Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Question of Honor

A Question of Honor, by Charles Todd

I've enjoyed this series of mysteries set in World War I.  Bess Crawford is a nurse, so she gets around, moving from stations at the front to hospitals further back, and often traveling with wounded soldiers on their way to further recuperation.  She also has an Anglo-Indian background, having grown up in India as the daughter of a colonel, and almost the daughter of the entire regiment.  This fifth novel in the series draws on that Indian background for the story, which I thought was neat.

Ten years ago, the Colonel Sahib's regiment was rocked by the sudden desertion of Lieutenant Wade, accused of five brutal murders (including his own parents).  Wade's body was reported as found in the mountains of Afghanistan, but the whole thing left a stain on the honor of the regiment.  Now, in a triage station near the front lines, Bess meets up with a dying Indian soldier who tells her that he has seen Lieutenant Wade alive and well, serving in the war.  Bess starts keeping an eye out for Wade and looking into the murders he was accused of, and she finds that it's all connected with the practice of sending the children of Anglo-Indian officers back to England for their educations. 

It's a pretty good mystery.  Bess is a solid detective character, assertive enough for modern tastes but realistic for a woman living a century ago, so that I don't feel like she's a 21st-century person inserted into a historic setting.  The plot centers around a real part of Anglo-Indian history (Kipling makes an appearance!) and is nicely complex and gripping.

The cover bugs me, though.  Here we have a picture of a woman in Edwardian dress at the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the center of Sikh worship.  Bess' father's regiment is indeed stationed in northwest India, but there is no mention of Amritsar or Sikhs or anything like that in the story (and the Amritsar Massacre is still in the future for Bess' world).  The cover led me to expect something about Amritsar, so it was annoying to be disappointed in that.

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