Sunday, September 26, 2010

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd is the second installment in the Bess Crawford series. Readers first met Bess, a WWI army nurse, in A Duty to the Dead; and if you're a fan of the Masie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, you will probably like Bess as well.

From Publisher's Weekly (via
Starred Review. Set in the summer of 1917, Todd's excellent second mystery featuring British nurse Bess Crawford (after 2009's A Duty to the Dead) smoothly blends realistic characters with an intricate plot. When Bess accompanies Lt. Meriwether Evanson, a severe burn victim, from the Continent to England, she's surprised to spot the pilot's supposedly devoted wife, Marjorie, crying on another man's shoulder at a train station. After returning to saving lives under German fire in France, Bess is stunned to read in a newspaper that Marjorie has been stabbed to death in London. Soon after, the depressed lieutenant commits suicide by cutting his own throat. Unable to resist involving herself in the murder investigation, Bess seeks to identify Marjorie's unknown companion, the possible killer. In addition to supplying a challenging puzzle, Todd (a mother-son writing team) does a superb job of capturing the feel of the battlefield and the emotional toll taken on those waiting back home for a loved one's return.

When reading a mystery, I'm not obsessed with trying to outsmart the author's revelation of events and am content to wait to see the whodunit it play out. I did, however, have some inkings when reading An Impartial Witness; and I was almost right! :) The only thing I really wondered about was all the traveling around that Bess and her cohorts did. Driving up to London and back again and up again and back. To the battlefield in France and back to Portsmouth and back to France and back again. Would petrol have been so easily available for all these trips? Were the trips back and forth to France convenient to the plot or the reality of WWI nurse assignments?

I like my mysteries gentle and readily admit that I avoid any mysteries with the words "chilling," "sinister," or "dark and violent" in plot descriptions. Both the Masie Dobbs and Bess Crawford series fit my comfort zone. I'm looking forward to the third Bess Crawford and also want to check out Charles Todd's other series about Inspector Ian Rutledge.

Rating: 3.5/5 (Mystery Scale)
Dedication: In remembrance...Samantha June 1995 5o September 2007 and Crystal November 1995 to March 2008 who gave so much to those who loved them.
First Line: 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.

Book Extras
Charles Todd is the mother/son writing team of David Todd Watjen and Carolyn L.T. Watjen. Click here to visit the author's website or click here to see a listing of books in both the Ian Rutledge and Bess Crawford series.

For more information on An Impartial Witness, visit the publisher's page here.


Les said...

One of my favorite customers just bought this book and filled me in on the series, as well as informing me of the mother-son writing team. I had no idea! I have a feeling this is an author I'll enjoy, as I really like the Masie Dobbs series. Lovely review, Marcia.

Nan said...

I have a feeling you might like a World War Two mystery I just finished called Billy Boyle. He's a young Boston policeman whose parents want to keep him away from danger so he gets a war job with his relative who just happens to be Dwight D. Eisenhower! Good mystery. Good characters. Good sense of time and place. I really enjoyed it.

Marcia said...

I have Billy Boyle waiting on my Kindle, Nan. With your recommendation, I've just put it on my "read sooner rather than later" list. Thank you!