This review was previously posted on amazon on June 11, 2012:
This is my first Charles Todd mystery and I would rate it somewhere between 3 and 4 stars.
Elizabeth (Bess) Crawford is a WWI nurse who is on leave because the hospital ship upon which she served, the Brittanic, hit a mine and was sunk. She was injured in the explosion, and returns to England to recover her health before being sent back to the front. While back in England, she is compelled to fulfill a promise she made to a patient prior to his death, to deliver a message to his family. Upon arrival in Kent, at the home of the Grahams, she delivers the message, and is ultimately drawn into the family's affairs as she becomes concerned that a grave injustice has occurred and that a man has been committed to an insane asylum for a murder he did not commit.
A Duty to the Dead started out rather slowly, but picked up pace at approximately the fifty percent mark (I read it on a kindle). I really enjoyed the writing, and thought that the main character, Bess Crawford, was well-drawn and likeable. I have read Maisie Dobbs, and enjoyed those as well, and though there are similarities between the two main characters, they are very different women.
One of the things that drew me to this book was the setting. I am a sucker for a good historical mystery, and WWI England is a setting that was a bit different from the series that I have read in the past. The descriptions and other historical background about the setting was convincing.
This book focuses very closely on Bess Crawford, and did not introduce a lot of supporting characters who are likely to reappear from book to book. Her father was an interesting character, and I expect to see him again. There is absolutely no romance in this particular installment, so readers who are looking for an ongoing romantic arc may be disappointed with this book. It is possible that one will be introduced later in the series - I am hopeful that the authors will reveal a romantic interest for Bess. Finally, the ultimate resolution of the mystery made sense, but was a bit predictable. In addition, there were characters who bore responsibility for the events that occurred who emerged largely unscathed. Some remorse for their part in the events would have been nice.
The writing is solid and grammatically correct, and I did not notice typographical errors. I enjoyed this book enough that I will read additional books in the series. Duty to the Dead was an above average read - a high-three-star or low-four-star read.