Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford, #2)” as Want to Read:
An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford, #2)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

An Impartial Witness

(Bess Crawford #2)

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  9,305 ratings  ·  844 reviews
It is early summer 1917. Bess Crawford has returned to England from the trenches of France with a convoy of severely wounded men. One of her patients is a young pilot who has been burned beyond recognition, and who clings to life and the photo of his wife pinned to his tunic.
While passing through a London train station, Bess notices a woman bidding an emotional farewell to
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by William Morrow
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about An Impartial Witness, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Dennis Fischman I think you could read this one without having read the previous book. Nothing in the plot depends on previous events, and Todd reintroduces the chara…moreI think you could read this one without having read the previous book. Nothing in the plot depends on previous events, and Todd reintroduces the characters and settings smoothly.(less)
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Christy Wahl I'll try to answer without ruining the rest of the book for you. Husband did know of infidelity, sister told him seemingly out of spite because she di…moreI'll try to answer without ruining the rest of the book for you. Husband did know of infidelity, sister told him seemingly out of spite because she disliked the wife. The story has a twist at the end that does satisfactorily wrap everything in a fairly neat bow, although it is pretty ambling to get there.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,305 ratings  ·  844 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford, #2)
Mar 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
I'm having a little trouble with the conceit of this series. A young woman goes around asking questions that are none of her business of people, who are sometimes hostile to the investigation, who answer those questions even against their own interests. I don't recall that other mystery series I read centered around amateur sleuths have protagonists who are quite this confrontational. And it seems odd to me that in World War I, when supplies, especially petrol, would have been in short supply, t ...more
After reading most of the book, I found myself awarding four stars to An Impartial Witness. I thought soon after, that if the fate of Michael Hart is not written in the book, it will be a perfect score. Maybe that was a too weird ending to hope for, since one way or another, the reader must be shown some reward.

After what felt like a slew of indifferent books I've read, I welcome the quality of this book. Charles Todd are writers(mother and son) that decide correctly when to go into detail and
I think Bess and I are going to have to part ways. Mysteries were my first love starting with Nancy Drew then the Grande Dame of all, Agatha Christie, as well as Patricia Wentworth and more than a few American mystery writers: Elizabeth Peters, Margaret Maron, Louise Penny, Martha Grimes and the list goes on....

Unlike some contemporary fiction, with a mystery you have a beginning, a middle and an end as well as a resolution where justice is served. With Bess and her benign tolerance for victims
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2015
An Impartial Witness is the sequel to A duty to the Dead and I was eager to read this book since this series has become a favorite of mine.

It's the early summer of 1917 and Bess Crawford is returning home from the trenches of France with a convoy of wounded men. One of the patients is Lt. Meriwether Evanson, a pilot who has been burned beyond recognition and he clings to life much thanks to his wife Marjorie whose picture he has pinned to his tunic. But Bess notices a woman on a London train st
I know I should be admiring Bess Crawford for her determination and perseverance in trying to prove a man innocent, but I have to say I found her intensely annoying! The mystery despite this was interesting and engaging. I find something very more-ish in the writing of the Charles Todd team.
Maureen E
Feb 08, 2012 rated it liked it
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
An Impartial Witness
3.5 Stars

Combat nurse Bess Crawford accompanies a convoy of wounded men home to England. While passing through a train station on her return to the front, she observes a young woman bidding a tearful farewell to a soldier and recognizes her as the wife of one of her patients. When the woman is later found murdered, Bess feels compelled to contact Scotland Yard and finds herself drawn into a convoluted case that may just end in the execution of an innocent man.

Although the pac
I didn't like it, but i didn't hate it either, so I didn't feel able to give it a single star.

For me, the problem with this book is that I just didn't care. I didn't like any of the characters (to the extent that they're even developed), and I didn't care abut the plot, which had nothing new to offer. Bess is an arrogant brat: her interference is explained to the reader as an over-developed sense of duty (blamed on her military father), but for me it just comes across as arrogance. Bess "must" i
Apr 16, 2017 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this series but am giving up after only 2 books. It is not easy to put a finger on it, but there's definitely an ingredient missing.

The 2 stories I've read so far are rather formulaic but, most of all, I think my lassitude is because the characters are so flat. A heroine driven solely by a sense of duty, and becoming involved in murder investigations that have nothing to do with her (or only a very vague, contrived connection) is one thing. Quite another is the historica
Jun 01, 2017 rated it liked it
I like this series, review lost in Shelfari Import
Nov 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
4+ stars

I’m enjoying this WWI mystery series for the just-enough levels of complexity, character interest, and interesting time and place.
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, read-05-16
I've been on a historical-ish kick for the past few weeks and every non-historical book hasn't clicked the best with me. But now, I feel as if I can go back to contemporary books! This book was a very good sophomore in what seems to be an excellent series.

I loved the MC, Bess, she was everything I look for in a MC. I also liked that the author(s) featured more of Simon in this book. He's extremely mysterious and I'd love to learn more about him! Her parents were also wonderful. They gave her so
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Actually about a 3.5.
Jocelyn Green
Sep 04, 2020 added it
Shelves: mystery
Thoroughly enjoyed this twisty-turny mystery. I love that there were so many suspects that totally could have done it, with convincing motives and opportunities. Great characters and smart writing. Audiobook version was excellent.
I've been reading a fair amount about World War I in the past several months, everything from All Quiet on the Western Front to John Keegan's The First World War (which I'm finding slow going and haven't finished yet). I've also watched some films such as A Farewell to Arms (with Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes) and Passchendaele, and of course I've continued to read some of the mysteries set in WWI and its aftermath, by authors such as Jacqueline Winspear, Carola Dunn, Anne Perry, and not least, th ...more
Dec 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I liked this one so much better than the first one - glad I went ahead and read it after my disappointment with the beginning of the series. With this story she sees a woman on a train platform crying and despondent while talking to a man that is not her husband. Bess knows this for she has been nursing the husband through injuries suffered in WWI. When the woman is murdered Bess does her duty and goes to the police to report what she's seen. I do find the reasons she gets involved in the invest ...more
Kathy Davie
Dec 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Second in the Bess Crawford historical mystery series revolving around a battlefield nurse during World War I in 1917.

My Take
I found this one more believable than his first. I really like how well Todd conveys the feel of England in the first World War. He brings out the style and mores as well as the privation suffered by the English, although it has a softness to it. Although I am rather surprised at how much driving around Bess does when supposedly petrol is in short supply!

I'm also curious a
I thought I'd met a new favorite series when I read the first book of the series and found it enjoyable. However, this one didn't quite match up. The setup is similar. Bess, a field nurse during WWI, escorts a young burn victim back to England. Said burn victim is very much in love with his wife, and he carries his wife's picture around with him like a talisman. (Also, it's strangely unburned, when we're repeatedly told he keeps it pinned somewhere in his clothing). However, when Bess gets off t ...more
Apr 08, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5. I think that wanting justice to be served is a good trait, but Bess Crawford seems to ignore all other considerations in her desire for the truth. She is lucky that she has a family and friends who are willing to put up with her dogged determination and bull-headedness.
Ram Kaushik
Apr 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
A somewhat disappointing read compared to the first Bess Crawford mystery.
Bess' obsession with a soap-opera type cast of characters in the midst of the devastation of World War I somehow rang hollow for me. With bodies piling up in the trenches of France, Bess somehow gallivants back to London every week to interview potential lovers of a girl she saw for 15 seconds on a train station. Still readable, but very unconvincing.
First Sentence: As my train pulled into London, I looked out at the early summer rain and was glad to see the dreary day had followed me from Hampshire.

WWI battlefield nurse Bess Crawford cared for a badly burned young pilot who had a picture of his wife visibly displayed. In a train station traveling on leave back to London, Bess happens to see the wife who is clearly upset as she sees off a different soldier. Although somewhat perplexed by the scene, it is nothing to the shock Bess feels when
Dec 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Bess Crawford is a nursing sister in World War I and stationed in France. When the book begins it is the summer of 1917 and she is transporting wounded soldiers back to London. Amongst these soldiers is a burned pilot named Lt. Meriweather Evanson. Pinned to his lapel jacket is a photograph of his wife Marjorie Evanson. Bess is given a 36 hour pass in London before going back to France. At the train station she sees a woman saying goodbye to a soldier. This woman looks exactly like the woman in ...more
Mar 15, 2011 rated it liked it
World War I nurse Bess Crawford is back in England, doggedly figuring out who murdered the wife of one of her badly-injured patients. Spending less time in France on the battlefield and more time with those remaining at home, this second-in-the-series novel evolves into the gentle form of the classic English murder mystery.

Among the intriguing continuing bits in the series are the references to the Crawford family's time spent in India. Please take Bess back there in a future book. Her father's
Very well done. Rosalyn Landor narrated beautifully. The perfect stand-alone novel, in a series about a nurse, in the middle of WW1, embroiled in a murder mystery.
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: murder-mystery
Set in 1917 between France and England, “Impartial Witness” opens when Bess Crawford returning to the front lines notices a woman sobbing at the train station and holding on to the arm of a man who shows her nothing but cold contempt. Returning to England weeks later with a convoy of wounded soldiers, one a severely burned pilot with the picture of his wife pinned to his tunic, she discovers that the woman she saw at the station has been murdered. After giving a statement to a Scotland Yard Insp ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Cozy mystery fan? Well this one is for you…

The second installment in the series of the amateur sleuth is more than a 3.5 albeit not quite 4 stars for me. (3.9 maybe??) However, to avoid wearisome technicalities, I will reluctantly give it four stars. To be sure, a strong argument can be made that 4 stars are actually deserved especially since I stayed up late to find out who-dun-it and why-dun-it I admit that only a compelling mystery can persuade me to forfeit precious beauty sleep especia
This series continues to be very readable, but my qualms are growing.

First, I really do wish there were people writing books set in this place and period — homefront of WWI — who didn’t seem to yearn so very strongly to go back to those days. I am increasingly sure that, once again, I have failed to find those people. These authors have that distinctive whiff of “gosh, it sure was better in the old days!” And that whiff in part comes from their choice not to include people we know existed at tha
Katie Sholty
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi, england, france
An Impartial Witness is Bess Crawford's second outing, and I found myself less impressed. The story line was very circular, meaning that Charles Todd kept evolving around one poignant fact: Person C could not have killed Person A, nor could Person C have wounded Person D. The repetitiveness was like a bad headache, with Bess constantly defending her interest in Person C's case.

Every Single Character: Bess dear, are you in love with Person C?
Bess: I just want to see justice carried out.

Yet, she
Oct 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
The first-person narration really grated, as "I" was used far too often. Even in first person, things can be shown rather than relentlessly told. The heroine is plucky. Oh ye gods, is she plucky. Every thirty pages or so, she is advised to leave matters to the police, but no, she must see things through! The brief descriptions of nursing at the WWI front were promising, and the sister of the murdered woman is a fairly well realized tragic character. Otherwise, there just wasn't much interesting ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The authors' writing continues to entertain me. I'm also reading their Ian Rutledge series.

In this installment, characters are so well developed - I'm drawn into the story, even though the plots do tend to meander somewhat slowly. This book was exceptional due to its powerful emotional tone that is expressed so well, and woven throughout the book with great skill. I really cared what happened to each person, for good or bad.
One complaint, Bess is bounced between London, France, Sommerset and Lit
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Consequences of Fear (Maisie Dobbs #16)
  • The Madness of Crowds (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #17)
  • A Lesson in Secrets (Maisie Dobbs, #8)
  • This Side of Murder (Verity Kent, #1)
  • To Die But Once (Maisie Dobbs, #14)
  • Journey to Munich (Maisie Dobbs, #12)
  • A Dangerous Place (Maisie Dobbs, #11)
  • Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs, #2)
  • Leaving Everything Most Loved (Maisie Dobbs, #10)
  • The Mapping of Love and Death (Maisie Dobbs, #7)
  • In This Grave Hour (Maisie Dobbs, #13)
  • Among the Mad (Maisie Dobbs, #6)
  • Elegy for Eddie (Maisie Dobbs, #9)
  • All Shall Be Well (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James, #2)
  • A Pretty Deceit (Verity Kent, #4)
  • Mourn Not Your Dead (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James, #4)
  • A Share in Death (Duncan Kincaid & Gemma James, #1)
  • Messenger of Truth (Maisie Dobbs, #4)
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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)
  • A Duty to the Dead (Bess Crawford, #1)
  • 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)

Related Articles

We asked Alice Bolin, author of Dead Girls: Essays on Surviving an American Obsession, and journalist-turned-crime novelist Laura...
100 likes · 50 comments
“Gallantry,” he often told his men, “is an act of great courage under fire, of bravery beyond the call of duty. But if it kills your comrades as well or puts the battle in jeopardy, then it is arrant pride and foolishness. Learn to know the difference.” 1 likes
“mother’s eyes widen” 0 likes
More quotes…