Third Bess Crawford mystery, ‘A Bitter Truth,’ offers strong characters, intriguing plot

Published for Deseret News (click HERE for the link)

“A BITTER TRUTH,” by Charles Todd, HarperCollins Publishers, $24.99, 340 pages (f)

Nurse Bess Crawford returns home to London for a well-deserved
Christmas leave from the front lines of World War I only to find a
lovely young woman, shivering and scared, seeking shelter in her
doorway. Bess invites her inside and discovers an ugly bruise across her
face as well as signs of a concussion.

By deciding to help her new friend in distress, Bess enters a world of
family tragedies and long-held secrets. When a family friend is found
murdered, Bess is plunged into a murder investigation in which she
becomes one of the prime suspects.

Her untiring efforts to aid her friend and discover the killer’s
identity before she becomes the next victim lead Bess to find both an
ally and the truth in the most unlikely places.

Charles Todd, a mother-and-son writing team, combines believable
characters, gut-wrenching suspense and a sobering commentary on the
ravages of war in the third Bess Crawford mystery, “A Bitter Truth.”

The book transports readers to war-torn England and France in 1917,
where soldiers suffer and often die despite the best efforts of doctors
and nurses. Those who survive bring home emotional baggage, with the
consequences of their actions while at war following them home.

“A Bitter Truth” describes injuries and death from war, discusses an
illegitimate affair that results in the birth of a child and contains a
few mild swear words. Charles Todd employs discretion with these adult
themes, avoiding gratuitous language and detailed descriptions.

Readers familiar with the Bess Crawford series will find “A Bitter
Truth” at least as engaging, if not more so, than her previous two
mysteries. The characters in the book are believable and interesting in
that they show a complex range of changing and conflicting emotions.
Bess proves smart, sincere and as good a sleuth as she is a nurse.

In all of its complexity, the book can be confusing at times. Some
passages beg re-reading as a means of clarification, especially in the
final chapters as the story reaches its conclusion.

Overall, readers will enjoy the complex characters, significant amount
of intrigue and the surprising conclusion offered in “A Bitter Truth.”