Friday, August 3, 2012

Book Review -- A Duty to the Dead

A Duty To The DeadA Duty To The Dead by Charles Todd
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book Source: Library copy & Nook
Genre:  Mystery, World War I
Objectionable material: None

Bess Crawford’s nursing responsibilities become more serious when one of her patients, WWI Vet Arthur Graham, proclaims a dying confession and asks Bess to profess his thoughts to his family.

Armed with courage and duty, Bess makes her way to Owlhurst, the family’s estate, where much to her amazement, the Graham family seems unconcerned about Arthur’s final wishes. Once there, she further discovers that the family has seems to be hiding other family secrets, including their brother Peregrine’s commitment to an insane asylum.

Little does Bess know, that Arthur’s dying confession would lead to escape, kidnapping and murder.

My interest in Charles Todd’s A Duty to the Dead, was piqued when I saw it listed as a, “if you liked ‘Downton Abbey’…you’ll like this” reading list. I’m obsessed with the WWI miniseries with their manor house, and servants, cast against the background of WWI.

Overall…this was a satisfactory mystery.

I loved Bess. Her “duty” and English grace made for the best part of this book. The author (it’s really authors as Charles Todd is a mother/son writing team – Charles & Caroline Todd) really outdid themselves when creating such a spunky, enjoyable character.

The author also created a wonderful sense of era surrounding WWI. With the opening scenes aboard the Britannic (which historical existed during WWI as a hospital ship, and was sunk off the coast of Greece) really set the tone for a “Downton Abbey-like” atmosphere. The theme was successfully carried through to the end.

However, the other characters – the Graham family (brothers Jonathan, Timothy, and their mother) were rather one dimensional. And Peregrine, a man who was institutionalized for much of his life – it was hard to accept that he would be as emotionally functional as he was, once he encountered Bess.

The “mystery” portion of the book was a bit awkward and complicated: missing family members reappearing, characters introduced in the final scenes for no apparent reason, and no concrete motive for the mayhem.

Ultimately, it was an easy read – and I learned a lot (I did quite a bit of extra credit WWI reading – did you know that sanitary napkins/Kotex were developed as a result of WWI?! Me either!), and even though I really liked Bess, I’m not sure I will continue the series (there are 3 more books).