World War I is officially over, but it really isn’t as Charles Todd persuasively shows in A Cruel Deception, the 11th gripping novel featuring British nurse Bess Crawford ... Caroline and Charles Todd, the mother and son writing team who publish under the name Charles Todd, are experts at showing how The Great War affected people and how the problems of other generations reverberate through the years ... Todd again delivers a sensitive look at how people survive war.
While I had a lot of empathy for the mother who asked Bess to find her son, I felt almost no sympathy for the lieutenant himself. He was surly and difficult, making aiding him almost impossible for both Marina and Bess ... As the killer drew ever closer, I found myself very concerned for everyone’s safety but Lawrence’s. He seemed unwilling, especially at first, to do anything helpful to resolve the issue and was more than happy to have the two women, whose problem it wasn’t, do everything necessary to clear things up on their own. I received the impression, perhaps erroneously, that he lived his life expecting the women in it to deal with whatever difficulties might occur which kept him from enjoying it to the fullest ... Unfortunately Simon, the man whom I am increasingly convinced will be Bess’ future husband, doesn’t make an appearance here ... For those unfamiliar with that era, these little tidbits are fascinating pieces of history ... I wasn’t wowed with the conundrum here, which I felt was driven more by stupidity and incompetence on many people’s part more than anything else, but thanks to the charm of the heroine and the skill of the writers, A Cruel Deception is a solid addition to this series of mysteries. While it lacked the brilliance of last years A Forgotten Place, I would still recommend it to the authors’ legion of fans, and (again) I would recommend the series as a whole to anyone who loves historical mysteries.
In her 11th mystery, Bess Crawford remains a durable, determined, plucky heroine ... the chivalric flyer Captain Jackson is a colorful new addition to the series ... longtime fans will be pleased to see that [Bess] is thinking of Simon Brandon, whose absence and mysterious jaunt off to Scotland looms large in Bess’s mind ... there are a couple of shocking twists and dangerous beats to break up the introspection and melancholy of a world still torn by war ... As always, there’s plenty of historic atmosphere to savor ... isn’t quite as solid as the previous Crawford novels—things drag a little in the middle of the narrative, and the climactic revelation feels a bit too outlandish and underdeveloped. Like the world in the aftermath of WWI, floundering to regain its equilibrium and find a new normal, it feels as though the mother-and-son writing team of Charles Todd is still figuring out which new direction to shift their heroine. Without the war to ground her, what will Bess do now? It’s a question the character herself asks and that the authors haven’t tried to answer yet. Deception is a transitional story and is a little unsteady as a result; we can only hope the indomitable nurse’s next appearance is on firmer footing.
... sluggish ... The source of [Lawrence's] guilt is disclosed only toward the end, making it anticlimactic and giving Bess less time to do actual sleuthing. This is a subpar entry in a generally superior series.