20 July 2011

Nosey nurse

Nineteen months ago, Dan Conrad passed on a recommendation of a Masie Dobbs-like mystery by Charles Todd, A Duty to the Dead. I finally read it.

It's good.

I found a copy at the used book sale run by the hospital auxillary last spring. I plucked it off the pile a week or so ago.

It's not a Masie Dobbs mystery. It is set during World War I, not in the war's aftermath. Hero Beth Crawford is an active duty British nurse from a well-to-do family, not a fortunate, talented former nurse who, with the right mentors, has made her own way in the world. Beth Crawford is home on recuperation leave after her hospital ship was sunk by a mine (she doesn't spend much time on R&R).

She's carrying a message from a dying patient to his family. She doesn't know want it means, but she has an overactive imagination and a really nosey attitude. She also has enough money, enough friends and family, and enough time and energy to poke around in the "private" world of a dead soldier's family.

Okay, I might make it sound bad, but if you read the book, you'll find Charles Todd putting an opposite spin on the whole situation.

The mother-son duo who is Charles Todd

In spite of that I liked reading the book. The story is complex and well unwound. The characters are pretty thin and the British countryside is mentioned, but not featured. There are some improbabilities, but I'm not inclined to award any Heart of Gold prizes for them. Well, except maybe the final one where Beth Crawford goes to a previously unmentioned aunt or cousin or something and finds a sympathetic and helpful advisor. It made me wonder why Crawford hadn't she gone to Aunt Melinda sooner.

I'll second Dan's recommendation of A Duty to the Dead, and look forward to reading another "Bess Crawford Mystery." However, I'll look forward with greater anticipation for the next "Masie Dobbs Mystery."

Have you read A Duty to the Dead or another of the Bess Crawford mysteries? What did you think? Write and tell this little bit of the world.

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