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A Duty To The Dead [Paperback]

Charles Todd
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 9 2010

“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.

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Product Description


“Winning....Fans of independent women sleuths like Maisie Dobbs will welcome this new addition to their ranks.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Anyone who cares to loll in early-20th century English villages and mores and follow a plucky heroine as she confronts the stupidity of war will find solace in this old-fashioned mystery.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Todd employs all the elements of a satisfying cozy mystery, with an absorbing plot and a charismatic heroine that will leave the reader wanting more.” (Library Journal)

“Full of rich historical details, this novel contrasts the beauty of the English countryside with the horrors of a war that devastated families....Absorbing.” (Romantic Times)

“Readers who can’t get enough of Maisie Dobbs, the intrepid World War I battlefield nurse in Jacqueline Winspear’s novels, or Hester Latterly, who saw action in the Crimean War in a series of novels by Anne Perry, are bound to be caught up in the adventures of Bess Crawford.” (New York Times Book Review)

“The superb start of a new historical series....A welcome old-fashioned mystery and a brilliant start to a character with plenty more to discover in future books.” (New Mystery Reader)

“A compelling story, a complex mystery and a revealing look deep into human nature.” (Winston-Salem Journal (NC))

“A tense psychological drama, steeped in the tragedy of the Great War.” (Iron Mountain Daily (Michigan))

“Todd’s novels are known for compelling plotting with a thoughtful whodunit aspect, rich characterization, evocative prose and haunting atmosphere, and A Duty to the Dead excels at each. Another moving entry in a growing and distinguished body of work, it is neither easily put down nor easily forgotten.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

“A Duty to the Dead has all the elements of a good mystery—action, suspense, murder, love, a damsel in distress.” (Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City))

“Another winner....Todd again excels at vivid atmosphere and the effects of war in this specific time and place. Grade: A.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“The Todd books offer an insight into and a grim reminder of the avalanche of broken bodies and minds that came back from France in 1918 as well as a reminder of how little was done to restore them.” (Washington Times on A Duty to the Dead)

“An absorbing story that will not disappoint Todd’s fans.” (Contra Costa Times on A Duty to the Dead)

“Here is a brave, smart and likable young heroine who will please Todd fans.” (Evansville Courier & Press on A Duty to the Dead)

“This is a wonderful new mystery series that will let us see the horrors of World War I through the eyes of Bess Crawford, a battlefield nurse. A Duty to the Dead is a richly realistic depiction of both the era and people who lived through it. (Margaret Maron, Edgar Award–Winning author of Death’s Half Acre)

From the Back Cover

Dedicated to helping the many wounded during the Great War, Bess Crawford receives a desperate request from a dying lieutenant while serving as a nurse aboard a hospital ship. "Tell my brother Jonathan that I lied," the young man says. "I did it for Mother's sake. But it has to be set right."

Back home in England, Bess receives an unexpected response from the dead soldier's family, for neither Jonathan Graham‚ his mother‚ nor his younger brother admit to understanding what the message means.

But the Grahams are harboring a grim secret, and Bess must, somehow, get to the bottom of it. It is her sacred duty to the dead, no matter how painful, or dangerous, that obligation might be.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars COMPELLING, ATMOSPHERIC, SUSPENSEFUL Nov. 20 2009
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
The mother and son writing team known as Charles Todd has written 11 highly acclaimed Ian Rutledge mysteries, each recognized for scrupulous attention to historic detail, careful plotting, well developed characters, and riveting psychological suspense. The same is true of A DUTY TO THE DEAD in which Todd introduces a new series featuring Bess Crawford.

While Bess lived in 1916 she's more than a match for any contemporary mystery heroine. The daughter of a highly principled and equally highly disciplined officer she inherited these qualities in large doses. It is 1916 and Bess follows in her father's footsteps by serving as a nurse in the Great War. During training she is cautioned about becoming too fond of her patients. "They are yours to comfort, yours to heal, but not yours to dream about." Nonetheless, Arthur Graham found a special place in her heart, and she made a deathbed promise to him, a vow to take a brief, rather cryptic message to his brother, Jonathan.

However, it is some time before she can keep that promise as when our story opens she is aboard the ill-fated hospital ship Britannic. Todd's description of the explosion that rocks the ship and the ensuing sinking is intense, gripping. Bess suffers a broken arm but does manage to find a place in a lifeboat and is eventually sent to England for recoveryr. It is then that she goes to Arthur's home in Kent.

While at first she is welcomed warmly Bess is astute; she recognizes a sorely fragmented family. There is Arthur's widowed mother, a domineering matriarch. Jonathan is a lieutenant who has suffered a facial wound, another brother, Timothy, who was born with a clubfoot and appears bitter because he could not join the service.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Move over Maisie Dobbs... May 4 2010
and make way for Elizabeth Crawford. Charles Todd - a mother/son writing team famous for their wonderful Ian Rutledge novels - have created a new character, Elizabeth (Bess) Crawford, a British nurse in WW1. The time frame of the Crawford novel is slightly earlier than that of the Rutledge novels. The Rutledge stories take place in the years after WW1, with some flashbacks to his time at war. Crawford is shown (at least so far) working during the war.

I'm not going to write a lot about the story, which is excellent, but rather about the writing. I've read most of Todd's Rutledge books and think the writing is absolutely first rate. That continues on to their second series of book. (I'm assuming the A Duty to the Dead is the first in a series and not a stand-alone novel).
There seems not to be a word out of place, a character introduced but not dealt with in the story, or any rambling. It's air-tight writing and editing. What I wonder about is if two writers, writing together, tend to edit each other's writing as they go along in their collaboration?

Todd's Bess Crawford compares favorably with Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs. Both are fully developed characters as defined - and refined - in their writers' words. Dobbs' London is post-WW1, moving into the 1930's. Both are well worth reading, as are Todd's earlier series, Ian Rutledge.

I'm looking forward to many more Bess Crawford novels.
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3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 Stars - One has a duty to the dead Jan. 4 2010
By L. J. Roberts TOP 100 REVIEWER
First Sentence: At sea'the morning sun is lovely and warm.

Bess Crawford is an independent, upper-middle-call British gentlewoman who takes after her father. She became a nurse and travelled to the battlefields of France. On her way back to England aboard the Britannic, the ship strikes a mine and sinks. Bess suffers a badly broken arm but becomes fond of Lt. Arthur Graham who, right before dying, extracts a promise from her to deliver a message to his brother in England. Keeping that promise embroils her in a family surrounded by tragedy and secrets.

It is always interesting when an author you love begins a new series. Sometimes it works; sometimes not. In this case, it definitely worked.

Bess is a great new character. She is representative of many woman of her class; smart, independent; strong and with a belief that woman can be as capable as men. She has seen the results of war and knows the impact it has on the men who fight. It is also typical of the time that Bess is constantly asked whether she was in love with each young many of her acquaintance as people can't otherwise understand the courses of action she takes.

Todd provides a very strong sense of time and place with just a hint of a gothic feel. At the same time they make strong statements about the impact of war and the lack of understanding of those who stay at home. Their writing is very effective and can go straight to the emotions and the heart.

There were a couple small false steps. The story was a little slow getting started and Bess' reaction to the sinking of the ship seemed a bit too detached.
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