The Shattered Tree (Bess Crawford Mysteries) by Charles Todd

Reviewed by Teri Davis

The Shattered TreeBess Crawford is a hard-working battlefield nurse. It is October of 1918 and working in a field hospital in France is exhausting as well as dangerous with combat nearby.

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For one soldier, it is even stranger. One single soldier is holding onto a single tree. Somehow, a man is hiding behind a battered-up tree with no shoes and with little left of his uniform. The rescuers have to pry his fingers from the bark of the tree. Not knowing whether the man is dead or alive, they place him on a stretcher, covering him with a blanket.

At the hospital, shivering is the only symptom proving that he is alive. The staff quickly believes he is a “frog,” meaning he is French. Being diagnosed as having a loss of blood and being in shock, he is being transferred to the Base Hospital accompanied by Nurse Crawford. While attempting to identify the patient, Bess checks his pockets. She discovers ripped pieces of material. Often, names are written inside a uniform for identification. People sometimes chose to destroy their name if they are important or related to a powerful family and do not want to be identified by the Germans. She hears him muttering in another language, German. Many Frenchmen from Alsace-Lorraine spoke both French and German. This particular area had been ruled for almost fifty years by the Germans while refusing to give up their native language.

After returning to the battlefield hospital, Bess follows a man into the trenches to help a wounded soldier. While there, she is shot in the side by an assassin who seemed to purposely miss killing her. Bess is sent to Paris to recuperate safely. Coincidentally, she sees the same soldier in passing. Is he German or French? Is he a spy? Bess discovers more secrets as she seeks to identify the man found by the shattered tree.

Charles Todd is the name used by a mother-son writing team of Caroline and Charles Todd while residing in Delaware and North Carolina. Their books include the Inspector Ian Rutledge series, the Bess Crawford series, and standalone novels.

The Shattered Tree is an addictive page turner. The character of Bess reminds me of Sybil in Downton Abbey. Between the background of inherited wealth and the British upper class as well as an independent spirit, all brought Bess to life. The logical but unpredictable story is the perfect fast-paced page turner.

The Shattered Tree is for any reader who enjoys historical fiction transporting them to another time and place.