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A Bitter Truth

A Bess Crawford Mystery

By Charles Todd

A Bitter Truth
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2011,
    352 pages.

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Mary G. (Purcellville, VA) (08/22/11)

A Bitter Truth is a Bitter Pill
When I signed up to review A Bitter Truth, by Charles Todd, I was looking forward to being introduced to an author I hadn’t read before. After reading the book, I was glad it was free. For a team of writers (Charles Todd is a mother-son writing duo) with 15 books to their credit, this book was surprisingly clumsy and amateurish.

This book was the third in a mystery series featuring a World War One military nurse, Bess Crawford, as the protagonist. It opened with Bess arriving home from the front for holiday leave. Her bus was delayed while police searched for a deserter. Much was made of this deserter in the first few pages so the reader was led to believe this was a significant element of the plot. It turned out to be no more than an oblique clue to the denouement which, by the way, had nothing to do with this particular deserter.

Bess then encounters a woman, Lydia Ellis, wandering around in the rain and decides she should take this stranger home and get involved in her affairs to a ridiculous degree. Despite having only a short leave, Bess is persuaded to accompany Lydia to her home and thus is conveniently on-site to become involved in the murder of another house guest who, of course, chooses to confide in Bess just before he is killed.

I did like the character of Bess. She is strong, capable, and intelligent. However, for some reason she capitulates every time selfish, manipulative Lydia or any member of the odious Ellis family ask her to do something—no matter how great the imposition. The chapters set in France, at the front, are the most believable for me, aside from Bess’ search for a French orphan which, of course, she was persuaded to undertake for the egocentric Lydia. Most of the characters in the book are actually likable. The faithful family friend Simon and the charming and eccentric Australian soldier Sergeant Larimore are strong characters. Even the brief interaction she has with her parents showed them to be engaging. It is too bad that so much of the book is centered on people who are self-important and condescending.

When I finally reached the unsportsmanlike conclusion, I was relieved that my acquaintance with the works of Charles Todd was mercifully at an end.
Mary O. (Boston, MA) (08/22/11)

a historic yarn
I highly recommend this historic novel for perfect summer beach reading! It is a well written description of a complicated family situation during World War I with murder as the backdrop. There is good character development and twists and turns that make you love and hate some characters at the same time! It would make a great discussion for a book group. ENJOY!
Carole P. (framingham, ma) (08/21/11)

A Bitter Truth
I have read several of Todd's books and always enjoy his writing. He draws his readers into the WWI time period from the first page. Nurse Bess Crawford is warm, realistic and engaging. The sections set in the war zones are chilling. All of this is what I like about his books.
However,there is a critical part of the plot that was unbelievable to me. This is why I could not give it a " good". Still, his writing, characters and setting make for a fun read.
Ray P. (Selden, NY) (08/21/11)

The latest in the saga of WWI British nurse, Bess Crawford.
The mother/son team that writes under the pen name --- Charles Todd --- have already created the terrific Inspector Ian Rutledge series. Now, A BITTER TRUTH marks the third entry in their latest series --- the Bess Crawford mysteries.

Bess is a British battlefield nurse who witnesses first-hand the horrors of WWI. Additionally, she finds herself constantly at the center of various deadly mysteries. A BITTER TRUTH finds Bess befriending a young woman named Lydia who appears to have been battered by her husband, himself a British serviceman. Bess decides to accompany Lydia to her home and is quickly thrust into the middle of a murder that may have been committed to protect a deadly family secret.

The difference with this Bess Crawford mystery is that she herself is unwittingly made a subject in the murder investigation --- a fact that makes her involvement in finding out the truth that much more difficult. Although this is not Charles Todd's finest work, it does feature what they always do best --- create an atmosphere of a bygone era that is so real and gritty you are practically transported there with every line.
Gail B. (Albuquerque, NM) (08/19/11)

Deja Vu
A dark and stormy night, a frightened, well-bred woman crouching on our heroine's London doorstep, with no money and nowhere to go. Tender-hearted Sister Bess Crawford is drawn into the spooky life of the Ellis family at Vixen Hall in the Sussex countryside. The convoluted plot, with multiple victims and possible villains, a la Agatha Christie, is saved by the back story of wartime England and France in WWI. Storyline has many similarities to Maisie Dobbs novels, though not as well written.
Debbie S. (Paso Robles, CA) (08/18/11)

Not Impressed
Set in England during World War 1, Bess Crawford, a nurse stationed in France, returns home to London on leave. Upon reaching her flat she finds a young woman huddled in her doorway. After giving the young woman shelter for the night, Bess accompanies Lydia to her home in Sussex. There Bess becomes involved in a murder. Alternating between the battlefields of France and the scene of the murder, the story seems at times to drag and lack excitement or suspense. Characters are not fully developed and some of the plot line is somewhat confusing.
For those looking for a "cozy" mystery, this might be suitable. For those wanting a more suspenseful mystery this will not be a good read.
Juliet F. (clarendon hills, IL) (08/16/11)

a very fun read!
I love this series. The character of Bess Crawford continues to solve mysteries in her typical demure-yet quietly awesome- way. I love how the other characters seem to consistently underestimate her, until they realize how sharp she is. This series also does a great job of painting the era in which it takes place, without feeling dated or stodgy. There a few plot points which are kind of a stretch, but it's well worth it in the end. Great plot, great characters, well paced- I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Jane N. (Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey) (08/16/11)

Bitter Truth
From the first page readers will be hooked. I enjoyed the historical perspective of the book, WW1 and how Charles Todd wove all of those details into a really good mystery. From page one when Bess finds a desperate woman on her doorstep to the very end, the story holds your interest, and builds as it moves forward. Book clubs should really enjoy this because there is so much to digest and discuss here. A really good read and a fine story

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