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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much Better Than the First in This Series, 10 Oct 2010
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
"An Impartial Witness," is second in the new Bess Crawford British mystery series by New York Times best selling author, Charles Todd. Todd is the author of twelve popular Ian Rutledge British mysteries, set in the United Kingdom after World War I, and one stand-alone novel. But Charles Todd, of course, is an American mother-son duo: she resident in Delaware; he--who is actually Charles Todd-- in North Carolina.

Bess Crawford is a battlefield British World War I nurse, whom we met, in A Duty to the Dead: A Bess Crawford Mystery, aboard H.M.S. Britannic as it was being sunk by the Germans. The new series was, of course, immediately compared to Jacqueline Winspear's novels about Maisie Dobbs, intrepid battlefield World War I nurse, and Anne Perry's novels about Hester Latterly, one of the first nurses, who saw action in the Crimean War, with Florence Nightingale, the first non-camp follower nurse. However, I thought the attempt at an exciting opening set-piece didn't work, did not much care for "A Duty," and did not think it measured up to these other series. But "Impartial Witness" is a much better book.

It opens to find Bess tending soldiers in the trenches of France during the earlier days of World War I, before the entry of the United States into the war, when Britain fought Germany substantially alone. Bess, however, is sent back to England in summer 1917, with a convoy of seriously-injured patients. One, a young pilot with disfiguring burns, has held onto a photo of his wife in his long convalescence: Bess has noticed it many times, become familiar with the face. Patients once transferred to a clinic in Hampshire, reconfigured into a great house, Bess has two-day leave in which to go to ground in her London flat and rest up. However, she notices the pilot's wife in the train station, bidding a distraught goodbye to a soldier not her husband. Later, returned to France, Bess finds an old newspaper with a drawing of the pilot's wife on the front page: the pilot's wife has been brutally murdered, on the very day Bess saw her, stabbed twice, and thrown into the Thames River alive, to drown. Scotland Yard are appealing for information from anyone who has seen her. Bess gets leave to report to Scotland Yard, tell them what she knows. And she is, of course, on her own dangerous hunt for the killer.

The hunt will bring her into contact with some seriously dysfunctional families. It will also give "Todd" a chance to show off some excellent research: I found wartime England very well-drawn, as was the French battlefield, and the British military. This book is, in fact, well-written; dialog, narrative and description are nicely-done. It opened fast, and got to the first body gratifyingly fast, though be encouraged, if blood and gore isn't your thing, the violence all takes place offstage. The plot was certainly complex enough. I liked the conclusion emotionally, but wasn't entirely happy with its presentation. "Todd" has tried again for a television-style set piece there, and it appears that such "grand opera" writing really isn't in his/her skill set. But plenty of things are.

I've seen Charles Todd, the son, a few times at the local library's mystery weekends. He's a pleasant, intelligent, handsome and charming young man who speaks well. We've every reason to wish him well in this new series.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bess is getting better with each book, 8 Sep 2010
By 
L. J. Roberts (Oakland, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
First Sentence: 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.

WWI battlefield nurse Bess Crawford cared for a badly burned young pilot who had a picture of his wife visibly displayed. In a train station traveling on leave back to London, Bess happens to see the wife who is clearly upset as she sees off a different soldier. Although somewhat perplexed by the scene, it is nothing to the shock Bess feels when a drawing of the woman appears in the next day's paper with Scotland Yard asking whether someone can identify her. Bess learns the woman had been murdered and shortly after, the burned husband commits suicide. Bess feels it is her responsible to find out what had happened.

This is the 2nd book in this new series by the Todd's and I much preferred it to the first book.

Their voice for Bess is much better and she's a stronger character. The sense of chaos and fatigue from being in combat is well conveyed, but with a sense of detachment I feel one would acquire after time. The contrast between the battlefield and being in London, particularly attending the house party, is very effective. I like that Bess doesn't jump to conclusions but gathers the evidence bit-by-bit and over time.

The plot was well constructed and the reason for Bess being involved was justifiable. Although I understood Beth's distance from the events, it did all feel a bit too distant as a reader; I was never emotionally connected to the story.

While I never considered not finishing the book, for me it wasn't a gripping straight-through read either. That said, Todd is an excellent writer and I always look forward to the next book.

AN IMPARTIAL WITNESS (Ama Sleu-Bess Crawford-England/France-1917/WWI) - G+
Todd, Charles - 2nd in series
HarperCollins, ©2010, ARC - Hardcover ISBN: 9780061791789
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bess Crawford, 19 Dec 2013
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This review is from: An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford Mysteries) (Paperback)
I prefer Inspector Rutledge novels, but once you get into these stories they are good, the detail is as usual very good.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent Book, 10 Feb 2013
By 
Mr. T. J. Garner "Tim Garner" (Leicester UK) - See all my reviews
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This is the second book I have read in this series and both have been a great read. They are set in the First World War and are full of good detail around which the mystery story in the book is written.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Believable Bess, 9 Nov 2012
By 
Mrs J M Webster (Chippenham, Wiltshire Great Britain) - See all my reviews
The Bess Crawford series of books by Charles Todd are unusual in that they deal with the detail of people's lives and how something small causes ripples which in turn lead to violence and death. The everyday horror of the First World War lurks in the background and colours the responses to the story. We begin to realise that Bess has time constraints which send her back to France and the frustration as well as the exhaustion comes through. A good whodunit in a fine tradition of real people instead of special effects and fast cars.Read the others in the series and enjoy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A second outstanding Bess Crawford mystery., 4 Sep 2010
By 
J. Lesley "(Judy)" (United States) - See all my reviews
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Being in the wrong place at the wrong time makes nurse Bess Crawford an impartial witness to a scene played out by an extremely distraught woman and a military officer on his way to board a train to the war front in France. If Bess had not seen a photograph of the woman so often at the bedside of an injured officer she has just escorted to a convalescent home, she would not have stopped and watched in amazement as the drama played out before her. As it was, there could be no doubt in her mind that the woman in question was the wife of Lieutenant Evanson and she was having a deeply personal encounter with a man who was most definitely not her husband. After returning to France Bess discovers a drawing and newspaper article stating that Scotland Yard is requesting help from the public regarding the murder of Mrs. Marjorie Evanson. From the information in this article Bess realizes that Mrs. Evanson died on the very night she saw her at the station. The right thing to do is to send off a letter to the investigating officer stating what Bess witnessed.

This second book in the series featuring Nurse Bess Crawford takes us back to the world of England during the Summer of 1917 when the fighting was fierce on the battlefields of France. The wonderful characterizations are there again for the reader to enjoy as we are reacquainted with Bess' parents and Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon, Mrs. Hennessey her landlady and some of the other women Bess shares the flat with. Once again Charles Todd shows the reader how knowing one person can lead to an introduction to another person which can then lead to an invitation to a house party where Bess can accumulate information regarding the Evansons and the people who were involved in their lives. The wonderful examples of the ripples of the pond reaching out to touch more and more people and uncovering more and more love, jealousy, anger, rage, hate and betrayal. I absolutely love reading these books, whether it be the Bess Crawford series or those featuring Ian Rutledge, because these authors allow me to become completely involved in the lives of their characters. They take on almost lifelike qualities.

This particular story does not resolve itself quickly, it takes months for all of the actions to unfold because in this story Bess actually has to travel back to France to work in her nursing capacities. But she does manage to investigate more of the Evanson mystery every time she gets back in England and she certainly is not shy about asking for help from all those around her. In the first book (A Duty to the Dead: A Bess Crawford Mystery) Bess is in England the entire time to solve the mystery because she is on leave from her duties while her broken arm heals. In this novel there is quite a bit of going back and forth from France to England and even from London into the countryside. These situations came rather close to becoming irritating for me, but I honestly don't see how the plot could have unfolded without all the "travel" Bess did.

Once again I found this novel to be a wonderful historically atmospheric novel with a very determined and strong willed heroine. But these authors make Bess into the type character who can be wrong, who can make mistakes, and yet who I always feel is a genuinely warm caring individual who simply wants to help in any situation she finds herself in. I'm not a fan of the modern super-woman type fictional character. Bess Crawford never seems to me to be portrayed in that way so I like her and I'm interested in the cases she becomes involved in. I highly recommend this series and the other works written by these authors.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 10 Sep 2014
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This review is from: An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford Mysteries) (Paperback)
Great book fast service
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An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford Mysteries)
An Impartial Witness (Bess Crawford Mysteries) by Charles Todd (Paperback - 1 Nov 2011)
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