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Publisher's Summary

The daughter of a distinguished soldier, Bess Crawford follows in his patriotic footsteps, volunteering to serve her country as a nurse during the Great War. In 1916 she promises Lieutenant Arthur Graham that she will carry his dying request to a brother.

When Bess arrives at the Graham house in Kent, Jonathan Graham listens to his brother's last wishes with surprising indifference. Neither his mother nor his brother Timothy seems to think it has any significance. Unsettled by this, Bess is about to take her leave when sudden tragedy envelops her.

She quickly discovers that fulfilling this duty to the dead has thrust her into a maelstrom of intrigue and murder that will endanger her own life and test her courage as not even war has.

©2009 Charles Todd; (P)2009 BBC Audio

Critic Reviews

"Todd employs all the elements of a satisfying cozy mystery, with an absorbing plot and a charismatic heroine that will leave the reader wanting more." (Library Journal)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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Story

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  • Overall

Terrific period mystery

History lovers will revel in the period details of this mystery set during WWI. Bess Crawford, a nursing sister in the medical corps, becomes involved more and more deeply in the family of a soldier whom she nursed til his death from sepsis. Failing to keep up her shield of professional detachment, her heart aches as she brings his last request to his family. From life onboard a troop hospital ship to life in the English countryside during wartime, the descriptions ring true both historically and emotionally. Well done indeed. The descriptions of Shell Shocked soldiers foretell our generation's PTSD. Can't wait to read more of Bess.

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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  • C. Telfair
  • Shepherdstown, WV, United States
  • 08-22-12

Strains Credulity

At first Bess Crawford seems to be a likable heroine, and this book has an exciting and intriguing beginning.

But, as the book goes on, the reader is taken into an increasingly unlikely story. Bess appears in a place where she has no credible reason to be (her family is surprisingly accepting and absent) and up to her ears in a mystery which the the listener/reader has figured out after a couple of chapters.

I've read one other entry, and this series is a complete miss. Try the Inspector Ian Rutledge books by Charles Todd instead. I have really enjoyed those. If you are interested in a nurse's view of the WWI time period, try Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series.

15 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Dreadful dark story

I had forgotten just how dark Charles Todd can be. This is a dreadful story of maternal cruelty with a few token crumbs for fans of historical fiction. No more Charles Todd for me.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not as good as Ian Rutledge Series

I liked the Ian Rutledge series so much I thought I would give this a try.

The mystery is pretty good -- but I simply did not like Bess Crawford. She seemed too aggressive for a woman in WWI. She came across to me as a women of the late 20th Century not someone who lived at the dawn of that century. I don't think that the character acted like someone living during WWI. She seemed too forceful and aggressive for the time period.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Loved it!

I was really surprised! This book was really a good, clean mystery. Don't miss out.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • Lewisville, TX, United States
  • 07-10-15

Plot lacks something

This first book in Charles Todd's Bess Crawford series is not as well plotted as the author's Ian Rutledge series, but it is still an enjoyable listen. The narrator is excellent.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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A Duty to the Dead

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes, because you become engaged with the story from the beginning.

Did the plot keep you on the edge of your seat? How?

As the plot thickened it was suspenseful.

Which scene was your favorite?

I had several scenes that I liked.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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a duty to the dead

What made the experience of listening to A Duty to the Dead the most enjoyable?

this was a great mystery and will read the next in the series. Charles Todd is a great read. I also like his inspector rutledge series.<br/>

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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A Duty to the Dead

With all the advanced praise I read about the son and mother duo comprising Charles Todd, I went into the reading and listening (I switched back and forth between the Kindle eBook and Audible audiobook versions) of A Duty to the Dead with high expectations and very high hopes. I am a sucker for a history-drenched mystery and I absolutely love when I am truly shocked by the various surprises that pop up during these sorts of novels. While Duty to the Dead did introduce me to a plucky and resourceful new heroine in Bess Crawford, I can't say that my highest of expectations were met when I was through.

I specifically wanted to start with A Duty to the Dead as this is the first of the Bess Crawford Series now due to have its seventh installment come out next week (August 18th, 2015). Within the first few pages I was completely confused as to whether I had in fact picked the correct book as the first in the series. I actually had to go online and make sure I was correct with this assumption as the book seems to pick up in the middle of Bess's story. She is already a trained nurse, working on board a medical ship during WWI, and when the book opens she is in the middle of writing a letter when the ship she is on has an explosion. We don't get much background on Bess other than short snippets of information that feel more like they are meant to be synopsis of what we should already know than new information and the main driving force of the novel - Bess's deathbed promise to Lieutenant Graham that she would pass on his message to his brother Jonathan - has already occurred! The reader never gets to know Arthur Graham except in Bess's memories and, for me, this made her mission and her rather intense feelings for the young officer fall flat. Without getting to experience their interactions first hand it felt more like Bess just telling her story than me actually being a witness to what has happened to bring her to the emotions and actions that propel the story. As I love feeling like part of the action, this was a big disappointment for me.

Once Bess actually delivers her message to Jonathan Graham and is roped into staying a little longer at their manor, therefore becoming entangled in the many secrets the family is hiding, the story became much more enjoyable. Bess is quite the determined amateur detective and I enjoyed watching her uncover the lies the various members of the Graham family, including Arthur, had hidden, which included a serial killer within their midst. I will admit that I had a pretty good idea who the killer was relatively early on, but I still enjoyed watching the story unfold to see exactly how we would get to the final conclusion.

All in all, A Duty to the Dead wasn't a bad story, I just didn't feel it lived up to the great hype I kept reading surrounding this series. I'm torn on whether I want to continue to read any more, since I really did enjoy Bess's character even when the plot and character development fell somewhat short. I might have felt less this way if the beginning didn't feel like I was thrown into the middle of a story I should already know the background to. If I continue with the series I will definitely lower my expectations and be hopefully optimistic that more time will be spent in familiarizing readers with the characters and their actions.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Carol
  • Massachusetts
  • 05-19-12

Hard to Root For

I wanted to like this book a lot better than I did. Too many of the characters were essentially hateful products of late Victorian era social structure. These self-rightous members of the upper and upper-middle classes seem able to contort themselves into justifying the most heinous of actions, as long as appearances and the social status quo are upheld. Truth, justice, and compassion are scorned by these people.

The heroine, an intelligent and resolute young nurse who is recovering from an injury suffered when her WWI hospital ship was torpedoed, eventually breaks through the conventions imposed on her by "good manners" and "appropriate behavior" and acts as her conscience tells her is right. She is then carried along by events that whirl out of her control, finally discovering that the truth sets free, but at a price.

The book starts slowly and builds to truly gripping series of events and revelations. The middle third of the book is a real page-turner. But the ending simply drags on. I was invested enough in the two major characters that I needed to finish it to know how things turned out. On the downside, the last 2 hours were a morass of unnecessary characters and frustrating roadblocks. Real life is too often like that; don't need it in my "escape" fiction.


6 of 10 people found this review helpful