Monday, May 31, 2010
by Charles Todd
This novel is the first in a new historical mystery series set in Britain in World War I. It introduces the main character, Bess Crawford, a British Army nurse. She is outspoken, intelligent, resourceful and independent. The novel opens with the sinking of the Britannic (sister ship to the Titanic) in Greek waters. It is an effective opening grabbing the reader’s attention right away. Bess is injured in the sinking and invalided home to recover with her parents. Her father is a retired Colonel who served in India, where she was raised. This background should provide fertile material for the series.
The plot involves Bess visiting the Graham family to deliver a message from a dying son of the family. I won’t give away any spoilers but the story is engaging and not terribly complex. It is set primarily in the Kent countryside and the usual eccentric cast of villagers – the vicar, the matriarch, the tutor, the country doctor - is on display. The time period and the fact that Bess Crawford is an army nurse invite comparisons to the Maisie Dobbs series. This new series compares favorably to the Maisie Dobbs series, they both depict the sorrow and sacrifice of WWI Britain but this series seems darker to me, with characters not quite as well rounded as the Dobbs series. I would recommend this book; it is a straightforward historical mystery that does a good job of putting the reader in the time and place with a mystery that is just intriguing enough to satisfy.