All Bess Crawford Books in Order – Reading Guide

Bess Crawford, a plucky battlefield nurse, is the central protagonist of Charles Todd’s bestselling historical crime series. First appearing in A Duty to the Dead, Bess has captured the hearts and minds of readers for over ten years as she switches between tending to wounded soldiers and working as an amateur sleuth. Unable to resist a good mystery, Bess’s adventures take her from medical tents to the heights of British society. Read on to learn more about this loveable protagonist and to find out the best order in which to read her story!

All Bess Crawford Books in Order - Reading Guide

A master of historical fiction and the classic ‘whodunit’ plot, Charles Todd is a staple of the genre. While the first Bess Crawford novel appeared on shelves in 2009, Todd had already been contributing to the genre for well over a decade, publishing A Test of Wills in 1994. 

With a focus on the Great War and the cultural aftermath of the conflict, Todd’s novels primarily follow protagonists who served in the war and have returned home bearing both physical and mental scars. 

Charles Todd is the pen name for the mother-and-son writing duo, Charles and Caroline Todd. First collaborating to write the Ian Rutledge series in the 90s, they have continuously produced critically acclaimed novels (find more great books from the 90’s, read here). Their work has been recognized with various awards, including the Mary Higgins Clark, Agatha Christie, and Barry Awards. 

In addition to this, they have spent much of their joint career at the top of bestsellers lists, including the renowned New York Times Bestseller List. Published across the world in different languages, Bess Crawford is a globally beloved character who continues to charm readers with each new addition to her story. 

The best reading order for the Bess Crawford series is relatively straightforward because the majority of the series was published in chronological order. Todd has offered additional insight into Bess’s childhood and the lives of her fellow characters through the publication of several short stories. For readers looking to immerse themselves in Bess’s life, it’s recommended that they read the series from start to finish, however, each novel contains a standalone mystery, so readers have the freedom to start with whichever story interests them the most. 

All Bess Crawford Books in Order

A Duty to the Dead (2009)

A Duty to the Dead (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 1)

As she embarks on a journey to France to start her career as a battlefield nurse, Bess encounters a young soldier on his deathbed. A promise to carry his dying words back to his family sees her traveling to England to share the sorrowful news, but when she arrives, nothing is as it should be.

A family is unfazed by the death of their son and a deeply buried secret leaves Bess troubled. In A Duty to the Dead, her investigation will lead her to uncover the shocking truth at the center of the family’s life.

The Maharani’s Pearls (2014)

The Maharani's Pearls: A Bess Crawford Story (Bess Crawford Mysteries)

A glimpse into Bess’s childhood in India unveils a murderous plot that kickstarted Bess’s investigative drive. 

When the Maharani visits Bess’s family, the social visit has an ominous tone as the Maharani begs Major Crawford, Bess’s father, for help. It’s only when Bess notices an unusual detail about Maharani’s entourage that the Crawford family realizes how dire the situation is. 

The Maharani’s Pearls is a thrilling short story that offers insight into Bess’s childhood and the values her father instilled in her, both of which drive her love for nursing and sleuthing.

A Hanging at Dawn (2020)

A Hanging at Dawn: A Bess Crawford Short Story (Bess Crawford Mysteries)

Spending a childhood growing up beside someone doesn’t guarantee that you know them. This is a lesson Bess has to learn all too quickly when it is revealed that Simon Brandon, her friend, and confidant, has a dark secret. 

A Hanging at Dawn follows Bess as she is forced to question everything she thought she knew about her childhood and her closest friend.

The Girl on the Beach (2010)

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When Bess discovers a dead body on the beach, she must work with the local police to uncover the mystery behind the person’s untimely demise before the killer can strike again. The Girl of the Beach was published as part of an anthology titled Tales. 

An Impartial Witness (2010)

An Impartial Witness: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 2)

After a year of working as a battlefield nurse, Bess finds herself in mortal danger when her morals oblige her to follow a course of action that places her in the sights of a killer. The twisting narrative of An Impartial Witness forces Bess to hone her detective skills before the killer catches up to her. 

A Bitter Truth (2011)

A Bitter Truth: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 3)

Christmas leave is meant to be a time for relaxation and rest, far away from the horrors of war. But when Bess tries to help a frightened young woman who is terrified of her abuser, she finds herself accused of murder and surrounded by suspicion. Bess must fight to prove her innocence and reveal the Bitter Truth behind the terrible crime.

An Unmarked Grave (2012)

An Unmarked Grave: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 4)

As the Spanish flu pandemic spreads through the ranks, Bess struggles to keep her patients alive. The situation only gets worse when she uncovers the body of a murdered British officer among the countless dead soldiers. With a killer shadowing her every move, Bess is trapped in a perilous position as the plot unfolds in An Unmarked Grave.

A Question of Honor (2013)

A Question of Honor: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 5)

A chance encounter with a dying soldier leads Bess to discover that a man she had long since believed dead is still alive and serving on the front lines. Terrified by memories of Wade and the five murders he committed in cold blood, Bess is determined to reveal the truth behind the murders and his suspicious disappearance. 

But, the more Bess learns, the more she is forced to question her childhood in India. A Question of Honor leaves Bess with an answer she cannot bring herself to face. 

An Unwilling Accomplice (2014)

An Unwilling Accomplice: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 6)

An Unwilling Accomplice chronicles Bess’s journey back to England while she’s on leave. Assigned to the care of Wilkins, Bess must accompany him to Buckingham Palace where he is to be decorated by the King. But the morning after the ceremony, Wilkins is nowhere to be seen. 

Matters go from bad to worse when the Shropshire police inform Bess that there has been a sighting of Wilkins and he has killed a civilian. Accused of negligence, Bess must rush to find the elusive soldier before he can strike again. The more time that passes, the more Bess begins to question her role as a nurse and what her future might hold if she cannot uncover Wilkins. 

A Pattern of Lies (2015)

A Pattern of Lies: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 7)

A quiet Sunday morning quickly descends into tragedy when the Ashton Gunpowder Mill explodes, killing hundreds of men in an instant. As suspicion and lies begin to spread through the village, the people are baying for blood and are far from satisfied when Philip Ashton is arrested. 

Eager to help her friends, Bess is tasked with finding the only surviving witness and breaking the Pattern of Lies. But the man she finds is hesitant to talk, especially if it means helping the Ashton family. Both Bess and her reluctant witness become unwitting targets in a murderous plot as they scramble to return to England. 

The Shattered Tree (2016)

The Shattered Tree: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 8)

As the war marches on, Bess has become used to oddities. So, a soldier found at the foot of a Shattered Tree, delirious from blood loss, and the cold, is nothing new. However, the officer is not British, he’s French. Or, at least, that’s what Bess believes until he shouts at her in German. 

Confused and more than a little concerned, Bess consults with her Matron. When offered the explanation that the man could simply be from Alsace-Lorraine, a province that has continuously passed between the Germans and the French throughout history, Bess wants to be satisfied. But when the soldier disappears, Bess knows there is far more to his story and his loyalties.

A Casualty of War (2017)

A Casualty of War: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 9)

As the war finally appears to be approaching its end, Bess finds herself caught in a conflict between two cousins, the real and the imagined. When she first met Captain Alan Travis, he was a noble, logical man, but when he’s brought to Bess’s aid station, he is disoriented from a head wound and convinced his cousin, Lieutenant James Travis, shot him. While the initial incident is written off as a delusion caused by shock when Alan arrives at her aid station with a more severe wound but the same accusations, people begin to question his sanity. 

As Bess struggles to accept Alan’s decline as a simple Casualty of War, she leads herself into unexpected danger. 

A Forgotten Place (2018)

A Forgotten Place: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 10)

While the war is officially over, Bess is not the only one struggling to find peace. Now assigned to an amputee clinic in Wales, Bess knows that there is no life waiting for these men now that they cannot work in the coal pits. 

When Captain Williams reaches out to Bess to find a solution to their dire situation, Bess finds herself in an isolated peninsula, A Forgotten Place, where a murderer can run rampant and never be discovered.

A Cruel Deception (2019)

A Cruel Deception: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 11)

A Cruel Deception chronicles Bess’s journey back to Paris and a series of events that could jeopardize the signing of the Peace Treaty that would officially end the war. The task of finding Lawrence Minton appears simple enough until Bess discovers a man with no regard for his own life or the chance to establish global peace. Eager to uncover the demons Lawrence is battling, Bess places herself in grave danger. 

An Irish Hostage (2021)

An Irish Hostage: A Novel (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 12)

In the wake of the 1916 Easter Rising, all who served in France for the King of England are considered traitors, including Eileen Flynn and her fiance Michael Sullivan. Despite many being opposed to their wedding, Bess travels to Ireland to celebrate the nuptials with her friends. 

But when Bess arrives, Michael has disappeared and with no friends or knowledge of Ireland, she must find him before it’s too late. An Irish Hostage sees Bess at her most vulnerable as she must uncover a deadly mystery without her usual allies. 

The Cliff’s Edge (2023)

The Cliff's Edge: A Novel (Bess Crawford Mysteries Book 13)

The Cliff’s Edge finds Bess pondering her future as the world attempts to move on from the Great War. In need of work, Bess consents to travel to Yorkshire to help her cousin, Melinda, recover from surgery. 

Their plans quickly change when news of a tragedy reaches them. A man has been murdered and another grievously injured. Two once-close families begin to accuse and threaten one another as horrifying secrets about their shared history are revealed. 

Final Thoughts

Once readers are introduced to Bess Crawford, they won’t be able to put her story down. From her inability to turn away from a mystery to her unshakeable dedication to her patients, she is one of the most loveable protagonists to ever grace the genre.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there romance in the Bess Crawford series?

While fans of the series have always wanted to see a romance between Bess and her beloved protector, Simon, the pair have never explicitly expressed a romantic inclination towards one another. The future of their relationship is unknown, with many long-time fans eager to see if their relationship develops in Todd’s next installment.

How many books did Caroline and Charles Todd write?

Together, Caroline and Charles Todd have written over twenty books, including the Bess Crawford series as well as the hugely successful Ian Rutledge series.

Is Caroline Todd still alive?

Unfortunately, Caroline passed away in August 2021 due to complications caused by a lung infection.

How many awards has Charles Todd won?

For the various novels written under the pen name Charles Todd, Charles and Caroline have won over five prestigious awards, including an Agatha Award for A Question of Honor and an Anthony Award for Legacy of the Dead.

What is Charles Todd’s bestselling novel?

A Test of Wills and Wings of Fire have long since held the highest rating among fans, however, nearly all of Charles Todd’s novels have reached the bestseller lists upon their publication.

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Colton Cowie