Skip to main content

An Irish Hostage: A Bess Crawford Mystery


An Irish Hostage: A Bess Crawford Mystery

If loyal readers of Charles Todd had any concerns that there would be a lack of story ideas with the Bess Crawford series moving beyond World War I, let me set your minds at ease. AN IRISH HOSTAGE, the 12th and latest installment, tackles some serious historical and political concerns of that time period, and the plot has such an astute social conscience that I almost felt like I was reading an Anne Perry novel.

Eileen Flynn, an Irish nurse with whom Bess worked during the Great War, is getting married and has asked Bess to be her maid of honor. Of course this will require the very British Bess to travel to Ireland during a period of deep unrest. While Great Britain was fighting the war and spending a lot of time in other parts of Europe, a civil war of sorts erupted within the UK. During the infamous Easter Rising in 1916, approximately 400 Irish citizens took on British forces in Dublin. The Irish, who were spirited by the likes of Michael Sullivan, were swiftly and violently quashed by the Brits, and this would be just the start of more than a century of conflict.

"AN IRISH HOSTAGE is yet another triumph for Charles Todd and one of the most memorable additions to the series."

The Crawfords are not thrilled about Bess going to Ireland when British citizens might have a target on their backs. They eventually relent but will not let her travel on her own. So Captain Arthur Jackson, an American flyer, is tasked with getting Bess to her destination. He continues to fly by during her stay and utilize a code system with flags to signify if she is safe or is in any danger. Bess feels confident that nothing will happen, but her short-sightedness will be quickly exposed to the reality of the situation once she hits the Emerald Isle.

It turns out that Eileen is nowhere to be found, and Bess learns that a group has gone out in search of her fiancé, Michael, who has been abducted. He fought with the British Army during the war, which has now put him in peril during his wedding weekend. Michael’s best man, Major Ellis Dawson, and Eileen’s cousin, Irish soldier Terrence Flynn, try to put everyone’s minds at ease. But Bess does not know yet who she can trust, and there are even those within Eileen’s family who are not happy about her marrying a Brit.

Miraculously, Michael is freed from his captors and returns to Eileen’s homestead looking like a bloody scarecrow. He has no idea who abducted him and needs Bess’ nursing skills as he is in such bad shape. Bess is able to get word to her family about what has been taking place in Ireland, and they send her father’s right-hand man, Simon Brandon, to look after her. There is plenty of sexual tension between them as burgeoning feelings have grown with each successive entry in the series.

It isn’t long before more chaos ensues as Ellis is abducted, most likely by the same group that took Michael. To make matters even worse, a dead body is found nearby; at one point, Bess is apprehended by the constable and briefly thrown in prison as a suspect. This situation may end up being more dangerous and life-threatening than anything she ever faced on the frontlines.

So much happens within this complex plot, and there is a level of suspense throughout the book that readers of the previous 11 novels haven’t experienced. Those who are aware of the historical events that drive this story will find themselves torn between the sentiments of the British and Irish characters. AN IRISH HOSTAGE is yet another triumph for Charles Todd and one of the most memorable additions to the series.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on July 23, 2021

An Irish Hostage: A Bess Crawford Mystery
by Charles Todd