World War I nurse keeps a burdensome promise.
Relinquishing for the moment Inspector Ian Rutledge (A Matter of Justice, 2008, etc.), the Todd writing partnership presents Bess Crawford, invalided home when the hospital ship she nursed on is shot out from under her. She’s bent on relaying a dying message—matters must be set right—from favored patient Arthur Graham to his brother Jonathan. Another matter, however, takes precedence for the Graham family: Peregrine, the Graham brother confined in an asylum since he was barely a teenager for murdering Lily the housemaid, is near death from pneumonia and needs nursing care. Providing it, Bess is struck by how rational Peregrine seems. Meanwhile, another village patient, a traumatized war victim who has fallen under her care, commits suicide—or does he? When Peregrine regains his strength, he takes Bess on the run to help him recover his memory of Lily’s death. A visit to the village rector reveals several other fatal calamities over the years that cast suspicion on other Graham family members: clubfooted Timothy, Mrs. Graham and, to Bess’s dismay, the late Arthur himself. A gruesome denouement lays bare all the family secrets and misalliances and releases Bess from her deathbed vow to Arthur.
Will readers miss Inspector Rutledge? You bet. But anyone who cares to loll in early-20th century English villages and mores and follow a plucky heroine as she confronts the stupidity of war will find solace in this old-fashioned mystery.