A CASUALTY OF WAR
By Charles Todd
Harper/Collins (September, 2017)
* Paperback version will be released July 31, 2018. ($15.99)
A Bess Crawford Mystery (Book #9)
by Shirley Wetzel
The cruel and bloody War to End All Wars was drawing to a close, but the wounded and dying kept on flooding into the forward aid station in France where Sister Bess Crawford and other dedicated doctors and nurses worked tirelessly to save the lives broken in battle. She was assisting a young, inexperienced doctor, replacing another surgical nurse who couldn’t take the tragedy any more. No one who lived through the horrors of the last four years escapes unscathed, bodily or mentally; the repercussions would be felt for decades.
During a lull in battle, Bess shared a cup of tea with a young man soon bound for the front. Captain Alan Travis was pleasant and talkative, telling her of his beautiful tropical home in Barbados. After a bitter family quarrel, his great-grandfather moved there from the family seat in Suffolk. Alan knew little about the Travis family in England; the two sides had not kept in touch. Purely by chance he’d run into James Travis, his cousin and heir to the family estate, on a train in Paris. They liked each other instantly, and hoped to meet again one day.
Bess saw Alan twice more, in the casualty ward. The first time a bullet had grazed his head; the second wound was more serious, and he was sent back to England for treatment and recuperation. Both times, Bess was astonished at how the lieutenant had changed since their first meeting. He insisted both wounds were deliberate, and that the man who shot him was an English officer. The man he accused had died months before, but he would not be dissuaded. He was lead to the hospital ship struggling and raving. When the ship reached England, he was taken to a home for soldiers with mental and neurological problems.
On a brief leave from France, she and the lieutenant crossed paths again. He was ill and utterly hopeless, waiting for death to take him. Determined to help him out of a nightmare of misdiagnoses and false charges, she and her good friend, Sergeant Major Simon Brandon, became entangled in murder and mayhem, false heirs, broken-hearted mothers, and the occasional brush with the law.
War is indeed hell, and no one can express that better than the mother/son duo of Charles Todd. They have once again created a novel of beauty and despair, a frank look at the costs of war. As an historical novel it excels. A CASUALTY OF WAR is a tightly-plotted, intricate mystery, with three-dimensional characters. The reader will feel as if they’ve been transported into the sights and sounds of the bloody aid stations in France, then on to the beautiful, peaceful English villages that were home to all those brave young warriors. Highly recommended.
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