STARRED REVIEW
September 26, 2017

A war nurse takes on a tense case

By Charles Todd
Review by

In this ninth installment in his Bess Crawford series, A Casualty of War, the mother-son writing team known collectively as Todd has provided an authentic look at the visceral horrors of trench warfare, as they set readers down in a makeshift medical facility, or “forward aid station,” near the front lines. Bess has been assigned there near the end of the war, after another nurse has attempted suicide due to the high stress level at the facility.

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World War I raged from 1914 to 1918. It killed many thousands and left countless others with emotional and mental scars that were little understood at the time—a terrible legacy of shock and mental disability that affected many of those who fought,  sometimes for the rest of their lives.

Charles Todd’s war novels have explored those lasting scars in two series, his Ian Rutledge mysteries and, beginning in 2010, a newer series featuring Bess Crawford, a World War I nurse.

In this ninth installment in his Bess Crawford series, A Casualty of War, the mother-son writing team known collectively as Todd has provided an authentic look at the visceral horrors of trench warfare, as they set readers down in a makeshift medical facility, or “forward aid station,” near the front lines. Bess has been assigned there near the end of the war, after another nurse has attempted suicide due to the high stress level at the facility.

Bess soon makes the acquaintance of one Captain Travis—first as a soldier about to rejoin his regiment, and soon after as a gravely wounded soldier himself; one who insists, moreover, that his distant cousin has intentionally tried to murder him on the battlefield. Trouble is, that cousin was killed in battle weeks before Travis was himself wounded. For his insistence on what took place, the captain is transferred to a mental facility, where his condition soon deteriorates.

Bess appears to be the only person who believes the captain may be telling the truth, and following the armistice she sets out to make sense of his claim and hopefully prove him sane. It won’t take readers long to discover that where there are two branches of a family, there’s often a will in dispute. Bess and her friend Simon set out to begin a search within the fold of the Travis family—a dangerous undertaking that involves a whole community as well as a number of family skeletons.

The authors deftly explore the early ways in which the medical community as well as families and loved ones try to understand what we now know of as post-traumatic stress disorder. A Casualty of War brings into sharp focus an era that thrust the world squarely into the 20th century.

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A Casualty of War

A Casualty of War

By Charles Todd
Morrow
ISBN 9780062678782

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