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A Duty To The Dead (Bess Crawford, #1)
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A Duty To The Dead (Bess Crawford #1)

3.9  ·  Rating Details ·  10,240 Ratings  ·  1,139 Reviews
“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, au
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 1st 2009 by Morrow
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Community Reviews

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Jun 12, 2015 Eve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
"War is a bloody waste of good men, and that will break your heart when nothing else does."

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Bess Crawford is serving as a nurse during WWI on the Britannic, a hospital ship that travels between the fronts collecting injured and fallen soldiers, and carrying them to safer hospitals on ground or to their watery graves. On board, Bess meets Arthur Graham, a charismatic soldier whose wound turns septic overnight, and his last words to Bess are for her to carry a message home to his brother in Kent.

Carol Storm
Jul 16, 2012 Carol Storm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I get older I often find that what matters most to me about a book is not whether the plot is air tight and the mystery totally plausible, but whether or not the author creates characters you can admire and care about.

On that level, A DUTY TO THE DEAD is a classic.

Bess Crawford is a beautiful, upper class English girl who volunteers to be a nurse in World War One. The daughter of an officer and very proud of her military background, Bess is fearless and calm in the terrifying shipwreck scen
A Duty to the Dead is the first book in the Bess Crawford series.

I have previously read book seven in the series; A Pattern of Lies a little while ago and I just absolutely loved that book. And, of course, I wanted to read the series from the beginning and lucky me; I own the first book as an eBook.

Bess Crawford works as a nurse during WW1 and is home now after being onboard a hospital ship that sunk. She survived with a broken arm and since she can't work decides to travel to Kent to visit the
Mar 28, 2012 Stephanie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, fiction
Excellent mystery set during WWI. Bess Crawford is a nurse who is sent home on medical leave when she suffers a broken arm after her medical ship, the Britannic, is sunk by the Germans. It's been a while since she's been back in England and she has a duty to fulfill. One of her patients, Arthur Graham, had a final wish before succumbing to this injuries. He asked that Bess pass on a message to his brother Jonathan at their family home in Kent. So with time on her hands, Bess sets off for Kent to ...more
Lewis Weinstein
I have long been a fan of Charles Todd's "Inspector Ian Rutledge" series. This is the first of a new "Bess Crawford" series and it is a delight. Bess is a WWI army nurse, in this case home on leave bringing an enigmatic message to the family of a man she was with when he died. She delivers the message but is not sure it has the effect the dying man intended, so she stays and sticks her nose where it most assuredly does not belong. Her perseverance and passion for justice lead her ever deeper int ...more
This was a bear to get into. For some unknown reason, it just didn't catch my attention. I did read it through but it took all night. England 1916, World War I is raging, Bess Crawford is serving as a nurse on the ill fated Britannia when she meets Lt. Arthur Graham, she become attached to hm against her better judgement, He entrusts her with a cryptic secret just before he suddenly dies in her care. Her guilt overwhelms her and as the ship is torpedoed, she is injured, and vows to deliver the m ...more
Jun 06, 2012 SheLove2Read rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2013, 2013
An absolutely enthralling psychological whodunit. The atmosphere is hauntingly England. I felt as if I were there, in the mist and gloom of wartime London and Kent. This is a book not easily put down, not forgotten once it's over.

Bess is one heck of a heroine. If this had been an urban fantasy, I'd easily have seen her on a par with Patty Briggs's Mercy Thompson. She's not indestructible but she's like a dog with a bone - not giving up and going away when she should have. I loved her!

There's re
I would have probably called this a fairly slow-paced book before I realized that, though it felt like I couldn't have made it very far, I had already nearly made it halfway through! It's a paradox: slow, yet fast. Makes no sense & I really don't know how to explain it, but I like it. And the pace does seem to pick up as the story goes along.

All in all, I really liked this book! The characters, setting, and storyline were all interesting. While I did predict part of the ending, some of it wa
I read this because I had heard that fans of Maisie Dobbs often also liked Bess Crawford. Unfortunately, most everything I like about Maisie was absent here. First, the language didn't convince me that we were 1) in a different time and 2) in a different place. (I had the same complaint about the Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Society whatever book.) Each of those should lend its own tenor to people's speech, the terminology used, the objects referred to, etc. Didn't happen. (Maybe because the two wri ...more
The mystery element was decent but not exceptional and I wasn't satisfied with how it resolved, so I probably wouldn't recommend the book for its plot, but I loved the thoughtfulness with which the story, and with which Bess, wrestled with the theme (as stated by the title) and with trying to do well by people whose voices are marginalized (by death, by PTSD, by mental illness, by family dynamics).

I was disappointed in a trope used by the book. Spoilers for the ending: (view spoiler)
A Duty to the Dead
4 Stars

On leave after being injured during the sinking of the hospital ship Britannic, nurse Bess Crawford takes the opportunity to fulfill the dying wish of a young soldier under her care. Traveling to Kent, she encounters the Graham family and their many secrets including the existence of unwanted sibling incarcerated in a lunatic asylum. As Bess delves deeper into the meaning of Arthur Graham’s message, she uncovers an horrific crime and a travesty of justice that may have f
Jan 30, 2015 Jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another 5 star read! Another new author to love! I felt the atmosphere in this one. The setting (as far as time period) was well drawn and believable. Bess was a real character who has enough spunk to be both likeable and true to her time frame. She kept after the mystery until by sheer force of will discovered the secrets being tightly held. Peregrine was by far my favorite character though. He was intricate, layered and mysterious. I thought his ending was appropriate, and it made me cheer. I ...more
Jul 11, 2011 Marcie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first in the Bess Crawford mystery series (written by the author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery series). The Rutledge series takes place just after WWI, this one is during the war. Bess is an English nurse at the front. A dying soldier makes her promise to take a message home to his family. After she is injured when her hospital ship is torpedoed she finally has a chance to deliver the message. The message opens up a long kept secret that could free a man from prison and destr ...more
Feb 11, 2013 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Occasionally, I enjoy a good stroll down the mystery aisle at my local library to look for authors whose books I might want to try. Charles Todd's first in the Bess Crawford series did not disappoint my latest cover gamble. Like Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs, Todd's Crawford is a strong woman solving mysteries in a different time, in this case World War I in Britain. I'm not sure when the historical mystery genre was first created, but I hope it's here to stay. Giving us a taste of history, ...more
Darcia Helle
I don't read a lot of historical fiction and I've never read anything by Charles Todd. After reading A Duty to the Dead, I have to say that I've been missing out. Todd is a brilliant writer. He weaves an old-fashioned mystery around a World War I nurse. Todd does a masterful job of immersing the reader in the characters' world. You will feel like you've stepped out of the 21st century and back into the early 1900s. A truly enjoyable read.
Jan C
Sep 04, 2010 Jan C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jan C by: Charles Todd
Shelves: wwi, england, 2011
I'm a big Charles Todd fan. Love the Ian Rutledge stories.

Now they branched out to the story of a nurse in WWI. She is on a ship that explodes, breaks her arm or something, and gets sent home to recuperate. Prior to the explosion, she had nursed a young man who asked her to take a message home to his brother. It seems as though there was something more than a nurse-patient relationship here. But we don't really know for a while.

Her father, known as Colonel Sahib for his service in India, where o
Loved this for the characters, setting and general atmosphere.

I'm not that sure the mystery itself - or the solving of it - was all that solid, and if I wanted to poke at all the things I found a little hard to believe, I could spend some time doing this, but honestly, I didn't care. The book drew me in and kept me happy, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
Jana Perskie
"Duty to The Dead" opens on Tuesday, November 21, 1916, at 8: A.M. Our protagonist, Bess Crawford is onboard a ship in the Mediterranean heading toward England, writing in her journal.

World War I, the "War to End All Wars" is in its second year. It began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, at the hands of Serbian nationalists. This act of terror was seen as the immediate trigger of the war. Of course, there were many other reasons - und
Maureen E
I started Maisie Dobbs, but the library I'm at the most doesn't have the second book. I remembered that Jess had recommended the Bess Crawford books recently, so I picked up the first one.

In general, I like historical mysteries, so these two had that going for them from the beginning. Also, I've been a bit passionate about WWI since high school, when we read the war poets.

The Bess Crawford books, so far, take place during the war rather than after it (as with Maisie Dobbs). This fact adds a sen
Lisa Johnson
Aug 25, 2014 Lisa Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Title: A Duty to the Dead (Bess Crawford Mystery #1)
Author: Charles Todd
Pages: 329
Year: 2009
Publisher: William Morrow
Bess Crawford is a young nurse, serving the wounded British soldiers of WWI. One soldier, upon realizing he was dying, has entrusted her with a message to be delivered in person to his brother after the soldier’s death. Bess has been putting off this trip, but after her hospital ship is sunk and she abandons ship, she comes to terms with the fact that she is avoiding her duty and
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 emb
Find the enhanced version of this and other reviews at: http://flashlightcommentary.blogspot....

I don't have much of a background with regards to World War I lit. All Quiet on the Western Front all but killed my interest in the genre. For years I wouldn’t touch anything on the subject. I changed my tune after reading Barbed Wire and Roses. The book left such an impression on me that I started looking for other books set during the Great War. One of the first titles that caught my eye was a murde
An incredibly silly, illogical, and yet pleasurable book in which a WW I nurse solves a mystery. Jacqueline Winspear's WW I nurse Maisie Dobbs is much deeper, and her stories are much better thought out, but you want to keep reading "A Duty to the Dead" even though the events described make no sense. Our heroine is half in love with a dying soldier who proposes to her and asks her to deliver a message to his brother, Jonathan Graham. On the basis of no facts, she assumes the cryptic message must ...more
Oct 24, 2009 Spuddie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First in a new historical mystery series featuring Bess Crawford, a nurse during WWI. As we meet Bess, she is on an empty hospital ship, Brittanic, heading back to England, when it hits a mine and sinks. During the fracas, her arm is broken and then injured worse, and thus must be taken off active duty. During this time, she decides to finally assuage her conscience and visit the family of a solider she'd grown close to who ultimately died and left her with a message for his brother that she pro ...more
Beth Cato
This book hooked me from the first chapter. Bess is on a mostly empty nursing ship when it strikes a mine in the Mediterranean. The ship goes down, and her ensuing convalescence forces her back to England--and into a mystery regarding the promise to a dead patient. I read through the full book in two days. I enjoyed it for the most part, but several aspects did bother me.

Bess is a good detective in many ways, but she also does some things that are frustratingly dumb. She lets a convicted murdere
Oct 05, 2013 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, england, wwi
"Tell Jonathan I lied. I did it for Mother's sake. But it has to be set right." WWI nurse Bess Crawford hears this from a dying soldier and promises to carry the message to his family. Later when she's on medical leave recovering from injuries, she follows through with delivering the message. The family receives the message with seemingly cold indifference. Bess begins to wonder what they're hiding.
I'm still trying to decide what I thought of this. Goodreads recommended it because I've read th
Apr 15, 2015 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a happy surprise. I picked it up on a whim and was pleased to meet Bess Crawford and to learn she is part of a mystery series written by Charles Todd. Bess is an English nurse in WWI. While tending a dying patient he asks her to take a message home to his brother, "Tell Jonathan that I lied. I did it for mother's sake." Bess feels that she has a duty to the dead to carry out and sets off to complete her job. When reaching the Graham home she soon realizes there is a lot more to thi ...more
Sep 13, 2010 Sue rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery readers, historical fiction.
This is the first of The second series by Charles Todd featuring a WWI nurse, Bess Crawford. She works in various war theaters nursing soldiers wounded in battle. One such soldier, on realizing he is about to die, has given her a message to take home to his brother. This becomes her mission and the action of the novel. It leads her to a village in Kent and deep into the young man's family secrets. As always the historical details are very interesting.

While the story is interesting, I found myse
Dec 25, 2011 Felicia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I put this on the vaginal mystery shelf because even though there is no real romance here, I think people who enjoy romance/mystery will like it.

This is set in World War I, which I know VERY LITTLE about, so I found it extra fascinating. The most exciting part of the book actually is the first few chapters. However, the rest of the book was pretty engrossing and was a really nicely crafted mystery with a goodie-two-shoes but likeable lead. Basically, in order to fulfill the dying wish of a patie
Apr 03, 2013 Kathryn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
This was a good story. It was somewhat similar to the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. It was a mystery and I did not put it entirely together until the end. I just love how the English love their tea and they feel at times it puts everything into perspective.
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Charles Todd is the pen name used by a mother-and-son writing team, Caroline Todd and Charles Todd.
More about Charles Todd...

Other Books in the Series

Bess Crawford (9 books)
  • An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford, #2)
  • A Bitter Truth (Bess Crawford, #3)
  • An Unmarked Grave (Bess Crawford, #4)
  • A Question of Honor (Bess Crawford, #5)
  • An Unwilling Accomplice (Bess Crawford, #6)
  • A Pattern of Lies (Bess Crawford, #7)
  • The Shattered Tree (Bess Crawford, #8)
  • Casualty of War (Bess Crawford #9)

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“That's the point of working with one's hands, you see. It gives the mind something else to do besides worry.” 9 likes
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