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The Shattered Tree

The Shattered Tree, May 2017
Bess Crawford Mysteries #8
by Charles Todd

William Morrow
Featuring: Bess Crawford
336 pages
ISBN: 006238628X
EAN: 9780062386281
Kindle: B0191FR6JW
Paperback / e-Book (reprint)
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"A captivating mystery set at the end of the Great War"

Fresh Fiction Review

The Shattered Tree
Charles Todd

Reviewed by Audrey Lawrence
Posted March 28, 2017

Mystery Historical | Thriller Historical

Despite the rumours of its eminent settling, the muddy trench war still is taking its heavy toll on both the war and the home front. Despite her exhaustion, Nursing Sister Bess Crawford is intrigued by an injured and unknown French soldier. He is delirious and cries out in pain in perfect German. Bess reports the unusual incident, but is told the soldier may just be from the Alsace Lorraine region where the French had been forced to learn German as children.

Shortly after that, Bess takes a hit from a sniper while trying to rescue some wounded soldiers and is sent to convalesce in Paris. While out walking, she spots the unidentified soldier on the street and tries to track him down. Why has he not reported to his unit? Who is he?

THE SHATTERED TREE is written by Charles Todd, a well- known and highly regarded American mother and son writing team and it is the eighth book in the highly-regarded Bess Crawford Mystery Series. This series is a particular favourite of mine as the Todd team have an exceptional ability to vividly bring to life the dangers of World War I, the smells, the sense of time and the exhausting conditions in which the wartime medical team struggle to do their best to help the wounded when they can. I have relished this skill in their previous books (including the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries) and it vividly continues in THE SHATTERED TREE which realistically describes both the wartimes conditions and food shortages in France. Her comments about the coffee explains all.

Bess is a great character and is a very competent and brave Nursing Sister serving in the British front lines. She is always willing to help others and will grapple with the concerns of friends to help solve a mystery. Fans of the series will appreciate this continuation of life and events with Bess. I enjoy that aspect, yet this time found Bess too obsessive and needlessly independent in her search for Phillipe Moreau, her previous unidentified patient. I liked Captain Barkley in the story but his involvement and real role in France could have been developed more for a crisper story with less reliance on coincidence. Still, THE SHATTERED TREE is a captivating read!

As a standalone mystery, THE SHATTERED TREE would read well; however, it is not the most optimal book for introducing new readers to the series. They might enjoy reading some of the earlier books in the series which will help. Hopefully as the war ends, the Todds can give Bess a fresh start in a new career as I do hope their will be more books in this series. Given that, if you want to curl up and lose yourself in a well themed book of historical fiction or British based mysteries, you will definitely find much to satisfy that in the pages of THE SHATTERED TREE!

Learn more about The Shattered Tree


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.

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