Monday, August 24, 2015
Book Review: A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd
Kerry Hammond is back, and so is Bess Crawford, in the most recent book by Charles Todd featuring WWI nurse and sleuth.
Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd is the 7th book in the Bess Crawford mystery series. The book was published August 18, 2015 by William Morrow. Bess is a WWI nurse, determined to do her part for the war effort. That effort frequently puts her in danger, as she can usually be found close to the Front where the soldiers are fighting in France, treating their wounds. Her involvement in other matters, where she helps investigate, put her in just as much danger. Her web of contacts not only help her with her inquiries, they also help keep her out of harm’s way.
In Pattern of Lies, Bess is trying to get home to see her family during one of her very few and very short periods of leave. When the train is indefinitely delayed in a small town in Kent, she runs into an officer she nursed at the base hospital. Major Ashton invites her to stay with his family to wait out the train, and Bess finds herself trying to help the Ashton family, who are being persecuted by an entire town. She learns that there was a terrible tragedy two years prior, one that took more than 100 lives and left families devastated. A fire and explosion occurred at the gunpowder mill owned by Major Ashton’s father, and requisitioned by the British Army. At first, the explosion was considered an accident, but more recently rumors have started and quickly spread. The Ashton family has become the target of what seems to be a campaign of revenge. Soon after, Major Ashton’s father is arrested, and Bess tries to help the family prove his innocence. The only person who she feels can help is a man who was witness to the event. But he is fighting in France and Bess is unsure how to reach him, and if she does, if he will be willing to help.
Although the tragedy Bess investigates isn’t at the Front, it is inextricably entwined with the war. The gunpowder mill is providing the ammunition for the soldiers, and as the war continues the quantity that the Army requires has become dangerously high. Not only do the townspeople work under these hazardous conditions, but they all feel the stress of the war that is going on. Emotions are high and it’s not surprising that a situation arises where they choose to place blame on someone, even if he is blameless. We often hear of the physical and mortal toll of war, but rarely do we see the affect it has on those who are behind the scenes or are supporting families while the men have gone off to war.
The author delves into the tensions and feelings of those in a different sort of supporting role, and the frenzy that can be created in a small town where everyone watches everyone else. The book was as much a story about human nature as one about war. I found it fascinating how fast the rumor gained momentum and the amount of devastation it could cause. I tend to assume that the books I read will all turn out right in the end, but in this book the author so convincingly drew me in, that I found myself wondering if Bess would be successful in this installment. I enjoyed the puzzle it provided and how the pieces were slowly put into place.
This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review was fair and completely independent.