Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review: A Casualty of War by Charles Todd

Bess Crawford is Charles Todd’s brave and capable WWI nurse who always finds herself in the middle of a mystery. Kerry Hammond is here to review the most recent book in this great series.

A Casualty of War by Charles Todd is the 9th book in the Bess Crawford series, featuring a British WWI nurse who often works right near the front line, caring for the wounded soldiers. The book releases September 26, 2017, in Hardcover from Harper Collins. I read each and every book in the Bess Crawford series and always look forward to the next like a visit with old friends. I love when these books come out in the fall because I can cozy up on the couch with some hot tea and a blanket and dive right in.

In A Casualty of War, we find ourselves at the end of The Great War, with talk of an armistice and German defeat. While performing her nursing duties Bess meets Captain Alan Travis and spends a few minutes talking to him over a cup of tea in the canteen before they both leave the base, he to return to his regiment and Bess to assist Dr. Weatherby at a forward aid station. Not long after she arrives at the aid station, a wounded soldier is brought in and to her surprise it’s Captain Travis. He has a head injury and is claiming that he was shot by another officer and that it was deliberate. To make matters worse, he begins to believe that the man who shot him was a distant cousin of his, John Travis.

Bess tries to make inquiries into the Captain’s claim, but hits a dead end and has to give up her search. Soon after, she is given a two-week leave and plans to spend the time with her family in England. She is reunited with the Captain once again and unfortunately his condition has gotten much worse. His ramblings have made doctors and nurses believe he has shell shock and his inability to calm himself has required that they restrain him. Bess finds him strapped to a bed in a hospital and she believes him to be completely sane, making it imperative that she investigate his claims and help him get released. With the help of her old friend Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon, she travels to Captain Travis’s cousin’s hometown and begins her search for the truth.

When I reviewed last year’s The Shattered Tree, I proclaimed it “one of my favorite books in this series.” I think this book is a close contender and possibly even knocks the previous one from its perch at the top. One of the major reasons (no pun intended) is that one of my favorite recurring characters, Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon, appears in the entire story. I just love Simon and I secretly want Bess to fall in love with him, so it was nice to see them work side by side in solving the latest mystery.

The mystery itself was also very intriguing. I found the discussion of family blood lines and inheritance to be fascinating. The way the villagers closed ranks and supported their own against outsider interference was frustrating for Bess and Simon, but true to how I expect things were, and perhaps still are, in a village. Bess showed us more of her caring and honest nature by continuing to investigate on behalf of Captain Travis, to the detriment of herself since she had to forego spending that time with her family.

New readers will find that this book can be read as a standalone, as can most of those in this series. It’s no spoiler that the war eventually ends, or who wins. Anyone can jump right in and follow along; the only thing missing might be an appreciation for getting to know the characters slowly through each book. The authors are adept at writing each installment in a way that introduces characters to new readers without duplicating knowledge to bore those of us who have been following along. But let’s face it, when you read a series as it’s written—at the rate of one book a year—it can’t hurt to get a few reminders as you go.

This book was provided to Mystery Playground by the publisher. The review was fair and completely independent. 

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