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
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
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!
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
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.