I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A Casualty of War by Charles Todd
Series: Bess Crawford #9
Genres: Mystery, Historical, Amateur Sleuth, Mystery
Published by William Morrow Pages: 378
on September 26, 2017
Source: the library
Buy on Amazon
Also in this series: Question of Honor
Also by this author: Question of Honor, An Unwilling Accomplice, Hunting Shadows, A Pattern of Lies, A Fine Summer’s Day, No Shred of Evidence, The Shattered Tree, Racing the Devil
Ninth in the Bess Crawford amateur sleuth historical mystery series and revolving around a nursing sister on the battlefront in World War I. This story takes place in November 1918.
It’s another pip of a story with tension at the start as we realize that the war is ending, not soon enough. Never soon enough. A horror intensified by what is happening to Captain Travis while Bess’ compassion and determination is all that could possibly aid a man who may not be in his right mind.
While Todd uses first-person protagonist point-of-view to point out the ravages of war and its effects on soldiers and their families, he makes good use of one family in particular to emphasize these effects, as well as pointing out the fallout, the wrongs done, when people jump to conclusions without considering the facts.
It’s certainly an unusual situation when Bess comes up against a village united against her with their own preconceptions of why she’s there. And it adds a high degree of emotional tension when we encounter Mrs. Travis and her solicitor’s attitudes towards a member of the Travis family who is in need of help. Jesus. They certainly are NOT Christian people. And the police, the doctor, the vicar, and Ellis all buy into her stance. It’s a hideous little group of people, so unwilling to think outside the box, so quick to judge.
Not only does Todd write a good story with excellent characters, but he/they capture the spirit of the time period. The clothing, the manners, the mores, the technology, and language of the early 1900s.
There’s quite the confusing bit in here when Todd avoids the info dump in his explanation of the Travis feud and how the genealogy plays out. A different “confusion” is Todd’s teasing, dropping these little tidbits of Simon’s past, keeping up my hopes for a Bess–Simon union. I suspect it won’t be for stories yet…sigh…
If you enjoy an historical mystery set in the England of the 1910s during a war…read this. It’s a compelling story that kept me turning pages as I raced to find out whodunnit…and why they dunnit!
It begins with Captain Travis damned sure that one of his own shot him. Deliberately. Only what he saw cannot be confirmed, and only confirms for the doctors that he’s gone mad.
It’s an inhumane treatment of a good soldier, and Bess is determined to find out the truth.
Sister Bess Crawford is a nurse with Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and serves on the frontlines. Her father, Richard “Colonel Sahib” Crawford, is technically retired but quite busy on the King’s Staff, going undercover for the War Office, providing strategies, etc. Regimental Sergeant Major Simon Brandon had started as the colonel’s batman and retired when the colonel did. He’s part of the family.
Major Inglis is part of the cavalry. As is Major Davison of the Medical Board.
Captain Andy Travis’ home is in Barbados. The lovable Lieutenant James Travis lives in Suffolk. Lieutenant Martin Bonham had been a friend of James’.
The battlefront in France
Matron is the title of the Sister in charge at any station. Sisters Walker, Belmont, Brewer, Williams, Harvey, Medford, and Edgars are all nurses based in France. Dr. Weatherby is at the forward aid station. Corporal Meeker is one of the ambulance drivers conveying the wounded to Base Hospital Seven.
Patients include Lieutenant Booker, Sergeant Willard is bleeding profusely, Sergeant Wilson has ripped off his bandages, Lieutenant Barker’s arm was saved, Lieutenant Eric Mossby translated the German newspaper, and Sergeant Melton’s lungs were gassed.
Sergeant Lassiter is an Australian soldier who’s been flirting with Bess for quite some time. Lieutenant Anderson was the ranking officer in the next sector. Private Goode helped Captain Travis. Bess had waltzed with Lawrence Mallory before the war.
Mary, Diana, and Lady Elspeth are Bess’ flatmates in London where they are under the eye of Mrs. Hennessey, a widow who opened her home. The Florian Agency is a reliable detective firm.
High Clouds is…
…a clinic in Wiltshire where Captain Travis is “imprisoned”.
Sinclair in Suffolk is…
…beholden to Travis Hall, and the autocratic and unforgiving Margaret Travis is James’ widowed mother. Hugh had been her husband and James’ father; Andrew and Richard were the sons lost at sea. Geraldine was a sister. I think Nicholas was the great-grandfather who always felt second best. Carlton Travis is an England-based distant cousin. Oliver Masters’ mother was a Travis.
Lucy Fredericks is a dream psychic who works at various tasks for the Hall while her father drives for Mrs. Travis. Maddie is Mrs. Travis’ maid.
The compassionate Vera Caldwell is the wife of the vicar, Michael Caldwell, a weak man. Mrs. Horner runs a tea shop. Dr. Harrison is the local physician. Sarah is Harrison’s assistant, and Sister Potter is a local nurse who helps out. Smokie is Potter’s cat. Constable J.R. Simpson isn’t particularly imaginative. Billy Ryan has a farm and an opioid problem.
Thomas Spencer is the man injured at the George, a local inn owned by Henry Douglas. Betty is the gossipy waitress.
Bury St. Edmunds is…
…home base for Mrs. Travis’ family solicitor, Ellis of Ellis, Ellis and Whitman. Inspector Howe is quite closed-minded.
The German army
General von Hindenburg and General Ludendorff are part of the German High Command and had helped shape the war.
In those days, shell shock was considered cowardice. Being accused of it would lead to that person being shunned for the rest of his or her life.
The Cover and Title
The cover is poignant with Bess standing in profile to us amongst a landscape of gravestones in the dawn light beneath a cloudy sky. Bess is standing with respect and yet looking toward a brighter future. I love the yellow cast over it all, giving it a sense of an aging photo.
The title refers to “ the visible and invisible wounds of war that not even the much-longed for peace can heal”, A Casualty of War that no one can escape.