The mother and son team writing as Charles Todd debuted to immediate critical acclaim with A Test of Wills in 1996. They would go on to write more than two dozen (and counting) books in that series featuring Ian Rutledge. However, in 2009, they were not content with just one series and to the delight of their many fans, they launched the Bess Crawford series with A Duty to the Dead. This new series would better allow the author(s) to address the female point-of-view regarding not just the War itself but also its effect on society, family life, and career opportunity. Like Ian Rutledge, Bess Crawford continues to amass more fans with each new book in the series and now, the thirteenth novel featuring our beloved World War I nurse debuts. The Cliff’s Edge proves that a long-running series, when handled by the talented hands of true storytellers, can continue without even the slightest dip in quality.
The Cliff’s Edge finds Bess Crawford off on travels once again. The war has ended, and Bess is still trying to figure out her role now that her services are no longer needed on the front lines. When cousin Melinda’s friend needs assistance recovering from a surgery, Bess agrees to travel to Yorkshire to help out. However, she is not there long before Lady Beatrice gets word that her favorite godson has been in a terrible accident—a fall that also resulted in the death of another man. Unable to be by the family’s side, Lady Beatrice enlists both her companion, Lillian Taylor, and Bess to travel in her stead.
Onsite in remote Scarfdale, Bess sees some inconsistencies in the story of the fall. But when the police begin to accuse Gordon Neville (Lady Beatrice’s godson) of murder, Bess is less confident in their rationale and uses her qualifications as a nurse to keep the injured man out of jail. When a second fall from the cliff results in another unexpected victim, Bess is required to use all her skills to ferret out the truth concerning a feud between two families, many members of whom are currently residing with her under the same roof.
While some fans of the series may miss many of the secondary characters within Bess’s orbit, they will quickly delight in watching Bess work an investigation on her own terms. The character development of the various members of the Neville and Caldwell families goes well beyond the surface, allowing for a resolution that has some real emotional weight. The village around Scarfdale is vividly brought to life and Bess Crawford’s interactions with the townsfolk help to give depth to the plot without adding unnecessary confusion.
Loyal fans of the Bess Crawford books are likely wondering about Simon. They will just have to trust the author here because revelations from this case are sure to have a dramatic effect on that relationship and if the surprising and gripping stinger at the end of The Cliff’s Edge is any indication, that will need to be dealt with sooner rather than later. Book number fourteen in this series may bring about the long-awaited resolution for the beloved—and complicated—coupling between Bess and Simon, albeit perhaps not in the way that has been expected.
Sadly, her beloved family and the entire crime fiction community mourn the loss of Caroline Todd who passed away in August of 2021, but under the guidance and care of her son and co-writer, Charles, both Bess Crawford and Ian Rutledge will continue to enthrall readers for years to come.
Disclaimer: A digital galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.