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A Bitter Truth: A Bess Crawford Mystery [Paperback]

Charles Todd

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Book Description

April 23 2012 Bess Crawford Mystery (Book 3)

“Highly recommended—well-rounded, believable characters, a multi-layered plot solidly based on human nature, all authentically set in the England of 1917…an outstanding and riveting read.”
New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens

“Bess Crawford is a strong and likable character.”
Washington Times

Already deservedly lauded for the superb historical crime novels featuring shell-shocked Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge (A Lonely Death, A Pale Horse et al), acclaimed author Charles Todd upped the ante by introducing readers to a wonderful new series protagonist, World War One battlefield nurse Bess Crawford. Featured for a third time in A Bitter Truth, Bess reaches out to help an abused and frightened young woman, only to discover that no good deed ever goes unpunished when the good Samaritan nurse finds herself falsely accused of murder. A terrific follow up to Todd’s A Duty to the Dead and An Impartial Witness, A Bitter Truth is another thrilling and evocative mystery from “one of the most respected writers in the genre” (Denver Post) and a treat for fans of Elizabeth George, Anne Perry, Martha Grimes, and Jacqueline Winspear.


Frequently Bought Together

A Bitter Truth: A Bess Crawford Mystery + An Impartial Witness: A Bess Crawford Mystery + An Unmarked Grave: A Bess Crawford Mystery
Price For All Three: CDN$ 38.02


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Avon; Reprint edition (April 23 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062015710
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062015716
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 13.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 408 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #237,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

“Makes fine work of the brooding atmosphere.” (New York Times Book Review on A Bitter Truth)

“Outstanding.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review) on A Bitter Truth)

“Bess is a very strong series lead, the historical setting is as well developed here as it is in the Rutledge books, and the mysteries are just as elegantly constructed. Readers who have yet to sample the Crawford series should be strongly encouraged to do so.” (Booklist on A Bitter Truth)

“Few writers surpass Todd in depicting the insanity of war.” (Kirkus Reviews on A Bitter Truth)

“Todd brings World War I England and France to life with an intriguing plot and an intrepid sleuth.” (Library Journal on A Bitter Truth)

“A thoughtful mystery with an excellent plot, well-drawn characters and wonderful atmosphere.” (Associated Press on A Bitter Truth)

“A well-envisaged plot, a deep sense of time and place and characters drawn with care and compassion.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch on A Bitter Truth)

“Charles Todd has developed believable characters that carry along this story with lightning speed from the first page to the last.” (New York Journal of Books on A Bitter Truth)

“The Todds excel at complex characterizations....For lovers of upper-drawer British whodunnits and Anglophiles in general, A Bitter Truth should prove a sweet treat indeed.” (Wilmington Star-News on A Bitter Truth)

“A lovely picture of a slower world.” (Charlotte Observer on A Bitter Truth)

“A thoughtful mystery with an excellent plot, well-drawn characters and wonderful atmosphere.” (Indianapolis Star on A Bitter Truth)

“Combines believable characters, gut-wrenching suspense and a sobering commentary on the ravages of war.” (Deseret News on A Bitter Truth)

“Highly recommended—well-rounded, believable characters, a multi-layered plot solidly based on human nature, all authentically set in the England of 1917, make A Bitter Truth an outstanding and riveting read.” (Stephanie Laurens, New York Times bestselling author)

“Readers will enjoy Todd’s plucky, determined sleuth and a thrilling mystery that proves murders on the home front don’t stop just because there’s a war.” (Library Journal on An Impartial Witness)

“Bess Crawford is a strong and likable character.” (Washington Times on An Impartial Witness)

“A superb whodunit—just when you think you have it figured out, Todd throws a curve—and a moving evocation of a world at war.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch on An Impartial Witness)

“A smartly plotted, well-told mystery.” (Booklist on An Impartial Witness)

“A book rich in atmosphere and dense with plot.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch on An Impartial Witness)

“Todd’s excellent second mystery featuring British nurse Bess Crawford smoothly blends realistic characters with an intricate plot.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review) on An Impartial Witness)

“Find some cures for the post-Downton Abbey blues ... Charles Todd has been producing a series of highly praised detective novels set in the years immediately after World War I.” (Tulsa World Scene)

From the Back Cover

While attempting to help a woman in distress, World War I battlefield nurse Bess Crawford learns a bitter truth, that no good deed goes unpunished.

Returning to her London flat from the front lines in France for a well-earned Christmas leave, Bess Crawford comes upon a bruised and shivering woman huddled in the doorway. Propelled by pity, Bess takes her in. Yet despite the ill effects of a concussion suffered during a quarrel with her husband that erupted into violence, the woman decides to return home, and asks Bess to travel with her to Sussex.

At Vixen Hill, Bess discovers a family in mourning for an elder son who has died of war wounds, and a husband tormented by jealousy and his own guilty conscience. But when a troubled houseguest meets an untimely death, Bess finds herself the prime suspect, and on the trail of a vicious killer that leads back to war-torn France toward a startling revelation that will place her life in dire jeopardy.


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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  157 reviews
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious AND Preposterous Sept. 15 2011
By Porkchop T. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have read all of Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge books and all of the Bess Crawford books and up until now I have been a great fan. This latest book in the WWI Nurse Bess Crawford series is a huge disappointment.
About one third of the way into the book, it was so tedious I put it down. I then read a book by another author. However, since I did purchase A Bitter Truth, I eventually tried again and plodded through to the end.
Unfortunately, all of the characters in this book, with the exception of Bess and Simon, are unlikable, whining, nasty, overbearing soap opera-like characters with no redeeming qualities. The plot is preposterous and the author spends most of the book throwing around red herrings. The actual solution to the mystery is from out of left field. This is an uncharacteristically bad book from Charles Todd. The bitter truth is, this book is not worth investing in and should be borrowed from the Library.
30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best of the "Bess" series so far. June 29 2011
By Sharon Isch - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Christmas approaches and WWI battlefield nurse Bess Crawford arrives back at her London digs on leave from France only to discover a battered wife on her doorstep. She takes her in and, at the woman--Lydia's--request, accompanies her home to the dreariest corner of Sussex just as the extended family is about to gather together for a memorial event for Lydia's deceased brother-in-law.

Murder ensues. As do rumors of an illegitimate child. Then comes another death--is this one a suicide or is it also murder? Are all these things connected? And if so, how?

I think this third entry in the newest British WWI era mystery series by the American mother and son team that writes under the name of Charles Todd works a bit better than the first two because it puts Bess smack dab in the middle of the muddle from the get-go and thus her collecting of clues and conjectures requires fewer far-out coincidences and less Miss Marple-ish busybodiness to propel the plot.

I didn't love this book--I thought the "who" in the whodunit should have been a more prominent and better developed character--but I liked it, especially the scenes that involved Bess's being back in battle-torn France where her investigations were more in character and thus more believable than in the first two books of this series. And I look forward to the next one. But I remain a bigger fan of Scotland Yard Inspector Rutledge, star of the Todds' longer running series. At least so far.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Real Disappointment Aug. 17 2011
By P. Bigelow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
This is the third entry in the Charles Todd series featuring WWI nurse Bess Crawford. In this story, Bess is on her way from France to her parents' home to spend the Christmas holiday with them. She arrives in London too late to catch the train home so she goes to her flat. There, huddled against the cold, she finds a stranger, a woman named Lydia. Impulsively, she offers the woman shelter in her flat. The next day, the woman begs Bess to accompany her as she returns to her family estate in Sussex. Bess agrees to do so. While in Sussex, Bess becomes embroiled in the family's business. When one of the family's guests is murdered, Bess is further detained from her leave. Eventually, she is allowed to return to her unit in France, but not before promising Lydia to try to find a child no one in the family knew about before the night of the murder.

It seems completely out of character for Bess to return to England to spend the Christmas holidays with her much beloved parents only to be diverted by some stranger who ends up on her door stoop. That she heads off to Sussex with a complete stranger is even more confounding. She totally ignores her parents who are anticipating her arrival. Why Bess does these things is a mystery to those who have read the other books in this series. It seems so irresponsible for the sensible Bess. Then there's the whole business of Bess spending what little leave she receives while in France running around the war-torn country in search of a child who is no relation to her or even to a close friend seemed a bit too contrived and meddlesome even for Bess Crawford.

This is touted as a mystery, but it isn't really. Yes, there are murders, but Bess has no connection to them, she only superficially knows the suspects and one of the victims. She isn't even asked to aid in the solving of the murders nor does she involve herself in solving the killings beyond the occasional speculation about the whys and wherefors.

The only thing that can be said for this entry in the Bess Crawford series is that even if it isn't really a mystery and the actions taken by Bess make no sense, it is well written. Even assuming that the reader wants to read this book to its end, she will have to suspend belief in order to do so, something that not every reader of mysteries will be willing to do.

For someone is who unfamiliar with Charles Todd, this is not the book to start with. If they do, they will be sorely disappointed and that would be a shame since it would be unlikely that they'd pick up another Charles Todd book and they would miss out on some of the best written mysteries in print today.
54 of 67 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars third time less charming June 22 2011
By Julia Walker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
The mother-son team writing under Charles Todd has two series going. (The mere fact of that double doubling raises lots of interesting questions . . . ) I find the longest-running set of novels -- Ian Rutledge, shell-shocked WWI vet and Scotland Yard ace -- to be initially compelling, but ultimately to sink beneath the combined weight of Rutledge's extreme depression, the Scots voice in his head, and the incongruous fact that he has little money but drives everywhere in his own "motorcar," a vehicle which never needs gas.

All that made me more than a bit nervous about this, the third in the Bess Crawford series.

Any mystery addict will at once recognize the similarities between this and the Maisie Dobbs series, but that's a good thing, not a thumbs-down. The Maisie series has the more challenging issues -- mostly of class -- since the hero morphs from a housemaid to a Cambridge grad to a successful professional investigator, but the Bess series, interestingly, has the most class-linked awkwardnesses. In both series, the young women train as nurses and serve during The Great War. Bess, daughter of an Army officer, took a step down to do this, since she is a regular nurse, not one of the many middle and upper-class bands of young ladies who did good while being seen to do good. But Maisie took a step out to nurse. Already at Cambridge, she left and trained and served and was wounded, then resumed her studies and her climb from downstairs to upstairs.

Bess generally seems oblivious of class issues (with an occasional comment about clothes) perhaps because the Charles Todd writers are Americans. Maisie is very uncomfortable about class in the early books, but in the most recent seems to have transmogrified into something seriously middle class. Both young women are smart and brave, but the Maisie books offer a wider scope for the reader. with the range of characters and a number of close friends and extremely well-researched engagement with social issues and events. Bess is more socially isolated because she grew up in India, and -- while she is always saying she must go spend her leave with her beloved parents -- she generally finds an adventurous obligation to distract her. As for the war, well, it dealt Maisie some severe blows, but has so for left Bess virtually unscathed. (Ok, a ship sank, but she didn't lose anyone close to her and her arm was broken but not lost.)

The Bess books have plots; the Maisie books have plots and themes.

The second Bess novel is quite as good as the first -- unusual in my experience of mystery reading. The third, starting once again with one of those distracting obligations, is alarmingly the same. No, not the same as in "quite good," but the same as in . . . well, the same. The biggest problem, for me, is reconciling the seemingly flighty, weak-willed, easily distracted Bess who always says she's going home to Somerset, but who goes home instead with people she just met, with the strong, determined, brave Bess who does what needs to be done at the end of the book. So far -- and especially in this 3rd book -- Bess #1 and Bess #2 aren't even kissing cousins.

Maisie Dobbs is a professional investigator, so most of the plots arise from this circumstance. In the Ian Rutledge series, the Todd team has an equally logical reason for the hero's involvement in crime-solving: he is a policeman. But even there, they fall into formula after the third or fourth book: Ian is assigned a case in a non-standard manner; he drives away from London and meets the suspects, including at least one Interesting Woman who catches his imagination; he is mocked by the Scots voice in the backseat (an increasingly irritating presence in this series); someone tries to kill him; he has a painful scene with Interesting Woman; he considers suicide because of the horror of the war (really, I'm almost rooting for it by now); he goes back to London to little praise and no personal peace. And it starts all over again in the next book.

Since the Bess novels rely on random circumstances for the whodunnit problem, you'd think they'd be less likely to fall into a pattern. But you would be wrong. In the first novel, Bess obsesses about a promise to a dying soldier and sets off, while on leave, to fulfill it, meeting a dark and dysfunctional family; in the second, she witnesses a train station farewell between a man and a woman who turns up murdered, and spends most of her leave obsessing about finding the murderer, encountering two dark and dysfunctional families; in this book, there is a woman on the doorstep and (can you guess?) Bess must spend her leave worrying about yet another dark and . . . .

Don't get me wrong. I like the Bess novels. But what a wasted opportunity these are! Bess grew up in India. How about something arising from that? Bess has a fabulous distant relative called Melinda Crawford who has had more adventures than Ian Rutledge has dark thoughts, and yet she's barely a walk-on in these books. While I often get irritated with authors who construct tension by making the hero the object of every passing villain's wrath, I do think that the Bess books would be more compelling if the detecting weren't all done pro bono publico. It's not her _business_ so some of it needs to be personal. Bess is beginning to look like a gadfly or one of those meddling spinsters who mind everyone else's business because they have none of their own.

I like Bess and I'm glad to spend a few more days in her company. I just wish the Charles Todd team took her more seriously.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Truth is the property of no individual but...the treasure of all men." Emerson Aug. 17 2011
By michael a. draper - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"A Bitter Truth" is an engrossing depiction of the life of a battlefield nurse in WWI and an upper class family in rural England. We observe the interactions of this family as they attempt to deal with a particularly embarrassing situation of a possible illegimate child.

Bess Crawford is a nurse who returns to England on leave from her duties on the French battlefields. She finds a well dressed young woman huddled in her doorway. The woman, Lydia Ellis, has a bruise on her face,and Bess's compassionate nature takes over. She invites Lydia to her flat and learns that Lydia's husband Roger, struck her. Lydia is afraid to return to her home so Bess offers to accompany her.

At the Ellis home, Bess meets Roger and understands about the argument. Roger is about to return to his unit at the front and Lydia wants to try to conceive a child so that if anything happened to Roger, Lydia would have that part of him to remember and love.

Bess is a steady character who is a delight. As a nurse, she deals with physically and mentally injured people. She has seen horrors at the front so she doesn't get unnerved at things back in England. She is also a problem solver and has the ability to analyze a situation and provide useful alternatives. In this manner, I found myself sympathetic to her and wishing her to succeed.

Charles Todd describes the relationship between family members and their goal of protecting the family name. When a character is murdered, the reader continues the story enjoying Bess as she tries to figure out what happened and who could be the guity person, while the author keeps us in suspense.

There is something in the novel that will capture the reader's heart, in addition, there is a well placed plot twist that adds to the reader's interest and sets this story at the top of creative story telling.

The story has a plot and character who seem made for each other and combine for a wonderful reading experience.

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