A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd

It’s around Christmas time in 1917, the tide of World War I is about to shift as England gains a new combatant fighting on their side … the United States is about to join the fray. Bess Crawford, an English nurse is back in London, on leave from the front. As she takes the bus home to her apartment, the bus stops and the passengers watch as the police search the area near where the bus has stopped. Bess suspects that they are looking for a deserter but soon the bus resumes it’s passage to Bess’ stop.

As Bess approaches her flat she notices a figure huddled in her doorway. At first she’s not sure if it a man or a woman, but as she draws closer she realizes it is a woman, who is obviously cold and shivering. Bess gets the woman to come into her apartment and offers her some tea and a chance to warm up. It takes a while but the woman eventually tells Bess that her name is Lydia. Lydia is very subdued and then Bess notices some severe bruises on her face and head.

It takes some time before Lydia will admit that the bruises were the result of her husband, Roger hitting her. Bess is naturally quite upset about the circumstances and is not sure she wants Lydia to return home by herself. Bess insists on accompanying home to Vixen Hill. There Bess gets to meet the Ellis clan, rich and not very forgiving of the lower classes. Roger won’t admit to hitting Lydia but his mother suspects it’s the truth. Lydia is about to get tied up in the affairs of the Ellis’, especially when a cousin, George Hughes turns up murdered. Now all the people present when the body is discovered must stay in place as the police try to sort it all out.

Charles Todd is an interesting author because the name covers the dual writing team of mother and son. They live in Delaware and North Carolina but write with the nuanced style of English mystery writers. Besides the Bess Crawford series, they are also well known for the Inspector Rutledge series.

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