Posts Tagged ‘A Duty to the Dead’

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd. Harper Collins, 2009.

Charles Todd is the pen name for a mother-and-son writing team. Together, they have authored eleven Ian Rutledge mysteries and one stand-alone novel. A Duty to the Dead introduces a new character in the person of nurse Bess Crawford. As the book is subtitled A Bess Crawford Mystery, it appears that a series is planned. This first outing was quite an entertaining read, set in an interesting historical period, the first World War.

The story opens with Miss Crawford working as a military nurse aboard the hospital ship Britannic as it sails just off the Greek coast. Suddenly, the ship hits a mine and begins to sink. Fortunately, the accident happens during the day and the waters of the sea are not as frigid as those encountered by Titanic survivors. Further, the ship has not yet received patients, and as a result, only 30 lives are lost. Bess herself suffers a broken arm and is sent back to England to recover.

One of her last patients was Lieutenant Arthur Graham. When it was thought that the young man would recover from his wounds, a bit of a romance sprang up between Arthur and Bess. Sadly, it was not to be, and Arthur passed away. On his death bed, he entrusted Beth with a message that he wishes to have delivered to his brother Jonathan: Tell Jonathan I lied. I did it for Mother’s sake. But it has to be set right. Once Bess has returned to England she is able to contact the Graham family and fulfill her duty to deliver the message. But what does it all mean?

Bess travels to the Graham home and meets Arthur’s mother, and his brothers Jonathan and Timothy. She stays on for a few days and soon finds herself drawn into events in the village when the local doctor calls upon her to assist him with a shell-shocked patient. Then, she finds herself volunteering to nurse Arthur’s older brother Perigrine, when he is returned from an asylum for the mentally disturbed with a life-threatening case of pneumonia. Soon, Bess is drawn into the mysteries and intrigues that surround the family. Will Jonathan fulfill his duty to honour Arthur’s request? What happened in the Graham family when the boys were young?

The strength of this story lies in the depiction of war-torn Britain. The sinking of the Britannic actually took place. While Bess seems a little too wooden at times, descriptions of her experiences as a nurse are interesting, and the mystery is competently unveiled. Perhaps subsequent entries in the series will help to develop Bess into a more well-rounded character.

Read Full Post »