An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford Series #2)

An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford Series #2)

by Charles Todd


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In the early summer of 1917, Bess Crawford is charged with escorting a convoy of severely wounded soldiers from the trenches of France to England. Among them is a young pilot, burned beyond recognition, who carries a photograph of his wife pinned to his tunic. But later, in a crowded railway station, Bess sees the same woman bidding a heart-wrenching farewell to a departing officer, clearly not her husband.

Back on duty in France, Bess is shocked to discover the wife’s photograph in a newspaper accompanying a plea from Scotland Yard for information about her murder, which took place on the very day Bess witnessed that anguished farewell. Granted leave to speak with the authorities, Bess very quickly finds herself entangled in a case of secrets and deadly betrayal in which another life hangs in the balance, and her search for the truth could expose her to far graver dangers than those she faces on the battlefield.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061791796
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/16/2011
Series: Bess Crawford Series , #2
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 143,498
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.83(d)

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. A mother-and-son writing team, they live on the East Coast.

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An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford Series #2) 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 77 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1917, British nurse Bess Crawford escorts several severely injured soldiers from the trenches of France back to England. One of her patients, severely burned pilot Lieutenant Meriwether Evanson is unrecognizable as he barely clings to his life; his seemingly only reason to live is the photo of his beloved wife pinned to his garb. Thus she is taken aback at the London train station to see that woman from the picture crying on the shoulder of a man who is not Meriwether. After another deployment in France, Bess is shocked to read in the paper that someone murdered Meriwether's wife by brutally stabbing Marjorie. Already despondent and in excruciating pain, Evanson learns of his beloved spouse's murder and commits suicide. Bess feels a tie to the late pilot so she makes inquiries into whom that officer Marjorie was with when she was weeping at the station and whether that person is her killer. Readers will be fascinated with the second Bess Crawford WWI amateur sleuth tale (see A Duty to the Dead) that deals with the impact of the war in the trenches of France and on the home front. The mystery is fun to follow but Bess' motives for her investigation seems weak at best and what she does as a nurse makes it seem impossible to add a murder inquiry onto her already traumatic job. 1917 life in France and England makes for a vivid and engaging historical mystery. Harriet Klausner
macabr More than 1 year ago
"Early Summer, 1917 "The burn victim, swathed in bandages.was frightful to see, his skin still raw and weeping, his eyes his only recognizable feature. I knew and he knew that in spite of all his doctors could do, it would never be enough. The face he'd once had was gone, and in its place would be something that frightened children and made women flinch..he had a framed photograph of his wife pinned to his tunic, and it was what kept him alive, not our care." Bess Crawford has just escorted more of the wounded and maimed to England from the battlefields of France. She has a few hours in London before having to return to the battle field hospital and all she wants is to sleep. As she walks through the train station, she notices a woman crying inconsolably, a man in uniform standing near her but not comforting her. As Bess walks by, the woman lifts her head and Bess knows, without question that the woman is the wife of Lieutenant Meriwether Evanson, the burn victim. She has seen that picture too often not to be certain of the woman's identity. Bess watches the man board the train without a backward glance. The woman, still crying, hurries from the station. Bess tries to follow her but she disappears into the crowd. Back in France, Bess sees a pen-and-ink drawing of a woman with the caption, "Police Ask for Witnesses - Evanson Murder Still Unsolved." Bess sends a letter to Scotland Yard and is most surprised to be sent back to England for an interview with Inspector Herbert. She might not have seen much but she is the only person to have come forward with any information. Before she returns to France, she decides to visit Lieutenant Evanson; when she arrives at the hospital, she is told that the lieutenant had killed himself six days earlier. He had been despondent since learning of his wife's murder. Bess returns to France and seems to be granted an inordinate amount of leave for a nurse working on the front lines of battle. This allows her to visit many people, new friends and old, so she can find the man with the Wiltshire Regiment badge, whose face she didn't see clearly, at the train station with Marjorie Evanson just before she was killed. The body count rises as more deaths of young officers recuperating near London are reported. Then another woman is attacked in the same manner as Majorie Evanson. Who knew both women well enough to want them dead? I enjoyed this book more than the first Bess Crawford, A DUTY TO THE DEAD. AN IMPARTIAL WITNESS could have had the length shortened a good bit if the authors eliminated some of the characters who make very brief appearances. The authors people the story with army officers but, for most, they give so little detail that it is difficult to find a personality that would make them memorable or help separate one from another. I look forward to other books in the series.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
WWI nurse Bess Crawford has a few precious hours to spend in London before returning to France from transport duty. After leaving her patient in a Hampshire hospital, Bess is startled to see his wife with another man in a London train station. She's seen the woman's picture every day, so she can't be mistaken. When Bess learns that the woman was murdered later that day, and that Scotland Yard has no leads in the case, Bess feels obligated to share what she knows with the investigators. Bess was perhaps the last person to see the woman before her murder, and she stubbornly persists in tracking down information that will explain the reason for the murder and identify the killer.I really liked the first book in the series, and I expected this book to be more of the same. However, Bess's character seemed different this time. In the first book, she had a good reason for becoming involved in the investigation. This time, she just seemed nosy, and a bit spoiled by her parents and family friend, Simon. Her relationship with Simon reminded me of Jane Austen's Emma and Mr. Knightly. The age difference between Simon and Bess is similar to that between Mr. Knightly and Emma, and Simon behaves toward Bess much like Knightly behaves toward Emma. I hope that Simon will be the good influence for Bess that Knightly was for Emma.I plan to continue reading this series, but with lowered expectations.
cathyskye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First Line: As my train pulled into London, I looked out at the early summer rain and was glad to see the dreary day had followed me from Hampshire.It is the early summer of 1917 and nurse Bess Crawford has returned to England from France with a convoy of gravely wounded soldiers. One of the men is a badly burned young pilot who wears a photo of his wife pinned to his tunic. He clings to life solely because of his love for her.In a London train station Bess happens to witness the extremely emotional farewell between a woman and an officer. When the woman turns her head, Bess recognizes her. She is the wife of the young, burned pilot, which means that the officer is most definitely not her husband.Back in France, Bess happens to see a newspaper article in which Scotland Yard is asking for any information about the woman in the sketch. The sketch is of the pilot's wife, the woman at the train station. Bess feels that she must become involved in the case because of the young pilot's love for his wife and because of the fact that she seems to be the last person to see the woman alive. It won't be long at all before Bess realizes just how dangerous her quest for the truth really is.For me, the enjoyment in reading the books in this series comes not from deducing the murderer, but from immersing myself in the time period and in the character of Bess herself. Living in an era (as I do) in which it seems no one wants to claim responsibility for anything, Bess's sense of duty and responsibility is quite refreshing. She may have a stubborn and slightly reckless streak, but she's got an excellent safety net in her family-- and she knows how to use her common sense.The mother-son writing duo known as Charles Todd has a long-running series set in the same era which centers around Ian Rutledge, a shell-shocked veteran who returns to his job at Scotland Yard. That series is also very good, but after a while, I tired of Rutledge being haunted by the ill-tempered spirit of a soldier shot for desertion.Bess has no such haunts, for which I am grateful, and it seems that, if she finally becomes aware of someone right underneath her nose, she may have a relationship to help keep her grounded in future books. I like Bess, and I look forward to reading more books in the series to see if I'm right about her prospects.If you've read Todd's Ian Rutledge series or Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series about a former World War I nurse as private investigator in 1930's London, you should enjoy this series about Bess Crawford.
readinggeek451 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
World War I nurse Bess Crawford escorts a group of wounded soldiers home to England. Leaving the train station, she recognizes the wife of one patient, hanging on the arm of another man. Bess is astonished to learn later that the wife was murdered later that day. She is drawn into the investigation, convinced that the police will be unable--or unwilling--to find the truth.
BrianEWilliams on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a good murder mystery, plot driven,well paced and therefore it was an easy read. The lack of character development did not hurt the story-telling, although it was difficult for me to sort out the motivation for some of the characters. The use of the "mystery man" at the train station was one of the better features of the book. He acted a hook at the beginning of the story and provided Bess with a "target" throughout the book until she finally tracked him down. He was a red herring to some extents although identifying him helped identify the killer. There was little effort to flesh out Bess Crawford and readers did not know any more about her at the end of the book as they did as the beginning. There was of course more about her in the first book of the series. In many respects she is like Maisie Dobbs in the mystery series by Winspear, that is, she's a nurse who served overseas in WW1, and now undertakes investigations which is something ladies of the time did not do. I look forward to the next book in the series.
pennykaplan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nurse Bess Crawford accompanies a severely burned officer home from the front and is thrown into a murder case when she observes that officers wife bidding a grief-stricken goodbye to another officer. Empathetic characters, but a little to plot driven...could use more character development. Still another strong entry in the series.
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bess Crawford, daughter of a British Army officer, was raised in India, is well-educated and quite independent for her times. Todd gives us interesting period looks at army field hospitals, early 20th century transportation choices, changing class structures and strictures, and the women's suffrage movement (a peripheral but still strong influence to the story).In this story, Bess is witness to an encounter she considers a crucial piece in solving the mystery of a young woman's death. She is quite convinced of her insights, and goes to great lengths to push the authorities to see things her way. At the same time, the reader is given to ponder whether Bess is becoming too personally involved with several of the main characters.This is a good solid mystery with a few twists and red herrings. It is also one that has an ending that could be seen as leaving us hanging. A nice pleasant, nothing to write home about, read it and go on to the next one mystery.
pharrm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Love the Bess Crawford Series."BessCrawford, World War I battlefield nurse, catches a glimpse of thewife of one of the wounded soldiers in her care in a desperatescene enacted at a London train station. The wife is murderedlater that day and Bess¿s patient, a severe burn victim who livedfor their reunion, kills himself. Bess only recognized the womanfrom the photo her husband carried, and she barely glimpsedthe man with her. What and whom did Bess see? Scotland Yardis soon in touch, and Bess can¿t let the memory go. The IndieNext Pick notes, ¿The battlefield scenes are unforgettable, butit is the characters and suspense that drive this, the second inthe excellent new series from the author of the Ian RutledgeMysteries.¿ A terrific book, filled with the detail and richness weexpect of Todd on England and WWI, but without the bitter edgeand despairing notes of the Rutledges."
picardyrose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I liked it ... but it seemed to go on and on. And I know England is a small country, but this driving and taking the train to and fro and back -- isn't that like me driving to Chicago by way of Toronto and Cleveland?
KLTMD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Charles Todd writing team (mother and son) may have thought of Hemingway and the use of dialogue to move plots when they wrote "An Impartial Witness", but they shouldn't be allowed to use his name. And if they think they have created a character in 'Bess Crawford' who is similar to Jacqueline Winspear's 'Masie Dobbs, they aren't in the same league. Skip this book.
mikedraper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As we followed the adventures of Bess Crawford, a nurse on active duty in WWI, we saw her caring spirit, inquisitive nature and now, her duty to the dead.As the action begins, Bess is escorting a group of injured soldiers from the battlefields of France back to England. One of the injured is a badly burned pilot who has a photo of his wife pinned to his chest as if this was a symbol of what he was fighting to live for.After delivering the wounded, Bess is given leave and at a train station witnesses a sadful scene where a woman is bidding a tearful goodbye to a soldier leaving for the front. When the woman turns, Bess realizes that it is Marjorie Evanson, the wife of the injured pilot. Bess wonders why this woman is seeing another man while her husband sufferes with his burns at the clinic.When Bess returns to France, she sees a newspaper with an article asking if anyone has seen this woman. Bess recognizes it as Marjorie Evanson and learms that she was murdered on the very day Bess saw her at the station.Bess gets leave in order to speak to Scotland Yard. Then she travels to see Marjorie's family and learns that Marjorie's sister Victoria, has a hatred for her sister. Bess also meets Lt. Evanson's sister, and learns that the sister is telling people that Marjorie was murdered in an attempted robbery. Bess feels it had somehting to do with the man at the train station.There are more twists and deaths as Bess tries to find the answers. This is described around the events of the war as Bess returns to the front once more, to care for the injured soldiers where she observes the insanity of war where so many soldiers are wounded and killed for a few hundred yards gained or lost. This is told so realistically that the reader can almost hear the ammunition exploding and listen to the moans of the injured.There are more twists and deaths as
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The second is just as good as the first. Will purchase series.
Grammykf More than 1 year ago
Really like this series. This book was a little wavy in that they did seem to know which way to go with it. The fact an innocent sighting would set off the whole mystery is... well not up to their standards, but it set itself right later in the book. If you hang with it the return is good.
BookLoverCT More than 1 year ago
After having read all the Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd, I am now enjoying the Bess Crawford books. The story of Marjorie Evanson's murder, and how it evolved was well told. A real who dun it?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Charles Todd gets you right into the middle of the reality of WWI. You go from the genteel drawing rooms of England to the horrors (but not unduly graphically) of the war in France. A chance sighting at the railroad station makes Bess "an impartial witness", but what comes after begins to strain her impartiality. These are really well developed books. The characters and the locations are fully "fleshed" out. A very good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amber1MA More than 1 year ago
...being disappointed by the first book in the series. However, I'm so glad I did! It grabbed me on the first page and kept me intereted right to the end. In fact, when I was forced to put the book down, it was difficult to mentally leave it aside and come back to reality. Do read it! You won't be sorry.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoy Bess Crawford and this series in general.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little slow in parts but generally works very well. Sets the scene of WWI in a way that really takes you back to the time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago