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is for...
Pauline and Brian Gadd, two terrific people, who shared their England with the authors, including a wonderful day at the Imperial War Museum and hot chocolate, pork pies, the fox in the back garden, and making us feel we were family...

Moses and Money, the most enormous, warmharted kitties, who purred when we needed a cat fix and our three thousand miles away...

Fran Bush, bookseller extrordinaire, who isn't afraid of anything, including driving on the left and having adventures in Romney Marsh, Battle, and the wilds of Sevenoaks...
Don Bush, who did without Fran so that she could go with Caroline, an act of love if ever there was one...

The wonderful landscape of Kent, which has been the inspiration of more than one Todd novel...
And not last, Robin Hathaway, author of the "Dr. Fenimore" and "Dr. Jo Banks" mysteries, who offered us Gum Tree and other anventures, when we needed a sanctuary to finish DUTY...

With much, much love always.
First words
Tuesday, 21 November 1916. 8:00 A.M.

At sea...
At sea..."This morning the sun is lovely and warm."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Another winner....Todd again excels at vivid atmosphere and the effects of war in this specific time and place. Grade: A." --Cleveland Plain Dealer   "Readers who can't get enough of Maisie Dobbs, the intrepid World War I battlefield nurse in Jacqueline Winspear's novels...are bound to be caught up in the adventures of Bess Crawford." --New York Times Book Review   Charles Todd, author of the resoundingly acclaimed Ian Rutledge crime novels ("One of the best historical series being written today" --Washington Post Book World) debuts an exceptional new protagonist, World War I nurse Bess Crawford, in A Duty to the Dead. A gripping tale of perilous obligations and dark family secrets in the shadows of a nightmarish time of global conflict, A Duty to the Dead is rich in suspense, surprise, and the impeccable period atmosphere that has become a Charles Todd trademark.… (more)

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