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 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' 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 died trying to reach Afghanistan. Soon, though, her mind is racing. How did he escape from India? What drove a good man to murder in cold blood? Curious to find answers, she uses her leave to investigate. In the village where the first three killings took place, she discovers that locals are certain that the British soldier was innocent. Yet the present owner of the house that was the scene of the crime believes otherwise, and is convinced that Bess' 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.
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Author One-on-One: Charles Todd and Deborah Crombie
Deborah Crombie is the bestselling author of 15 mystery novels featuring Scotland Yard Detective Inspector James, and Detective Superintendent Kincaid, including her latest, The Sound of Broken Glass.
Deborah Crombie: Even though this is the fifth book in the "Bess Crawford" mystery series, it reads like a stand-alone novel. What's your trick to writing a series novel that can be enjoyed by a newcomer as well as a fan?
Charles Todd: We try to put ourselves in the readers’ shoes, so that he or she can start the series anywhere, and still feel right at home. That means concentrating on the current plot and setting, to make it as exciting as if it were the first time Bess ever tried to solve a mystery. That keeps the character fresh too, because our enthusiasm for Bess comes through.
DC: There is a wonderful subtext to the relationship between Bess, the WWI battlefield nurse, and Simon, her father's right-hand man in the military. What's really going on there?
CT: Simon and Bess haven’t told us yet. There’s most certainly chemistry there, a lot of it. Perhaps it hasn’t dawned on them yet that there might be something more between them. Still, every once in a while, a twinge of jealousy crops up...
DC: The scenes of the British Army in India during the Colonial era (which form the background for the current story) are so colorful and fascinating, not the usual stuff of a mystery series. What inspired you to give Bess and her family a history in India?
CT: India made Bess such an intriguing character to work with. We didn’t want her to be a staid Victorian. Instead she experiences Army life and understands duty. Her education includes a different, exotic culture. And the memory of the 1857 Indian Mutiny is always fresh, a constant reminder of danger. If you’re going to write about a woman who can stand on her own two feet, there has to be an explanation of how she learned to be so independent. A traditional background wouldn’t have worked.
DC: Will Bess ever meet up with Inspector Rutledge, the protagonist of your other mystery series?
CT: So far, we haven’t come up with any good reason for letting them meet. But there is one character who is in both series—Melinda Crawford. She’s a cousin of Bess’s family and has an Army background in India herself. She’s also a close friend of Rutledge’s family. Who knows if she’ll ever introduce these two? And what will Simon have to say to that?
DC: Bess is such a wonderful character, she feels so contemporary while still being true to her time. She has a real talent of drawing information out of others. What--or who--was your inspiration for Bess?
CT: The familiar Victorian woman, repressed and living under the thumb of her father and then her husband, is only one side of the picture. Intrepid Englishwomen traveled the world as missionaries or like Melinda Crawford, for adventure. Even the Suffragettes were ready to endure prison for their cause. The nurses who served in France, saving lives, were remarkable for their courage and devotion to duty. These are the real-life women who inspired Bess, women on the threshold of our time but still a very real part of their own.About the Author:
Charles Todd is the author of the Bess Crawford mysteries, the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. A mother and son writing team, they live in Delaware and North Carolina, respectively.
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Book Description Harpercollins Publishers Inc, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: Brand New. 352 pages. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # zk0062297864
Book Description William Morrow, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0062297864