Carol Storm's Reviews > A Duty To The Dead

A Duty To The Dead by Charles Todd
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Dec 08, 14


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 scene that begins the novel. The descriptions of the mine explosion and the frantic escape from the sinking Britannic are truly explosive, written with so much terrifying realism that it all seems to be happening in slow motion. A nightmare, yet totally real. Bess comes across as cool and resolute, yet deeply caring and utterly irresistible.

Having established a totally admirable and fascinating heroine, the authors (Charles Todd is really a mother and son team writing together) introduce an even more amazing hero. Peregrine Graham is a madman who has just escaped from an asylum after fifteen years of brutal imprisonment. As a young boy he horribly murdered a pretty young servant girl -- or did he? By turns savage, brooding, and vulnerable, Peregrine Graham is a romance reader's dream. Let all my Kleypas people know: this boy could give Nick Gentry or Derek Craven a run for his money. He might even be able to go a round or two with Jamie Fraser himself!

Unfortunately, this is not a romance novel. This is a cozy English mystery. And even though Bess and Peregrine have an almost sizzling physical chemistry from the word go, the mystery itself is muddled, confusing, and often unintentionally funny.

"Come on, Peregrine! Keep that bag over your head so no one will recognize you! It's very important that we walk down the street in plain view, and interview every elderly villager who still remembers THAT NIGHT! Look, there's old Eleanor Rigby. Let's ask her what she remembers! 'Bless you, my child, I remember it all like it was yesterday. I was picking up the rice in the church where a wedding had been, and I heard a scream. But then I heard someone say, 'blame the idiot. blame the idiot!' And that's all I remember, my dears. But look, there's Father McKenzie. He's always darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there. Perhaps he remembers more about THAT NIGHT."

It's hard to believe that everyone in the village has photographic memory and total recall. And a lot of the Graham family history is hard to swallow too. There are too many Graham brothers, and you can't tell one from the other most of the time.

"Now, Peregrine, while you were playing with your knife, someone must have drugged you and stolen it for just long enough to hack poor Lily to death! Now was it Harpo, the silent one? Or was it Chico, the Italian one? Or was it Groucho, the funny one? We've got to find out who it was before they send you back to the asylum! What do you mean, there ain't no sanity clause?"

If you love a haunting atmosphere, a strong heroine, and a brooding hero, then this book is really a wonderful experience. But if you're looking for a mystery that is believable and detective work that is totally realistic, then A Duty To The Dead is only an average read.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Lisa I like your different point of views on this book. I agree on all of them!


Carol Storm Thank you!


message 3: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Very good points. I did love it though.


Jennifer Wonderful review! I agree on all points, though you articulated those points before I even thought them.


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