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A Duty to the Dead (Bess Crawford, #1)
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A Duty to the Dead

(Bess Crawford #1)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  15,007 ratings  ·  1,640 reviews
A Duty to the Dead introduces readers to an unforgettable new protagonist in an exceptional new series: Bess Crawford, a courageous World War I nurse and determined investigator. Once again the New York Times bestselling author brilliantly evokes post-Great War Europe, casting an indomitable heroine into a simmering cauldron of village secrets, family intrigues, and murder ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 25th 2009 by William Morrow
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Elizabeth Robinson There are a total of 8 books in this series so far--last one, The Shattered Tree, was released in 2016. The ninth installment, Casualty of War, will b…moreThere are a total of 8 books in this series so far--last one, The Shattered Tree, was released in 2016. The ninth installment, Casualty of War, will be released later this month, September 26, 2017.(less)
Ellen However, the life situations and changes of Bess are referred to in each book. If you have not read the previous ones', you may not 'catch' the refere…moreHowever, the life situations and changes of Bess are referred to in each book. If you have not read the previous ones', you may not 'catch' the references. Still the story plots stand alone.(less)

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Carol Storm
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
"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.

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
Jun 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 was st
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
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 mother and sibling of a dying soldier last word; "Tell Jonathan t
Oct 10, 2016 rated it liked it
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
Mar 28, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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)
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m a latecomer to this series, but I plan to make up time and continue it pretty quickly. It’s evocative of the time and place and features characters distinctive enough to follow and a well-paced story. There’s more here than I expected.
Currently listening...

Very well done British mystery, very much in the old school style a la Agatha Christie and Patricia Wentworth with a solid but slow buildup to the reveal. Rosalyn Landor's narration is well done as well particularly with general and female voices. Her male voices are a little stilted.

With almost 1200 reviews I don't know why I am bothering, but here we go...

Bess, a nurse in WWI, is compelled to relay a message from Arthur, her charming, dying patient, to his brother. Not on
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
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this and wasn’t expecting to be overly interested as it was set during WWI, not a period of history I’ve ever been inspired by. But it was very interesting and an absorbing mystery. I will definitely be continuing the series.
Jocelyn Green
This general market mystery kept me engaged from the first page to the last. The premise is completely intriguing, and the characters kept me guessing as to their true motivations right up until the end (which was a mix of tragedy and happy). I'll be reading more Bess Crawford when I'm in the mood for a WW1-era mystery!
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
Oct 01, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: england, mystery, 1910s
Found my new mystery series!
Feb 19, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Feb 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Azita Rassi
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Loved the historical aspect of it; the detective aspect has room for improvement, but this opinion might also be influenced by the fact that I listened to the book amidst the chaos of moving house. Anyway, I’m going to start the second book in the series tomorrow, which says something about how much I enjoyed the first one.
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
It is exceedingly slow with long passages that I believe is an attempt to provide background for a character that has never seen print and paper before. I also believe that Bess's behavior was unbelievable considering that it was 1916 and she was a woman. Complete strangers were willing to be interrogated by a young single woman about circumstances that were clearly none of her concern ?... I don't think so. It is however the first book in the series and this is NOT 1916 so I know that reader we ...more
Jan C
Sep 04, 2010 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.
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was ok
To much filler information not enough mystery or action to keep you interested.
I'm on a mystery binge these days. I've been eyeing Charles Todd's two series for some time, and thought this was a good time to pick up one of them. This wasn't the series I wanted to read - I've read one other mystery book with a World War I and II setting - Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs, and loathed it so much that I haven't been able to pick up another such book, never mind the same series. But Bess Crawford was what was available at the time, so Bess Crawford it was.

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Saucy Wenches Boo...: A Duty to the Dead [December 2018] 7 10 Jan 04, 2019 03:36PM  

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Charles Todd is the pen name used by the mother-and-son writing team, Caroline Todd and Charles Todd. Together they write the Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford Series. They have published two standalone mystery novels and many short stories.

Other books in the series

Bess Crawford (1 - 10 of 12 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)
  • A Casualty of War (Bess Crawford, #9)
  • A Forgotten Place (Bess Crawford, #10)
  • A Cruel Deception (Bess Crawford, #11)

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