Christine's Reviews > A Bitter Truth

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd
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Sep 09, 2011

really liked it
Read in August, 2011

In the third Bess Crawford mystery, Bess has returned home from France. She has been serving as a battlefield nurse during World War I, but is back in London for Christmas. Bess is looking forward to seeing her family, but finds a young woman huddled in the doorway of her flat. When Bess sees that the woman is cold and bruised, she invites her in. The woman, Lydia Ellis, says her husband Roger hit her for the first time, but that most of her injuries are actually from a fall. Bess believes Lydia and doesn’t think she is making up a story to protect her husband. Bess agrees to accompany Lydia to her home in Sussex for moral support and to make sure Lydia is recovering from her injuries. While in Lydia’s home, George, a friend of her husband’s family, is murdered and everyone in the household falls under suspicion. Could George have been murdered because he claimed Roger fathered a child in France or are Lydia and the rest of the family hiding other secrets worth killing for?

Charles Todd is actually a pen name for a mother and son writing team. The result of their collaboration is a well-written and fast-paced historical novel. It is extremely suspenseful, and I found myself very involved in the plight of Bess, Lydia, and the other characters. Bess is an intelligent, independent woman who is curious almost to the point of nosiness. However, she has only good intentions toward others and wants to help anyone who is in need. Although she gets talked into accompanying Lydia to her home when she would rather be with her own family, she doesn’t hesitate to stand up for what she feels is right, even if it makes her unpopular or puts her in danger. When Lydia needs help, a family friend named Simon is there for her. I could not quite figure out how Simon fits in with the family, though. Simon seems like a brother to Bess, and there are no romantic feelings between the two. I have not read the prior books in this series, so I feel I was missing some needed background information to fully understand their relationship.

Lydia and her husband Roger have a complicated marriage, and Bess ends up right in the middle of their marital problems as well as other family matters. Of all of the members of Roger’s household, I like his mother the best. While she is only a supporting character, I like that she is strong, but honest and kind, and seems to have both her son and her daughter-in-law’s best interests at heart.

A new character is introduced in this book, Australian office Sergeant Larimore. He is amusing, kind, and causes complications for Bess, but also provides assistance to her in her quest for the truth regarding George’s drunken proclamation that Roger had fathered a child. I hope Larimore, who is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise very serious book, returns in future installments of the series. Unlike Simon, Larimore does have the potential to be a love interest for Bess.

The true motive for the murder doesn’t come out until the book is almost over. The ending gets a little confusing and the solution seems to come out of nowhere. However, the rest of the book is so well-written and the historical details so fascinating, that I am able to overlook that flaw. If you like Anne Perry’s William Monk series, you will enjoy reading about Bess Crawford’s adventures in war-torn Europe.

This review was originally written for the "Season for Romance" E-Zine. The book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.


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