A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd

31st May 2012

*I won a copy of this book from Book Club Girl. Thanks!

Synopsis from the author’s website:

When battlefield nurse Bess Crawford returns from France for a well-earned Christmas leave, she finds a bruised and shivering woman huddled in the doorway of her London residence. The woman has nowhere to turn, and, propelled by a firm sense of duty, Bess takes her in. Once inside Bess’s flat the woman reveals that a quarrel with her husband erupted into violence, yet she wants to go home—if Bess will come with her to Sussex. Realizing that the woman is suffering from a concussion, Bess gives up a few precious days of leave to travel with her. But she soon discovers that this is a good deed with unforeseeable consequences.

What Bess finds at Vixen Hill is a house of mourning. The woman’s family has gathered for a memorial service for the elder son who has died of war wounds. Her husband, home on compassionate leave, is tense, tormented by jealousy and his own guilty conscience. Then, when a troubled house guest is found dead, Bess herself becomes a prime suspect in the case. This murder will lead her to a dangerous quest in war-torn France, an unexpected ally, and a startling revelation that puts her in jeopardy before a vicious killer can be exposed.

Ah, Bess. You’re so kind and generous. You see, people impose quite a lot on Bess, and because she’s a woman of duty, a duty instilled by her Army father, Bess does what she feels is right. She helps regardless of whether or not the individuals deserve to be helped, and I admire her for that because the family in this novel tested my patience. The family inhabits the house, but they aren’t the liveliest bunch. Yes, there is a war on, and yes, the family has lost one of their own, but they’re also harboring family secrets. A long-dead daughter’s portrait stares down at them, and Lydia (the woman Bess finds on her doorstep) cannot discuss children with her husband without the memory of her husband’s sister bearing down on them. It’s an oppressive atmosphere, and that oppression increases when one of the house party is found dead.

Bess comes under suspicion and will have to prove herself at every turn, and honestly, that’s what I loved about this book. Bess is at the front for much of it, nursing and passing messages between aid stations in her quest for the truth. The toll the war is taking is ever present and is mirrored in the family as well as Bess’s own frustration and fear.

Simon Brandon, her father’s right-hand man and family friend, is back, but another man is vying for Bess’s attention, and I really enjoyed seeing bits of a fun and free Bess, one who knows her duty but still manages to appreciate the playful spirit of others.

If you haven’t picked up this series yet, what are you waiting for? It’s got a strong female lead; it’s set during World War I. It’s part mystery and part historical fiction. Buy it for your Nook now, and you’ll be ready for the newest book An Unmarked Grave, set to hit bookshelves on June 25!

Psst! Check out the updated review of Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon to see if you were one of two winners!


A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

  • I really liked this one too (and have liked the whole series!) An Unmarked Grave is next in my pile, and I’m so looking forward to reading it.

  • Seriously, I have no idea what I’m waiting for and really need to pick this series up sooner rather than later! I’ve been so lazy.

  • Spot on review. I read this when it was first released and re-read for Book Time with Bess, and I’d forgotten how incensing a character Lydia is. I hated how she took advantage of Bess! And I, too, loved the free side of Bess that emerged with Sergeant Larimore. I hope we see him in An Unmarked Grave!

    • Farin:

      Thanks do much for stopping by! I enjoy the series more and more as I go along, and like you said: Lydia. Ugh.
      I raced through An Unmarked Grave, so I won’t give anything away…

  • Another series I want to read — although right now I think I’m going to start with Maisie Dobbs — but this one is so on the TBR…

    • Oh yeah. Maisie Dobbs is so good. Love both of these series.

    • Oh yeah. Maisie Dobbs is so good. Love both of these series.

  • Debbie Rpdgers @Exurbanis

    I like this series and Bess Crawford very much but I thought A Bitter Truth was not up to the standard of the first two books: a bit too contrived. But that won’t stop me from continuing with the next (as yet unpublished) book.

    • Agreed. The first two books are still my favorite, but I’ll continue the series. I like Bess too much not to.

  • Pingback: An Umarked Grave by Charles Todd | Picky Girl: I read. I teach. I blog. (pickily)()

  • I enjoyed the setting and tone of this one, but was disappointed by the sudden reveal of the ending, and couldn’t quite fathom some of Bess’s decisions. Perhaps having read the first two books in the series might have helped a little, though.

    Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting

    • Thanks for stopping by, Stephanie! This was definitely not my favorite. In fact, the first two are, in my opinion, the best. The most recent once wasn’t my favorite, but I still really enjoy Bess’s character and will keep reading.