World War I battlefield nurse Bess Crawford goes to dangerous lengths to investigate a wounded soldier’s background—and uncover his true loyalties—in this thrilling and atmospheric entry in the bestselling “vivid period mystery series” (New York Times Book Review).
At the foot of a tree shattered by shelling and gunfire, stretcher-bearers find an exhausted officer, shivering with cold and a loss of blood from several wounds. The soldier is brought to battlefield nurse Bess Crawford’s aid station, where she stabilizes him and treats his injuries before he is sent to a rear hospital. The odd thing is, the officer isn’t British—he’s French. But in a moment of anger and stress, he shouts at Bess in German.
When Bess reports the incident to Matron, her superior offers a ready explanation. The soldier is from Alsace-Lorraine, a province in the west where the tenuous border between France and Germany has continually shifted through history, most recently in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, won by the Germans. But is the wounded man Alsatian? And if he is, on which side of the war do his sympathies really lie?
Of course, Matron could be right, but Bess remains uneasy—and unconvinced. If he was a French soldier, what was he doing so far from his own lines . . . and so close to where the Germans are putting up a fierce, last-ditch fight?
When the French officer disappears in Paris, it’s up to Bess—a soldier’s daughter as well as a nurse—to find out why, even at the risk of her own life.
Getting it RIGHT
People are always asking us how we manage to capture another time, another country, and almost another language, in our books.
For one thing, on our earlier travels we’ve somehow managed to wind up in England at some point. This was easier when the airlines allowed multiple stop-overs on any flight. That meant wherever you were heading, you could always count on an extra stop either coming or going. This made it less expensive and also more fun because you knew you had X number of days to spend there, and so you planned that part of your trip accordingly. When our daughter was studying in Vienna and we three went over to visit her, Charles, John, and I spend four or five days in England on the return flight to the US. So we knew something about England to start with, especially the geography.
We are both history buffs, Charles and I. This meant we’d read a lot of books about history, tried to get to the historic sites in Britain, and generally knew one king from another. I remember one time when we were visiting a battlefield and wanted to see it from various vantage points before getting out in the rain to explore it on foot. We must have driven up and down and around Naseby enough to attract the attention of the police, because we were flagged down, the policeman sniffed the air to see if we’d had too much hard cider for lunch, and spoke to all three of us to see if we were up to no good. I mean to say, Naseby is a Cromwellian battlefield, and not the most popular one with tourists. The constable was finally satisfied, but I knew he was still wondering if Prince Rupert was really someone we were wanted to know better.
We’ve both loved British films and British books. And that has helped train our ears. You still need to go there and listen to people talk—watch their mannerisms as they do, and consider just how they phrase something that we’d say differently. They don’t, for instance, use forgotten. It’s always forgot. We say look, they say look here. The list goes on. But the books and the movies taught us that every county has a different way of speaking, a different dialect, sometimes, and you need to pay attention to that difference in writing.
People are the same all over. That’s standard lore. But they aren’t, not really. The British see many things differently, and you need to be aware of that. The English grow up knowing certain things. They value their privacy. We’re more nosey. They are quicker to allow someone to go his/her own way. We like to offer advice. Their home is their castle, and they expect others to respect that. If you’re invited into a person’s home, it’s a high honor. And they know their history probably better than we know ours. Asking a Brit how things were done in his grandfather’s day usually gets a fairly complete answer.
And with all this knowledge about the British and the war that we’ve put into all our other books, we decided this year to take Bess to Paris. And that’s another story! The French are—well, French. So we had to start all over again with the people, the place, the history and the geography. But we’re glad we took her to Paris. It was a fascinating story and she was the one to tell it.
~Charles and Caroline Todd
About the Author
Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.
Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvelous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great-uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.
Charles learned the rich history of Britain, including the legends of King Arthur, William Wallace, and other heroes, as a child. Books on Nelson and by Winston Churchill were always at hand. Their many trips to England gave them the opportunity to spend time in villages and the countryside, where there’a different viewpoint from that of the large cities. Their travels are at the heart of the series they began ten years ago.
Charles’s love of history led him to a study of some of the wars that shape it: the American Civil War, WWI and WWII. He enjoys all things nautical, has an international collection of seashells, and has sailed most of his life. Golf is still a hobby that can be both friend and foe. And sports in general are enthusiasms. Charles had a career as a business consultant. This experience gave him an understanding of going to troubled places where no one was glad to see him arrive. This was excellent training for Rutledge’s reception as he tries to find a killer in spite of local resistance.
Caroline has always been a great reader and enjoyed reading aloud, especially poetry that told a story. The Highwayman was one of her early favorites. Her wars are WWI, the Boer War, and the English Civil War, with a sneaking appreciation of the Wars of the Roses as well. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling the world, gardening, or painting in oils. Her background in international affairs backs up her interest in world events, and she’s also a sports fan, an enthusiastic follower of her favorite teams in baseball and pro football. She loves the sea, but is a poor sailor. (Charles inherited his iron stomach from his father.) Still, she has never met a beach she didn’t like.
Both Caroline and Charles share a love of animals, and family pets have always been rescues. There was once a lizard named Schnickelfritz. Don’t ask.
Writing together is a challenge, and both enjoy giving the other a hard time. The famous quote is that in revenge, Charles crashes Caroline’s computer, and Caroline crashes his parties. Will they survive to write more novels together? Stay tuned! Their father/husband is holding the bets.
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