Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: A Question of Honor

A Question of Honor
By Charles Todd
Published: August 27, 2013

In the latest mystery from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd, World War I nurse and amateur sleuth Bess Crawford investigates an old murder that occurred during her childhood in India, a search for the truth that will transform her and leave her pondering a troubling question: How can facts lie?

Bess Crawford enjoyed a wondrous childhood in India, where her father, a colonel in the British Army, was stationed on the Northwest Frontier. But an unforgettable incident darkened that happy time. In 1908, Colonel Crawford's regiment discovered that it had a murderer in its ranks, an officer who killed five people in India and England yet was never brought to trial. In the eyes of many of these soldiers, men defined by honor and duty, the crime was a stain on the regiment's reputation and on the good name of Bess's father, the Colonel Sahib, who had trained the killer.

A decade later, tending to the wounded on the battlefields of France during World War I, Bess learns from a dying Indian sergeant that the supposed murderer, Lieutenant Wade, is alive—and serving at the Front. Bess cannot believe the shocking news. According to reliable reports, Wade's body had been seen deep in the Khyber Pass, where he had died trying to reach Afghanistan. Soon, though, her mind is racing. How had he escaped from India? What had driven a good man to murder in cold blood?

Wanting answers, she uses her leave to investigate. In the village where the first three killings took place, she discovers that the locals are certain that the British soldier was innocent. Yet the present owner of the house where the crime was committed believes otherwise, and is convinced that Bess's father helped Wade flee. To settle the matter once and for all, Bess sets out to find Wade and let the courts decide.

But when she stumbles on the horrific truth, something that even the famous writer Rudyard Kipling had kept secret all his life, she is shaken to her very core. The facts will damn Wade even as they reveal a brutal reality, a reality that could have been her own fate.

My review:

I wanted to read this book because it is partially set in India and it involved a murder mystery. I hadn't read any of the other Bess Crawford mysteries (this is book five in the series) but I did not feel lost and there weren't really any spoilers for the mysteries in earlier books.

The story starts out when Bess is a young teen in India and we are introduced to her family's life there and to the officers like Lieutenant Wade. Another officer's young daughter dies in England and Lieutenant Wade accompanies the girl's mother on her voyage back to England since her husband can't take leave. This sets into motion the chain of events that leads to the murder accusations against Wade who flees and is believed to be dead.

Years later while Bess is serving as a nurse in WWI, she hears that Wade may still be alive. Because the incident troubled her father so much she decides to investigate secretly in case nothing comes of it. With the help of Simon, a family friend, Bess visits the village where Wade is supposed to have killed a family. 

The story is really interesting because it involves historical details about the lives of children who boarded with families in England while their parents were in India. I read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett when I was a child and that book touches on this topic a little bit too. 

I liked how intelligent and brave Bess is though she is usually charging headlong into potential danger with her sleuthing skills. She has a very supportive family and friend in Simon and she is not belittled by them for wanting to get to the truth. 

There were times when the other details of war life made me impatient for Bess to get back to her investigations but mostly I though the plot proceeded at a decent pace. It is a historical mystery as opposed to a historical thriller after all. I appreciated the picture of what war time nursing was like as well. It reminded me of Season Two of Downton Abbey at times. 

Overall I found A Question of Honor to be a satisfying mystery. While it would have been nice if more time had been spent in India or if the book had included the culture rather than focusing on the British but I didn't mind that much. The murder mystery wasn't easy to solve. There were many suspects including Wade who could be the killer and I really had no idea who it was until it was revealed.

I would suggest this book to those who enjoy historical fiction and mystery. Fans of Susan Elia MacNeal should take note. Although her Maggie Hope mysteries are a more suspenseful in tone and faster paced (and include real historical figures) I think readers would like the similarities with the strong intelligent heroines solving the mystery. I will definitely be checking out the rest of this series.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes from Edelweiss and the publisher

1 comment:

  1. I love that this was the fifth book in a series but that you could read it without reading the previous ones. As a fan of Maggie Hope, I know this is one I'll want to check out.


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