April 16, 2012
A Duty to the Dead
A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd
2009 BBC Audiobooks America
Reader: Rosalyn Landor
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
From the author’s website:
From the brilliantly imaginative New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd comes an unforgettable new character in an exceptional new series.
England, 1916. Independent-minded Bess Crawford’s upbringing is far different from that of the usual upper-middle-class British gentlewoman. Growing up in India, she learned the importance of responsibility, honor, and duty from her officer father. At the outbreak of World War I, she followed in his footsteps and volunteered for the nursing corps, serving from the battlefields of France to the doomed hospital ship Britannic.
On one voyage, Bess grows fond of the young, gravely wounded Lieutenant Arthur Graham. Something rests heavily on his conscience, and to give him a little peace as he dies, she promises to deliver a message to his brother. It is some months before she can carry out this duty, and when she’s next in England, she herself is recovering from a wound.
When Bess arrives at the Graham house in Kent, Jonathan Graham listens to his brother’s last wishes with surprising indifference. Neither his mother nor his brother Timothy seems to think it has any significance. Unsettled by this, Bess is about to take her leave when sudden tragedy envelops her. She quickly discovers that fulfilling this duty to the dead has thrust her into a maelstrom of intrigue and murder that will endanger her own life and test her courage as not even war has.
I listened to this audio production for exactly one month. It probably wouldn’t have taken me quite so long, but I was on vacation for 10 of those days and didn’t have an opportunity to listen to the book. I enjoyed my introduction to this mother-son writing duo (Caroline and Charles Todd) and their charming character, Bess Crawford. The time period (World War I) and locale brought to mind Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series and my overall reaction was similar; I enjoyed getting to know the characters and love the references to England, but the mystery didn’t keep me up at night, nor did it call to me while I was otherwise occupied. The characters are well-rounded and believable, but I prefer a compelling thriller over the more gentle mystery that is typically found in these old-fashioned sort of stories. Not that any murder is gentle, but the tension is never quite as taut as I’ve found in works by Tana French, Mo Hayder, Harlan Coben and Cody McFadyen. With that said, I still plan to continue listening to the Bess Crawford series. She’s a likeable character and I’m anxious to see what the future holds for her.
Final Thoughts: Maisie Dobbs fans will not be disappointed. The similarities are quite strong.