In the latest mystery from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd, World War I nurse and amateur sleuth Bess Crawford investigates an old murder that occurred during her childhood in India, a search for the truth that will transform her and leave her pondering a troubling question: How can facts lie?
Bess Crawford enjoyed a wondrous childhood in India, where her father, a colonel in the British Army, was stationed on the Northwest Frontier. But an unforgettable incident darkened that happy time. In 1908, Colonel Crawford's regiment discovered that it had a murderer in its ranks, an officer who killed five people in India and England yet was never brought to trial. In the eyes of many of these soldiers, men defined by honor and duty, the crime was a stain on the regiment's reputation and on the good name of Bess's father, the Colonel Sahib, who had trained the killer.
A decade later, tending to the wounded on the battlefields of France during World War I, Bess learns from a dying Indian sergeant that the supposed murderer, Lieutenant Wade, is alive—and serving at the Front. Bess cannot believe the shocking news. According to reliable reports, Wade's body had been seen deep in the Khyber Pass, where he had died trying to reach Afghanistan. Soon, though, her mind is racing. How had he escaped from India? What had driven a good man to murder in cold blood?
Wanting answers, she uses her leave to investigate. In the village where the first three killings took place, she discovers that the locals are certain that the British soldier was innocent. Yet the present owner of the house where the crime was committed believes otherwise, and is convinced that Bess's father helped Wade flee. To settle the matter once and for all, Bess sets out to find Wade and let the courts decide.
But when she stumbles on the horrific truth, something that even the famous writer Rudyard Kipling had kept secret all his life, she is shaken to her very core. The facts will damn Wade even as they reveal a brutal reality, a reality that could have been her own fate.
About the Author
Charles Todd is the New York Times bestselling author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. Among the honors accorded to the Ian Rutledge mysteries are the Barry Award and nominations for the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association’s Dilys Award, the Edgar and Anthony Awards in the U.S., and the John Creasey Award in the UK. A mother-and-son writing team, they live on the East Coast.
Read an Excerpt
A Question of Honor
By Charles Todd
HarperCollins PublishersCopyright © 2013 Charles Todd
All rights reserved.
England, Summer 1918
The afternoon sun was warm on my face as I stepped out
the door of Rudyard Kipling's house in East Sussex. Simon Bran-
don, his expression unreadable, followed me, pulling the door shut
I wasn't sure why he wasn't his usual steady self.
As we turned to walk together around the house, toward the
back lawns and the stream and water meadows beyond, I said, refer-
ring to our host, “He's still grieving. Poor man.”
As soon as war broke out in 1914, Rudyard Kipling had urged his
only son to join the Army. Jack had been killed at Loos barely a year
later. His body had never been recovered. He'd been eighteen, still a
“I remember Jack,” I went on. “Once or twice he visited Melinda
when I was there.”
“You can't find a house in England that isn't grieving. We've lost
a generation, Bess. The best we have.”
I knew that all too well. I'd watched so many men die.
“Mr. Kipling is going to be on the Graves Commission. It's fit-
ting, don't you think?”
“He'll know what words to put on the monuments,” Simon an-
swered. “That will matter.”
Melinda Crawford had asked Simon to drive her down to Bate-
man's to call on Mr. Kipling. Worried about him, she made a point
of regular visits. But this time her driver was suffering from a bout
of malaria. Just home from France on a brief leave, I'd decided to
come with them. I hadn't been to Kent in some time—it was where
Melinda lived—and on the long drive down to East Sussex we'd en-
joyed each other's company.
As we rounded the house and walked on to the gardens Simon
commented, as if it had been on his mind most of the day, “She's
talking about returning to India.” I didn't need to ask who she was.
“Once the war is over. She wants me to take her there.”
Surprised, I stopped, staring down at the reflection of the
summer sky in the quiet surface of the pools. “Is that a good idea?
It's such a long journey at her age.”
Simon was looking back at the house. “I don't know.” I'd always
had a feeling that Simon didn't want to return there. If anyone could
persuade him, it was Melinda.
Her father, like mine, had been an officer in the Army, and she
had grown up in India, just as I had, although of course decades
apart. Indeed she had been something of a heroine as a child during
the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857, for she and her mother had been
caught in the dreadful Siege of Lucknow. She had married another
officer stationed out there and later lost him to cholera. Afterward,
alone but for her Indian servants, she'd traveled the world while she
I turned to look too, thinking as I had on other visits how really
beautiful the Kipling house was. Someone moved past one of the
upstairs windows, and I waved.
Mr. Kipling had told Melinda that it was love at first sight when
he came to Bateman's. Born in India of British parents, he'd finally
settled in England. The house couldn't be more different from those
A Question of Honor
in Bombay or Delhi or even Simla. Like Melinda Crawford, he'd put
down roots in this cooler climate, but a part of his heart was still in
the East. It showed most clearly in his writing.
“Perhaps she wants to visit her husband's grave again,” I sug-
gested as we walked on. “Surely most of the people she knew are
long since dead as well.”
I watched fluffy summer clouds drifting across the pool, almost
as real as the ones in the sky above us. Then we walked on in a
companionable silence, taking the path through the copse that led
toward the high grass of the meadow. The hem of my skirt caught
on the dry stalk of a spring wildflower, and Simon bent to set it free.
“Do you want to go back?” I asked him, curious. “To India, I
“I don't know,” he said again.
We paused on the bridge over the stream, looking down at the
slow-moving water below. The sound of it passing over the stones in
the streambed was a soothing murmur. But I could sense the ten-
sion in the man beside me.
I didn't press. Whatever Simon had left behind in India, he had
never spoken to me about it. I wondered sometimes if my mother
knew. Simon was devoted to her, and I'd always had a feeling that
something had happened to him in India before my father's regi-
ment had been sent home from that last posting. It would explain
why he was in her debt.
At the time, I'd been considered too young to be included in
family secrets, but had Melinda known? Was that why she wished to
return to India? For Simon's sake—as well as her own?
Changing the subject, I said lightly, “I haven't had a chance to
ask. Are you well enough to return to duty?”
Neither my mother nor I knew what services my father, the
Colonel Sahib, and Simon Brandon performed for the Army. Expe-
rienced men, both of them, they would disappear for a day or a week
without explanation. It often had to do with training and some-
times went well beyond training. I was certain that Simon had gone
behind enemy lines more than once, but I'd said nothing to anyone
Simon smiled. “I've been told I'm sound as a bell.”
I was glad for his sake, but I was also worried. The war was cer-
tain to end before very long—the arrival of the American forces
under General Pershing was helping turn the tide at last—but until
it did, Simon would be in the thick
Excerpted from A Question of Honor by Charles Todd. Copyright © 2013 Charles Todd. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
One of the best historical mystery series going. I was already reading Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge series, so immediately bought the first in this one. Bess Crawford, a British nurse serving in France and England in WWI, is faced with mysteries as well as the influx of soldiers wounded in the trenches. This book is as good as the first five. Already impatient for publication of #6!
I bought this bookfrom the 2.99 and under section without realizing it was part of a series. I was able to follow it without a problem without reading the books preceding it. The story is good and holds your attention. The characters are believeable and likeable. The only thing that bothered me is how lucky Bess is! People seem to just pop up right in front of her! Out of all the people in England, the people she needs to find just happen to show up without her even looking for them most of the time! All in all though, great book and i will read the next in the series.
This is a very well written series. I am impressed with how it immerses the reader in the world of WWI. Bess and her family and friends are admirable people. But, they have their failings, too. The flashback to 10 years earlier works well. The intensity of the need for regimental honor at all cost is quite clear. This is something people today have much less experience about. For them, at that time, it was black or white. Bess' whole family (plus Simon) are interesting and likeable. I keep wondering what, if anything, will develop between Bess and Simon. With the chaos of the war I think people either got "serious" very quickly, thinking tomorrow might not come, or held themselves "in check", figuring it was unrealistic to get involved when there was so much uncertainty. The part about the service children living away from their families with people in England was very touching. It was such an unpredictable thing, placing ones children with strangers.
This, like its predecessors, was an absorbing read while accurately showing what life in the WW I era was like.
This was a good mystery. Charles Todd always write a good story with good characters. This is a Bess Armstrong mystery with the setting of WWI in England, France, and connections in India. She is nurse and tries to solve a mystery that involves a man from her father's regiment. Enjoy!
Mystery somewhat good but not great
I received this ARC as part of a program at DeKalb Library back in the fall of 2013. A Question of Honor by Charles Todd is well known and popular with many of the friends. Charles Todd is a new author who is not familiar for me. Synopsis: Bess is currently serving as a nurse in the British Armed forces in the year of 1918. Everyone hopes that the Great War will be over with soon. One day while attending to her duties Bess runs across a soldier from her past. He mentions that a Lieutenant Wade that everyone thought was dead is really alive. He was in her father’s regiment. This soldier is fighting under an assumed name Corporal Caswell. He is also linked to murders that occurred in both England and India. Can Bess clear her father’s name? What really happened, and did Lieutenant Wade really commit these murders? An investigation ensues with Bess and Simon putting the clues together. My Thoughts: Charles Todd is actually a mother son writing team. They have written many Bess Crawford mysteries. Many of my literary friends absolutely love them and can’t wait for the next novel in the series. Since this series is new to me, I found it to be okay. There was information that I felt was missing because I hadn’t read the other novels in the series. So it is not really a stand-alone novel to me. I did enjoy the novel. It just wasn’t exciting to me. A Great War novel with a mystery! The novel is well written and paces the story well. No characters really stood out for me due to reasons I just mentioned. I would consider reading another in the series. by Jencey Gortney/Writer'sCorner
Just a little boring - jumps around way too much. It's easy for me to put that one down - I like reads that are hard to put down. But then, different folks have different tastes
This is the first in the Bess Crawford Series that I have read but I'm going to read the rest of the series this book was terrific. Bess is a strong woman who was determined to find the answers and set the story straight on an event that happened during her childhood. It was great to see her respected by the physicians as well for her dedication to her nursing profession.
In 1908, Bess Crawford was a young girl living in India with her parents where her father was Colonel of a regiment. One of the officers, Lt. Tom Wade, fled while returning from patrol under suspicion of having murdered three persons while on leave in England as well as of his own parents in Agra, when authorities came to the regiment to question him. Now, nine years later, Bess, serving as a nurse in France, thinks she recognizes Wade as a Corporal serving under another name. This fifth novel in the Bess Crawford Mystery series then shows how inquisitive Bess can be in following a line of inquiry, even as the war and her nursing duties become overwhelming. The title of the book indicates the basis for Bess’ investigation, since the Colonel Sahib placed his faith in Wade, not believing him guilty, and of course the suspicion casts a pall over the “honor” of the regiment. Typically, the novels in this series reflect the horrors of the First World War, and this one is no exception. Unfortunately, the mother/son writing team had to stretch pretty far to move Bess back and forth between France and England on an almost commuting schedule before the conclusion is reached. And also, to this reader’s regret, I found it very slow reading, and it took an inordinately long time to finish. Nonetheless, it was worth the effort, and is recommended.
Discussable for book clubs, nicely nuanced characterizations, a compelling central theme. I'd never heard of Charles Todd, but will look for more from him.
I thoroughly enjoyed the previous Bess Crawford mysteries and this was no exception. It was very interesting to learn more about her life in India as well as the lifestyle of the families that were stationed there. There was a lot historical detail; from the lives of WWI nurses, soldiers, the flu pandemic, to life in early 1900 India. It was very informative but in a way that draws you into the story. My only issue was that it was not always clear how much time had passed. She crossed the channel a lot! Other than that, it was a very good read. I look forward to reading her newest mystery!
Always enjoy Charles Crawford and learning of this time in history.
I got hooked from the very beginning of Book 1, this is an excellent series of who-don-it and some history thrown in. Would like to see more character development of Simon. I appreciate that not everyone is described as a raving beauty or dashingly handsome, but some more details of characters would be nice. All in all, would highly recommend the series to any historical mystery buff.