Bess Crawford Books in Order: How to read Charles Todd’s series?

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Described as a series for anyone who loves Downton Abbey and the British-set mysteries of Elizabeth George, the Bess Crawford series written by Charles Todd is about a nurse solving mysteries during the Great War. Bess Crawford is not the usual upper-middle-class British gentlewoman. Independent-minded, she grew up in India where she learned the importance of responsibility, honor, and duty from her officer father. Now, she is determined to help as many wounded as possible.

How to read the Bess Crawford Series in Order?

Every entry in the Bess Crawford book series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.

  1. A Duty to the Dead – Dedicated to helping the many wounded during the Great War, Bess Crawford receives a desperate request from a dying lieutenant while serving as a nurse aboard a hospital ship. “Tell my brother Jonathan that I lied,” the young man says. “I did it for Mother’s sake. But it has to be set right.” Back home in England, Bess receives an unexpected response from the dead soldier’s family.
  2. The Girl on the Beach – A short story collected in Tales.
  3. An Impartial Witness – In the early summer of 1917, Bess Crawford is charged with escorting a convoy of severely wounded soldiers from the trenches of France to England. Among them is a young pilot who carries a photograph of his wife. But later, in a railway station, Bess sees the same woman bidding a heart-wrenching farewell to a departing officer. Back on duty in France, Bess is shocked to discover the woman has been murdered.
  4. A Bitter Truth – Returning to her London flat from the front lines in France for a well-earned Christmas leave, Bess Crawford comes upon a bruised and shivering woman huddled in the doorway. Propelled by pity, Bess takes her in. When her troubled houseguest meets an untimely death, Bess finds herself the prime suspect, and on the trail of a vicious killer that leads back to war-torn France.
  1. An Unmarked Grave – In the spring of 1918, the Spanish flu epidemic spreads, killing millions of soldiers and civilians across the globe. Overwhelmed by the constant flow of wounded soldiers coming from the French front, Bess Crawford must now contend with hundreds of influenza patients as well. However, Bess discovers, concealed among the dead waiting for burial, the body of an officer who has been murdered.
  2. The Walnut Tree – A holiday short story.
  3. A Question of Honor – Bess Crawford enjoyed a wondrous childhood in India, where her father, a colonel in the British Army, was stationed. But 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. 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.
  4. An Unwilling Accomplice – Home on leave, Bess Crawford is asked to accompany a wounded soldier confined to a wheelchair to Buckingham Palace, where he’s to be decorated by the King. The next morning when Bess goes to collect Wilkins, he has vanished. Both the Army and the nursing service hold Bess negligent for losing the war hero, and there will be an inquiry. Then comes disturbing word from the Shropshire police, complicating the already difficult situation: Wilkins has been spotted, and he’s killed a man.
  5. The Maharani’s Pearls (short story) – A short story collected in Tales.
  1. A Pattern of Lies – An explosion and fire at the Ashton Gunpowder Mill in Kent has killed over a hundred men. It’s called an appalling tragedy–until suspicion and rumor raise the specter of murder. While visiting the Ashton family, Bess Crawford finds herself caught up in a venomous show of hostility that doesn’t stop with Philip Ashton’s arrest. Indeed, someone is out for blood, and the household is all but under siege.
  2. The Shattered Tree – France, October 1918. Though the war is nearing its end, the German enemy refuses to go quietly. During a nighttime barrage, British stretcher-bearers find an exhausted officer. The soldier is brought to Bess Crawford’s aid station. Surprisingly, the officer isn’t British–he’s wearing the tattered remnants of a French uniform. And even stranger, when he shouts out in anger and pain, he speaks in fluent German.
  3. A Casualty of War – Though the Great War is nearing its end, the fighting rages on. While waiting for transport back to her post, Bess Crawford meets Captain Alan Travis from the island of Barbados. Later, when he’s brought into her forward aid station disoriented from a head wound, Bess is alarmed that he believes his distant English cousin, Lieutenant James Travis, shot him. Still, Bess wonders how such an experienced officer could be so wrong.
  1. A Forgotten Place – The fighting has ended, the Armistice signed, but Nurse Bess Crawford has been assigned to a clinic for amputees, and the Welsh patients worry her. Their officer, Captain Williams, writes to describe their despair, and his own at trying to save his men. When Captain Williams’ sister tells Bess he has left the valley. Bess is afraid he intends to kill himself. She follows him to an isolated and quickly discovers these villagers are hiding something, and she’s learned too much to be allowed to leave.
  2. A Cruel Deception – The Armistice of November 1918 ended the fighting, but the Great War will not be over until a Peace Treaty is drawn up and signed by all parties. Representatives from the Allies are gathering in Paris, and already ominous signs of disagreement have appeared. Sister Bess Crawford, who has been working with the severely wounded in England in the war’s wake, is asked to carry out a personal mission in Paris for a Matron at the London headquarters of The Queen Alexandra’s.
  3. A Hanging at DawnA short story. Years before the Great War summoned Bess Crawford to serve as a battlefield nurse, the indomitable heroine spent her childhood in India under the watchful eye of her friend and confidant, the young soldier Simon Brandon. The two formed an inseparable bond on the dangerous Northwest Frontier where her father’s Regiment held the Khyber Pass against all intruders.
  4. An Irish Hostage – The Great War has finally come to an end, but tensions remain high throughout Europe. In Ireland, no one has forgotten the bloody 1916 Easter Rising that fought to end British rule in the country. Bess Crawford’s old friend, nurse Eileen Flynn, returns to her isolated Irish village where two factions continue to battle against each other. Eileen’s time with the British army makes her a target for retaliation. Her missing cousin, who was active in the rising and is still being hunted by the British, is her only protection.

  1. The Cliff’s Edge – Restless and uncertain of her future in the wake of World War I, Bess Crawford agrees to travel to Yorkshire to help a friend of her cousin Melinda through surgery. But circumstances change suddenly when news of a terrible accident reaches them. Bess agrees to go to isolated Scarfdale and the Neville family, where one man has been killed and another gravely injured. The police are asking questions, and Bess is quickly drawn into the fray as two once close families take sides, even as they are forced to remain in the same house until the inquest is completed.

If you like our article about the Bess Crawford reading order, don’t forget to bookmark it! Also, from the same author, check out the Ian Rutledge series.

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One Comment

  1. Should this series be read in order? As in, are they a continuous sequence of books or are they stand-alone for the most part? I ended up getting book 9 without knowing that it was part of a series.

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