The backstory: Having thoroughly enjoyed the first two Bess Crawford novels by mother-son writing duo Charles Todd, A Duty to the Dead (my review) and An Impartial Witness (my review), I eagerly awaited the release of A Bitter Truth. Because this mystery is set at Christmastime, I waited until December to read it.
The basics: Bess Crawford arrives home to London for a Christmas break from her job as a nurse in World War I. When she arrives at the door of her flat, there is a young woman hiding in the doorway trying to keep warm. Bess, being Bess, invites the young woman up and discovers she has marital problems and somewhat reluctantly agrees to see the young woman back home, where things get quite interesting.
My thoughts: Although I loved the first two novels in this series, I was curious how I would feel as it progressed. I don't seek out cozy mysteries, and I wondered how many ways Todd could manage to make Bess a crime solver. Thankfully, it works perfectly in A Bitter Truth. The mystery itself is solid (I'll spare you the details because the set-ups are wonderful), but what I love most about this series are the manners. It's not a comedy of manners, but it is a mystery of manners in a sense. These books are a fascinating look into that time. Things that seem normal to me make Bess because because she will find something odd about a person's behavior. It's a fascinating disconnect between what Bess thinks and what she says, and this combination, too, illuminates its time.
My favorite thing about this novel was getting to see Bess during the war itself. The story continues past her Christmas leave, and she returns to France and the war. Seeing the war, as well as what a nurse's day was like, was fascinating and harrowing.
The verdict: I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery. As always, Bess is a delightful heroine. I love seeing the world through her eyes.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 352 pages
Publication date: August 30, 2011
Thoughts on the series: I realized while reading A Bitter Truth that each Bess Crawford novel would work well as a standalone read. Because these mysteries take place during the war, Bess doesn't really have a chance to have many developments in her personal life. So feel free to pick up any of these three Bess Crawford mysteries and enjoy!
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