The following book review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews by click on the Books category link on the right sidebar.
The mother and son writing team, Charles and Caroline Todd, aka
Charles Todd, have authored two series of books: the Bess Crawford and the Ian
Rutledge mysteries. What can only be
classified as historical mysteries, these books brilliantly mix a little WWI
history, a suspenseful crime plot, and very engaging characters. Their most
recent novel, A Question of Honor,
takes Bess back and forth between her days in India in 1908 to her time in
England and France in 1918. The next Ian
Rutledge book, Hunting Shadows will
be released early next year.
Caroline and Charles Todd decided to collaborate because
they had a common interest: English movies, literature, and the First World War
era. The Crawford series takes place
during WWI while the Rutledge series starts in 1919, at the immediate
aftermath. Although their novels fascinatingly explore the cat and mouse chase
between detective and criminal, each series has a different perspective. The authors commented to blackfive.net, “Bess
is more like an unwilling accomplice.
She finds herself involved in something she must deal with since she
never goes hunting for a case to solve.
They are always thrust upon her.
We would describe her as an amateur sleuth who gets involved because of
her clear sense of moral responsibility.
On the other hand the Ian Rutledge series are more police
procedurals. Being a Scotland Yard
detective he probes, corners, and questions suspects and has the badge behind
Both characters are very compelling and intriguing. Since Bess is a British nurse during WWI
readers are presented with a gripping storyline. Her experiences and
perspective of being a battlefield nurse, including the conditions of hospitals
in France and England, are also explored.
The other series character, Ian, is a former military officer who now
works for Scotland Yard and must hide his battle with shell shock, or PTSD as
it is known today. The authors are able to show this through the character
Hamish, who is described by them as “the epitome of those who died under
Rutledge’s leadership, his coping mechanism for survival guilt. Hamish is his
What makes these books very interesting is the reminder of
how detective work used to be done and solved without the use of technology: no
DNA samples, no fingerprint computer comparisons, and no bullet examinations
under a microscope. The main characters,
Bess and Ian, are considered students of human character and behavior, using
“body language,” to help solve the crime along with their wit and instincts. The story always involves a number of
suspects where the characters try to find the culprit who attempts to foil
their every move.
The most recent Bess Crawford novel, A Question of Honor, delves into a number of issues. Besides the setting of war, there is the discussion
of a regiment’s reputation when an officer is accused of killing five people,
and the lives of British military children boarded by strangers in England
while their parents were in India. They emphasized the latter by using the real
life experiences of the writer Rudyard Kipling and noted in the book, “The most
shocking experience a child can suffer…helpless, afraid, abused, and no
The authors also gave a heads up about their next book, Hunting Shadows. It has Ian Rutledge battling PTSD and an almost
paralyzing claustrophobia as he searches for a possible serial killer. This case will lead Rutledge figuratively and
literally back to the WWI battlefields as he matches wits with the different
suspects. The authors promise to give
the readers many twists and turns, noting that things are not as they appear to
As always, the writing of the mother and son Todd team is
superb. In their series they allow the
reader to go back to a different era and view of the world. With the backdrop of WWI, the mysteries are
complex, suspenseful, and insightful.