Audiobook Review: An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

Title: An Impartial Witness
Author: Charles Todd
Genre: Mystery, historical fiction
Publisher: Harper Collins
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Rosalyn Landor
First line: As my train pulled into London, I looked out at the early summer rain and was glad to see the dreary day had followed me from Hampshire.

Cover blurb: It is the early summer of 1917. Bess Crawford has returned to England from the trenches of France with a convoy of severely wounded men. One of her patients is a young pilot who has been burned beyond recognition, and who clings to life and the photo of his wife that is pinned to his tunic.

While passing through a London train station, Bess notices a woman bidding an emotional farewell to an officer, her grief heart-wrenching. And then Bess realizes that she seems familiar. In fact, she’s the woman in the pilot’s photo, but the man she is seeing off is not her husband.

Back on duty in France, Bess discovers a newspaper with a drawing of the woman’s face on the front page. Accompanying the drawing is a plea from Scotland Yard seeking information from anyone who has seen her. For it appears that the woman was murdered on the very day Bess encountered her at the station.

Granted leave to speak with Scotland Yard, Bess becomes entangled in the case. Though an arrest is made, she must delve into the depths of her very soul to decide if the police will hang an innocent man or a vicious killer. Exposing the truth is dangerous—and will put her own life on the line.

An Impartial Witness seemed to get off to a bit of a slow start for me. In order to solve the mystery, Bess needed to be in England, but, as an army nurse, it would not be realistic to have her home on continual leave for weeks on end. There was a lot of back-and-forth, as Bess returned to duty in France, and then accompanied the wounded back to London. I like the scenes where she is nursing, and so would like to see a future entry into the series take place completely out in the field – I’m sure there were plenty of intrigues that happened on the front lines.

Once I reached about the halfway point, though, the mystery took off, and I had no difficulty finding time to keep listening. The best thing about this second book is the further exploration of Bess’s relationship with Simon Brandon, a man who served under her father when he was in the military and continues to act as aide to the family and friend to Bess. As the series progresses, I have a feeling that we’ll see their relationship deepen into more than friendship, and I look forward to those developments.

The other thing I enjoyed was that I was kept guessing until almost the very end of the book as to who the murderer was. I was absolutely convinced it was one person in particular – a character who was truly a despicable person – but the authors still managed to surprise me in the end.

While I didn’t like this second book in the Bess Crawford series as much as I liked the first one, it was still an engrossing mystery that I enjoyed very much. I will definitely be reading or listening to the rest of the books in the series.

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13 Responses to Audiobook Review: An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    I’m definitely interested. In a series, the installments are never created equally, but all add to the overall building of characters and relationships, and I like that.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sandy – exactly! Especially true in a mystery series, where each has its own story arc, but you learn more about the character’s backstory a bit at a time.

  2. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion

    Another series I need to try.

  3. Sheila (Book Journey)
    Twitter: bookjourney

    Fantastic! I wanted to look at your review earlier today but I was pushing my luck on getting to work on time 😉

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sheila – isn’t it a pain when those real life things – like work – get in the way of blogging? LOL

  4. Kailana says:

    I would like to see more take place out on the field as well. I really enjoy those aspects.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kelly – that’s one thing I really liked about the Anne Perry WW I mystery series. They were about a chaplain – and most of his mysteries happened along the front lines.

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  6. irene says:

    I just finished this one, I loved it from the beginning. I too had a particular one in mind for the culprit, and the twist was interesting. Many, many characters though, I had to make myself a graph. Lots of tea drinking.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Irene – I never thought about making a chart – that would be a good way to keep track of all the characters!

  7. Anna says:

    Glad to see you’re enjoying the series, even if this one wasn’t as good as the first. We’ll be featuring your review on War Through the Generations on June 8.