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A Bitter Truth: A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd


A Bitter TruthReviewed by Patricia Reid

Bess Crawford is a nurse currently stationed in France. When she is granted leave to return to England for the Christmas holidays she welcomes the break from the war zone and looks forward to visiting her family. Bess shares an apartment with some other nurses and it is not uncommon for her to have the place to herself since her roommates all have assignments. Upon arriving at her apartment building, Bess finds a young woman huddled in the doorway. The woman is well dressed and appears to be bruised as well as suffering from the cold. Her clothing is not designed to keep her warm. Bess convinces the woman to take refuge in her apartment.

The young woman finally confides in Bess that her name is Lydia Ellis and she resides in Sussex. She had quarreled with her husband, Captain Roger Ellis, and Captain Ellis had struck her. Eventually after hearing bits and pieces of Lydia’s story Bess convinced her to return to her home in Sussex and attempt to work out her problems. Lydia’s husband was home on compassionate leave due to the illness of his brother Alan. Alan had recently passed away.

Lydia begged Bess to return to Sussex with her to Vixen Hill the Ellis family home. Bess agrees although Simon Brandon was not thrilled with the idea. Simon is a long time family friend who had served with Bess’ father and is very protective of Bess. On arrival at Vixen Hill, Bess finds that plans are underway for a memorial service for Alan and family members are gathering. Bess learns of the tragic death of Roger’s young sister years ago, a death from which none of the family seems to have completely recovered.

Soon there is another death to be investigated when a friend of the family who was staying at Vixen Hill is found murdered. Bess is drawn into the investigation and soon learns more about the family than she ever wanted to know. Lydia has heard rumors that her husband had a child with a woman in France and that the child is the image of his dead sister. Lydia begs Bess to look for the child when she returns to France.

Bess makes no promises but when she returns to France, she does make inquiries. Bess confides in a soldier from Australia who takes up the search for the child. In war torn France there are hundreds of orphans and many of the Sisters caring for them have to move from place to place due to the war.

The story jumps back and forth between the war front and England and there is no lack of excitement on either front. This is a good addition to the Bess Crawford mysteries and there is more than one puzzle to solve.



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