I agree w/Sophia08 that the characters are two-dimensional. Furthermore, the protagonist never seems like a woman. If I didn't know, I'd guess the author is a man, because the character seems like a man. All business and little feeling or intuition. Little compassion. Busy, busy, busy. In general I do not find that male authors can write believably about female characters. And when they try to create a woman's sexual attraction, not to mention pregnancy, in a character in a believable way they are out of their depth and shouldn't try.
Moreover, that the nurse got sent back to England when there was such a great need for nurses at the front seems preposterous, as does her rushing willy-nilly all over England in search of minor facts or characters. Friend of a relative of a friend. Bess claims her mother knew half the people in England, and acts like it, lending a silliness to what tries to be a serious plot. Additionally, the actions of the Scotland Yard detective are not believable or even rational much of the time.
I'll finish reading this book but will not take out any more by this author.
Two women authors who have written excellent mysteries taking place during WWI and who could serve as models to Mr. Todd are Jaqueline Winspear and Kerry Greenwood.
However, I'd recommend this book and this author to no one.
2nd in the series, a well written goof read. One potential problem: both books use the same story board. Bess takes an interest, perseveres, gets in trouble, satisfactory solution.
A satisfying mystery with the same interesting writing style as the Sgt. Rutledge books (without the annoying Hamish). Bess seems so sensible and surrounded by other sensible people that it's not frustrating as she gets deeper and deeper into the mystery. Set mostly in England, there are times we follow her back to France where she is ministering to Allied soldiers at the Front.
Great second in this series. Not just a good mystery, but a good use of the WW I setting, both when nursing sister Bess Crawford is on the front in France, and home on leave in England. The US author team has done their research well. The plot gets a bit convoluted, as the families involved are intricately related. Bess's profession as a nurse is a good one for her compassionate interest in detection, and her powers of observation allow her to solve crimes. The books can be read on their own, but are more fun in order.
As an aside, I've checked whether petrol was rationed during WW I in England; it was not, though food was. After the War, England and France divided up the Middle East between themselves to make sure of their continuing supplies of oil. There was talk, by 1918, of converting to coal-gas for cars to save the petrol for military use, but the conversion process itself was too expensive so it wasn't done. In WW II, gas was indeed rationed. Food was rationed in both wars. Bess and Simon might be charged with silliness for driving all over England, but not with wasting petrol. And England's a much smaller country than the US, so we're comparing apples to oranges.
A librarian recommended this series to me and I am so glad she did. Can't wait to read the next one.
A great follow up to A Duty to the Dead
If you love to read historical mysteries then you might want to try An Impartial witness by Charles Todd.
Todd has two series of mysteries: The Ian Rutledge mysteries and the two Bess Crawford mysteries. The Impartial witness is the second in the Bess Crawford series.
Todd and his mother are the writers for these excellent series.
The tale begins in the early summer of 1917 and Bess Crawford a spunky nursing sister is returning to England with a convoy of wounded soldiers from the French front. One of the patients that she recently cared for was a badly burned pilot who had the picture of his beloved wife near his cot. While Bess was at the Waterloo train station she saw a tearful woman with an officer from the Wiltshire Regiment. He was very cold toward the woman and got on the train to leave for the front. Bess recognizes the face of the woman as the wife of the wounded pilot. She tries to follow the woman through the crowded train station but loses her trail. Two weeks later Bess is back in France and by chance gets a package from home that is wrapped with an old newspaper. One of the stories is about the murder of a woman. This woman, Marjorie Evanson was the wife of the pilot that Bess treated. Scotland Yard is asking anyone to contact them if they saw
Mrs. Marjorie Evanson on the day she was murdered. The rest of this mystery deals with this murder and Bess spends her leaves from the front to try and find the murderer.
An excellent read, with period details about London and the outlying areas. There are lots of twists and turns in this fast-paced plot. Readers will enjoy the outgoing character of this female sleuth.
An Impartial Witness is a good story but it is not so well written and plotted as the Ian Rutledge series. i was put off by the repetitiveness of the action and the two-dimensional quality of the characters. The Heroine, Bess, and her trusted Protector, Simon, are usually dashing about the countryside in forays for information. This in itself is odd because during WWI petrol must have been scarce. Bess is alternatively courageous and helpless, and Simon is always there to accompany her or arrive at the just the right moment to rescue and comfort her.. Many of the characters are caricatures who have little actual relationship to one another, and the relationship Bess has with her family seems incidental rather than real.
The Ian Rutledge books are very beautifully written. The language itself is a pleasure to read. Yes, the ghost remarks in his head could be tiresome but were mostly helpful in the later books.
This book does rate three stars for being a good story and worth a read.
A new author for me. I'll look for more.
Charles Todd is an outstanding find ... a new mystery writer that has captured my attention. I hope that this dynamic writing team continues for many years.
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