A Duty to the Dead [Book Review]

TitleA Duty to the Dead
Author: Charles Todd
Genre: Historical Mystery
Pages: 336
Year: 2009
Publisher: William Morrow
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 3/5


Bess Crawford, a WWI nurse aboard the hospital ship the Britannic, made a promise to a dying soldier to deliver a message to his brother. When the ship sinks and Bess is injured, she takes the opportunity to stay with the Graham family and fulfill her promise. But just sharing this message isn’t enough. While there, she stumbles upon a bigger family mystery that must be solved.

My thoughts:

After reading, and loving, the first Maisie Dobbs book, I thought I might have discovered a new genre I enjoyed. It turns out that was a bit overly optimistic. A Duty to the Dead was fine, but I doubt I’ll be continuing with the Bess Crawford series.

The mystery felt contrived and the story was often forced. For example, Bess had to keep finding ways to go back to this town that she really had no ties to so there were all of these reasons that conveniently appeared. I understand the story has to move forward but it just felt unnatural to me. Maybe I like Maisie better because she’s an actual detective so there is always a reason for her to meddle.

I also got pretty sick of people talking about “duty” all the time.

But I don’t want this review to be harsh. I didn’t really dislike the book – I just didn’t love it. If you are more of a mystery reader than me, you might enjoy it quite a bit. My issues might be more with the techniques common in the genre than with this particular book.

Have you read this series? What did you think?

Others’ (More Positive) Reviews: Devourer of Books (she actually says it isn’t contrived – further proof that no two people read the same book); nomadreader.



4 thoughts on “A Duty to the Dead [Book Review]

  1. zibilee May 9, 2012 / 10:41 am

    I have been hesitant to try this series because I just saw too many similarities to Maisie, which I didn’t enjoy all that much. Now I know for sure that this is not for me. Thanks for the very truthful and fair review. It’s much appreciated.


  2. Sandy May 9, 2012 / 2:03 pm

    Well, I am probably the only person left on earth that hasn’t read Maisie, so maybe this would appeal to me. It sounds good…I love all things WWII.


  3. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis May 9, 2012 / 8:44 pm

    I liked the first two books in this series but the third – A Bitter Truth – was really contrived. Todd’s Ian Rutledge series is better.


  4. nomadreader May 11, 2012 / 1:26 pm

    I actually started this series before I read the Maisie series, and while I see them as somewhat similar, I think expecting something like Maisie would make this one a disappointing read. I adore Bess, and one of the things I remember liking most about this one was the distinction between her behavior and her thoughts. It felt so real in terms of her time period. If I had to choose, I’d probably pick Maisie, as I appreciate her ability to solve real cases. I have enjoyed all of the Bess novels, but I also wonder how long she can keep finding mysteries to solve that don’t feel forced.


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