LJ's Reviews > A Bitter Truth

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd
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Sep 07, 11

bookshelves: 1900s_early, england, france, historical, mystery, traditional_mystery, writing_pair, ww1_1914-18
Read in August, 2011

First Sentence: A cold rain had followed me from France to England, and an even colder wind greeted me as we pulled into the railway station in London.

Returning from the battlefields of France to England for Christmas leave, WWI nurse Bess Crawford encounters a desperate woman, rain-drenched and bruised in her building’s entry. Offering her shelter, Bess slowly learns the woman, Lydia Ellis, had been struck by her husband during an argument. Lydia begs Bess to return to the family’s house in Sussex with her and, fearing Lydia may have a concussion. Bess agrees, entering a home filled with tension and, ultimately, murder with Bess being an initial suspect.

The mother and son team of Charles Todd write some of the most evocative descriptions creating a wonderfully strong sense of time and place. The alternating settings of London, and English country house and the stark reality, cruelty and death of war are deftly handled. Even more, they deal with the front and the wounded in a manner which is strongly impactful, yet not overly graphic.

The dialogue is so well done; it is atmospheric…”The forest is—I don’t know—not haunted, but most certainly, it broods.” with a well-placed sense of irony and occasional wry humor. The language doesn’t work hard at reflecting the period, but the sense of it is still there, particularly with the use of the old collective noun “a crocodile of children.”

Bess is a character who has grown on me with each successive book. She is a dedicated nurse, but the authors have restrained her from coming across as prissy. The relationship with Simon, her father’s ex-Sergeant Major and now assistant, is one handled with proper decorum and appropriateness to the period, but one rather hopes to see grow as the series progresses. Lydia, the wife in trouble, is very well constructed as a character who is difficult to like, but one who elicits one’s sympathy.

There were a couple weaknesses to the book. It did become tiresome that some of the characters were continuously referred to by their full names and, although I suppose necessary for the plot, I did have a problem with on significant decision made by Bess to not tell the police about a piece of evidence. Both of these are minor points, however, when weighed against the book’s strengths.

“A Bitter Truth” is the best, so far, of the three books in the Bess Crawford series. How lucky are we readers to have two such good series from Charles Todd.

A BITTER TRUTH (Hist Mys-Bess Crawford-England/France-1917/WWI) – VG
Todd, Charles – 3rd in series
Wm. Morrow, 2011, Unc. Proof – HC ISBN:
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