Friday, July 31, 2015

Charles Todd--A Pattern of Lies

DEBORAH CROMBIE: The only thing in the year I like as much as a new Ian Rutledge novel by Charles Todd every January is a new Bess Crawford novel by Charles Todd in August. And guess
what? It's that time! I'm so pleased to have Charles Todd (mother and son writing team Charles and Caroline Todd) here today to talk about it to chat about the new Bess Crawford, A PATTERN OF LIES.

I'm going to start with a synopsis, so that you'll have a little context for my questions about the book:

When Bess goes to the Abbey Hall where the Ashtons live, she learns very quickly that the trials the Ashtons have endured are quite real.  Someone throws eggs at Mark’s car, and just after luncheon with the family, Philip Ashton is arrested for the multiple murders of the men killed in the explosion.  And that night, someone tries to set the house on fire.  What’s more the police are adamant that Philip is not allowed visitors, and it’s later established that the inspector in Canterbury had a relative killed in the fire.  As Bess tries to understand what’s happening, she realizes that most of the village and even farther afield, people had lost loved ones—and that trying to pin down where all this new hatred of the family is coming from.  It could be anyone.

The Army had established that the explosion and fire were not sabotage, and they accepted the fact that it was a terrible accident. But they weren’t interesting in rebuilding the mill on site because it would mean clearing all the rubble first, very labor intensive. So the mill contracts were moved to Scotland where a similar mill could be expanded.  So loss of income was added to the loss of loved ones.

There was one witness to the explosion—at least only one had come forward two years before—and he is now in France.  The Canterbury police don’t feel that it’s necessary to send for him, and the lawyers for Philip Ashton seem to agree that this witness had never been questioned about anything but sabotage—and therefore no one could be sure just what he would say.

 Back in France, correspondence with the Ashtons indicates that matters are not improving, and that general feeling was running high against Philip—now that there was a focus for their grief and uncertainty, people who were once employed by him or dependent on the mill turned against him.

Bess gets in touch with Sergeant Lassiter, the Australian who has appeared in several books, and asks him to find the witness, a man in the Tank Corps by the name of Rollins.  But before he can find the man, Bess encounters him quite by accident, and when she had an opportunity to speak to him, she’s surprised that he’s adamant about refusing to return to England. He doesn’t seem to care either way about what happens to Ashton, and since he’s the best Tank man Britain has, he’s not interested in leaving France at this juncture in the war just to testify.

Not long afterward, a fellow nurse is attacked and nearly killed.  It’s put down to a drunken soldier, although he’s never found.  But this nurse had been assigned the quarters meant for Bess, who got in much later and was given another room.  Was this attack really just an accidental case of a soldier fumbling around in the dark?  Or was she the intended victim?   Someone is also attempting to kill Rollins.

So who in France wants her to stop searching for Rollins—and is just as eager for Rollins to stay in France—dead, if necessary.

I won’t spoil the rest for you.  But at one point the Ashtons fire their lawyers and Mark finds a new barrister in London, an interesting man in a wheel chair with a mysteriously competent valet who does his leg work for him. 

DEBS: I don't know Kent well, but the beginning of this book is so lyrically beautiful in its description of Canterbury and the countryside that Kent is now on my must-do list. There is also this wonderful sense of taking a breath before the coming end of the war. Of course I had to pull up Google Maps and explore the area while I was reading. (What did we do before Google Maps!)

Are the village of Cranbourne and the abbey real places?

C & C:   Actually they are.  We've changed the name of the

town--it's based on Faversham, with some changes to suit the story--and a real explosion and fire that demolished a gunpowder mill.  Because it really happened, with great loss of life, we wanted to use the story without touching on the tragedy.  We felt that would be rather ghoulish.  But we believed it would be interesting to explore the question of what happens to anyone who had gone through such a devastating event.  How does a town that had not only lost so many dead as well as their main source of income, react when a whisper campaign suggests that it wasn't sabotage by the Germans and it wasn't an act of God, but a human agency--a single person who did this awful thing out of greed.   How do you make that person pay???

DEBS: I've loved the covers of all the Bess books, but this one is just stunning. Does it look just the way you imagined?

C & C:  Yes, this is really how we imagined one scene where Bess borrows a coat from Clara and walks out to the ruins, now overgrown, and stands there for a moment looking at the lie of the land.  She's well aware of the way geography influenced this area and she wants to see it for herself, to understand it better.  And because--in our version of the story--the bodies were never recovered--this is a tomb as well.  We've been so fortunate in our jackets.  Morrow works closely with us on finding just the right one, and we've just seen the jacket for the paperback edition of the Rutledge that came out in hardcover in January.  It's quite stunning. We're really delighted with the art department there.

DEBS: The description of the explosion at the gunpowder mill was horrifying. Did that really happen in Kent?

C & C:  It happened in many places where gunpowder was being made.  It happened here on the Brandywine River in Delaware, where the Du Pont Company began as a black powder mill.  And the loss of life there was pretty steep too.  The tragedy in Kent should have been far worse.  Women didn't work in
the mill on Sunday, so there were only the male staff on duty. 106 men is the usual number given for the death toll. If it had been any other day of the week, you could add 350 or so women to the toll.  In a small village that would have been unimaginable.  And what's particularly horrifying, from the point of view of the people at the Oare Works, just outside of Faversham, is that they still don't know to this day what sparked the explosion, and whether the fire was what ignited it--or if the fire came afterward, caused by the dust.  Which from the point of a mystery writer is intriguing. 

DEBS: You must have done lots of interesting research on the manufacturing of gunpowder and how its supply affected the war. Did you learn things you hadn't known?

C & C:   The chemistry for the "new" (at that time) cordite was much more complex than the old methods of making black powder.  And what use the cordite was put to was determined by how long the "cord" of material was. Whether bullets for revolvers and rifles, shells for the Artillery or the battleships, mortars, you name it.  And the new precision of recoilless guns made it possible to drop ten or a hundred or a thousand shells on precisely the same spot, three or four a minute!  With the high explosive powder being
used in the Great War and the constant pounding,  the term shell shock was used to explain what happened to the men exposed to it.  We also learned that water was necessary for gunpowder works, and so was a particular kind of tree for the charcoal.  Each stage of the process had its own building. And so on.  Putting it all together was very interesting, and we tried to keep it simple enough in the story that people could understand what was happening without getting into the complexities that would have taken up a large part of the first few chapters.  After all, it was the aftermath that made the story, rather than how the mill worked.

DEBS: You two never cease to amaze me. Two books a year, and not only two books a year but two GREAT books a year. And on top of finishing A PATTERN OF LIES and writing the new Rutledge book that will be out in January you have been traveling whirlwinds! Tell us about some of the things you've

C & C:  It's been slightly mad.  We traveled quite a bit in January and February for A FINE SUMMER'S DAY, the latest Rutledge--and all the while we were preparing this Bess for publication as well as working on the Rutledge for NEXT January, 2016. That's NO SHRED OF EVIDENCE.   That takes us once
more to 1920.  A FINE SUMMER'S DAY looked back to 1914, when the war began and Rutledge had to choose between duty and service to his country.  Then in April we were in France for two weeks researching the NEXT Rutledge, 2017.
After that came Edgar Week and Malice, where we were guests of honor, and then it was off to England to finish that research and start researching the next Bess, for 2016, already titled THE SHATTERED TREE.  Meanwhile we put together four of our previous Bess and Rutledge short stories for an e-anthology titled TALES, which has just come out in electronic format but
will be in print format as well in September for those who don't have ways to use the e-form.  We have a short story coming out in the Summer Issue of STRAND MAGAZINE--a non-series story, by the way--and we have just learned that another short story, a Rutledge, will be published in next year's Malice Anthology.  As soon as we finish writing Bess and promoting Bess, we're off to Scotland. And if you think you're confused, imagine how we
feel!  If we didn't have calendars, we wouldn't know where we were supposed to be!

DEBS: Was this Bess book special to you with this year being the Centennial? Did you do something special to honor the remembrance?

C & C : Actually, it was the Rutledge book this January, A FINE SUMMER'S DAY, that looked back to the start of the war, and was our way of commemorating it.  Bess will see the end of the war in another two books, and that will give us a chance to explore the Armistice.  Everywhere you go in England, you see the remembrance.  But here we've done very little because it wasn't until April of 1917 that the US entered the war.  The fact is, the more we've learned about the Great War and  its time, the more we
feel we did the right thing choosing it as a setting for our books.   

PS. Bess won't stop with the end of the war!  There's still a lot of her story to tell, and you'll be surprised at what lies ahead for her.

DEBS: What's in store for you, for Bess, and for Rutledge?

C & C: We never know what lies around the corner!  We've up for a Macavity at Bouchercon, and so we'll be in Raleigh for that. By that time we'll have started the next Rutledge.  It sounds as though we have no other life, but actually we do.  We manage to cram in a lot of fun here and there.  But you always work a year ahead, so by the time we put 1916 to bed, we will start on 1917. 

DEBS: Thank you, Caroline and Charles!!  Congrats on the Macavity! I see I have questions I forgot to ask, but will save them for our ongoing discussion in the comments. 

And I am so intrigued by the new lawyer with the handy valet... Can't wait to read more of this book!
The Todds are giving a copy of A PATTERN OF LIES to one of today's very lucky commenters, and they will be checking in to answer questions and comments, so get your name in the hat!
REDS ALERT! Kathy Reel is the winner of Mary Kennedy's Dream Club mystery. And Pat D gets a copy of James Hayman's THE GIRL IN THE GLASS! You know the drill--email me at with your addresses (Pat, I only need your email) and books will wing their way to you!


  1. Since I am still up at this ungodly hour, for ONCE I will get in the first question. Caroline, what did you think about The Crimson Field? Every episode, I thought "Bess should be there!"

  2. I have to agree . . . the lawyer and his mysterious valet make for an intriguing pair and one does have to wonder just why the witness Bess finds is so adamant in his refusal to return to England. Is he somehow involved in the campaign to blame Philip and is the explosion just a convenient excuse for the attack on the Ashton family?
    I'm looking forward to reading "A Pattern of Lies."

  3. I have not watched Crimson Field - sounds like this is a recommendation. I'm in awe of you both. Two big thick thoroughly researched, character-driven books a year that resonate with life's "big" themes. And they're fun.

  4. I, too, am intrigued by the lawyer and the valet. My list of books I must read is so stinking long. Ugh. Perhaps we'll meet a Bouchercon.

  5. Caroline and CharlesJuly 31, 2015 at 8:12 AM

    We've enjoyed watching it. A little more drama in the lives of these nurses, with their varied background, than what probably happened in the field, but fun nevertheless. We were amused that one had grown up in India, just like Bess. When we were in England, our friends there had recorded another program about nurses that we liked even more. It's called ANZAC GIRLS, and it's a dramatization of the lives of 6 real Aussie women who went to Gallipoli to nurse the soldiers there--it was mostly an ANZAC operation and the outcome was appalling. Gallipoli is on the Turkish coast, and it was Winston Churchill's disaster as First Lord of the Admiralty. Nearly ended his career in WW1! But these women kept diaries and journals, and you see a very different side of the war from the trenches in France. We came home and ordered the DVD to watch it again. What these women faced in hardships, heartbreak, and the nastiness of the Army brass and ranks is caught so well.

  6. Caroline and CharlesJuly 31, 2015 at 8:17 AM

    Thanks, Hallie. It helps to be two people! I think you'd enjoy Crimson Fields. The acting is well done. And the officer in charge of this particular hospital unit is one of our friends from Downton Abbey, the under butler who seems so mousy there, but who comes across quite strongly here. And Matron is wonderfully done, much like what they were really like. Her chief rival is well played too, although it's hard to picture her being quite so vindictive. The run has finished on PBS, and we haven't heard yet whether there is to be a sequel next year.

  7. It's always a delight to see the Todds here at JRW. A Pattern of Lies is my weekend reading, so this couldn't have arrived at a more appropriate time. I can't believe Bess only has two more books during wartime. I'm excited to see what life holds for her in the aftermath.

    As for the schedule? I have no idea who the Todds do it. And never once do they falter on quality. Whenever I recommend one of their series, I always tell folks to prepare to be wowed each and every book. Consist high quality is the name of the game. With characters I feel I know and could sit down and talk with at any moment.

  8. I LOVE my library--just browsing the mystery shelves one day, I picked up A Pale Horse--my introduction to Charles Todd. Greedily devoured every book, went back to the beginning and found them all--both series and now wait impatiently for the next installments.

    I found out long after his death that my grandfather Church fought in WWI, when an aunt showed me some family photos--and there he was in his uniform. He had a hard life--and was a hard man in some ways--after he came home from that war. But, it was only in reading your books that I got a real sense of what that war was like for the people who served--in any capacity. It explained so much about the man I knew.

    All the accolades the Todd books receive are well-earned! Superb writing!!

  9. Debs, here, posting for Caroline because Blogger is giving her a hard time:

    Hi, Joan--ah, we're not telling! :-)  It's fun to create
    characters and then set them free to do their own thing. It's
    always a surprise to find out what they are up to.  Part of the
    excitement of writing.

    And Mary, I (Caroline) have a stack of books TBR as well.  The
    cats think these are great and play King of the Mountain on them.
    Right now I'm reading Peter Robinson's latest, IN THE DARK
    PLACES.  It's out in England soon will be here. We always bring
    home books from England.

    Thanks, Kristopher.  We try hard to keep up the quality and not
    just the pace!

  10. Caroline & CharlesJuly 31, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    Ah, Joan and Mary, that would be telling! It's such fun to create characters and then set them free to do their own thing. What's exciting is that it can really surprise you to find out what they are up to.

    As for stacks to be read--my cats think they exist to play King of the Mountain on. The one thing we've missed as writers is all that extra time to read.

    And thanks, Kristopher! We try to keep both series fresh and intriguing. It's what we look for in a book and so we want to make it happen in ours.

  11. Caroline, how is the Peter Robinson? I think I'm behind on the series now, and sometimes the names are different in the UK so it's very confusing.

    FChurch, it seems their were many men who never talked about the war, and the Todd books do help you understand why. I think these books, and particularly the Bess books, should be required reading in any history class covering The Great War.

    Any history teachers out there?

  12. Welcome to Jungle Reds to two of my favorite people. I'm so excited about a new Bess book.

  13. Caroline & CharlesJuly 31, 2015 at 11:29 AM

    Oh, thanks, Deb, finally got the hang of things! I repeated, not know whether you'd post or not. No problem!

    F Church, you aren't the only one to have this experience! We've heard from Americans and Brits who read a book and asked questions--or were drawn to the books to find out more. The sad thing is, sometimes the returning soldier has changed so much that people are reluctant to talk about them, or the war took such a toll that the family has sort of shut out the unhappy memory of Uncle Henry or Granddad, or Cousin John and what they went through. Caroline had a relative who swore that no child of his would ever go to war. But what his experiences were died with him, so we don't know why he felt so strongly. It was as if those years in his life had ever existed. Other people remembered that Uncle Harry jumped at every loud noise or Granddad often spend hours or days alone in his room, or that Cousin Joe was strange. Sadly, even today it's hard to know how to treat this war wound. For that's what it is, even though the scars are so often invisible.

  14. Caroline & CharlesJuly 31, 2015 at 11:35 AM

    Thanks so much, Rhys--and hugs to you!
    We are enjoying your latest Molly. The title is wonderful. We could have borrowed it for a Rutledge. :-)

  15. Such a good synopsis, and how can I be so far behind on my TBR stack? And now Crimson Field is on the to-watch list. Such great stories in your books. I love how history is folded in with such interesting characters that make us want to know more and more and more about them.

  16. Caroline & CharlesJuly 31, 2015 at 12:00 PM

    I'm only part way through IN THE DARK PLACES, but it's really an intriguing story. You start out looking into a missing tractor(the theft of expensive farm equipment is a big problem in rural areas like Yorkshire--most of the items out of the country before they can be tracked and on their way to Eastern Europe). But what does this have to do with murder, you ask?
    The next thing you know, Peter has you completely caught! The story has opened up in surprising new directions, and you find yourself as worried as Annie is about two of the characters. There's an accident scene that takes your breath away, and what Banks learns there is a perfect example of how a good writer can catch the reader totally unprepared for what's to come. I'm really enjoying it.
    You do this, too, Deb, hit us with a completely unexpected twist that works so well, we sit there and wonder why we didn't see it coming. The answer is, you were so clever in setting it up. I hear the next Duncan & Gemma is scheduled for next year, and I can't wait to see how you are going to keep Duncan safe. As a friend, I am warning you to look after him well! He's one of my favorite guys. :-)

  17. Caroline & CharlesJuly 31, 2015 at 12:03 PM

    Charles here--I have to agree with Caroline. The ending of your last book was a stunner, and I know you're already writing the next. Any hints? Or would that be telling?

  18. Hi, Grandma Cootie. History is such a rich vein of material for murder mysteries. Even modern settings often turn to the past to define the mystery or to solve it. We both love reading mysteries, and we love history, so combining the two is always a treat. We can't count the times we've been drawn to learn more, after something comes up in a book we're reading. And mystery readers are sharp people. You can't fool them. I think this is what keeps a good mystery writer, whether modern or historical, on his toes--knowing that his or her readers won't be passed off with shoddy work. Respect for the reader is important if you're to keep him reading your books.

  19. Hey you two! I am standing and applauding..I truly don't know how you do it. YOu are both quite special, and it's thrilling to have you here.

    I remember my first Rutledge, so well, and I still have a huge crush on him. And yes, the themes are so chilling, and so pertinent, and I always feel smarter, and inspired, and touched when I read the Bess's and the Rutledges.

    (Where is Crimson Fields? It sounds wonderful.)

    See you both at Bouchercon! Are you so thrilled at how your books are being received?

  20. Deb, you asked if there were any history teachers out there. We learned that a science teacher had used A TEST OF WILLS, our first book, to teach her classes about the war and about the fact that bones of the war dead are still being uncovered in Belgium and northern France, where the trenches ran. She got them interested in the war--and then the science of how DNA has helped to identify many of those lost men. She said that the story of the war added to the understanding that Science, whether the latest forensics or DNA, can be fascinating off the page as well as on it. And what mystery stories can offer in a class room. We met another teacher, this one teaching French, who made sure her class learned about the Great War as well as all the other important events in French history. Her philosophy was, know the background of the people whose language you are learning. Quite clever, in our view, because it makes the language a living thing, not just verbs and word endings that have to be memorized.

  21. Caroline & Charles: yes, exactly--a war wound--and one that so often never healed. I recently was given a copy of a commendation letter that my dad had sent home to my grandpa during WWII. On the back was a handwritten note from my dad to his father: "just a little something to let you know what the boys have been doing over here." My dad had just endured 120 straight days of combat in the Luzon campaign-- and it almost seemed to me as if he were trying to show his father that this war was no easier (?) than WWI had been.

    Can't wait for your next books and so glad to hear that you are working on the ones to come!!

  22. Dearest Hank, hello!
    Yes, we are still rather stunned that here we are, "famous writers." We started out just wanting to entertain, and maybe that's the key, wanting to tell a great story instead of wanting to be a "great writer." You and Deb and Rhys and Hallie all understand that, because you reach out to people in your books.

    You aren't the only one in love with Rutledge--you'll have to stand in line! And Caroline can tell you she's half in love with him too. I keep hoping that one of these days, walking down a street in an English village, I'll turn a corner and see him standing there.

    As for Crimson Fields, PBS here has just finished the series for this year. I think CF is probably on DVD. I know ANZAC GIRLS is. There's a WW2 series coming to PBS here that we saw while in England: HOME FIRES, about the women in an English village trying to cope with another long war, and how they manage. A fascinating look at a handful of women trying to keep the people in their village going when there's death, shortages of everything, no men, and no end in sight. That sounds depressing, but far from it, it's a terrific account of women holding on to what their men are fighting for. And the New Jersey station we can sometimes get here has the Miss Fisher Murder Mysteries--that's set in Australia and is a hoot! I love it. Miss Fisher, her life shaped by the war, has become a private detective, and she keep the local police on their toes. And interested in her as well. She's dashing, dresses beautifully, is classy--and does a hot tango. You really get a very good look at post-Great War Australia, something we Americans know little about.

  23. I was just thinking what great books these are for multi-disciplines. My friend Carol Daeley, who just retired from teaching English Literture at Austin College (my alma mater) taught some of your books in her classes. Austin College is great at getting students to see the connections between art, science, and history--as a good liberal arts school should.

    And you might guess from my fascination with history and my questions about the gunpowder than I started as a history major and ended with a science degree:-) No wonder I like your books so much!

  24. Fascinating, F Church! Thank you for sharing. Soldiers who have been at war often have more in common with each other than they do with the families back home. They understand war no matter where they fought or when. And the Luzon campaign was no picnic! I think your father was saying to his father Now I know... And it must have bridged the generational difference for both of them.

  25. Interesting, Deb! But it is so true, that books are not just for a lazy afternoon I a hammock or a long flight overseas. They serve many purposes. For instance, it was found in teaching people who can't read that giving them a mystery made them want to finish that book, an incentive to do even better. The mystery was so exciting that they wanted to know what happened next. Children's stories often have a mystery, and kids love them. Harry Potter was such a phenomenon for childhood literacy--and I lost count of the number of parents who told me, "I read it first, in case they had any questions." Then they smile, and you know Harry captivated them too. :-)

  26. Caroline and Charles, you are two authors who I admire greatly and whose books I'm just getting to. So hard to believe that I'm behind in my reading to that extent, but it's been a year that hasn't been kind to my reading habit, nothing bad, just obstacles. Of course, how can I compare my busy to you two world traveling, writing masters! Having met you at the Albany Bouchercon (briefly), I can say that one of the traits I admire most about both of you is your graciousness, never seeming too busy for fans in your insanely busy schedule. I have A Fine Summer's Day and the first Bess book that I plan to read before Bouchercon this year, and so my journey through your books will finally begin. I know it's going to be amazing!

    Oh, Debs, Mary Kennedy contacted me via email, so she already has my prize on the way. Woohoo!

  27. So glad to hear a new Bess is coming out soon. I really enjoy reading about her adventures and Rutledge's too. I watched Crimson Fields on PBS and then would dish about it to Mom afterwards. I still think it a bit too soap-operaish. I never felt its depiction of a medical unit was very real. Too clean? I don't know. But thanks for identifying the head of the unit as being from Downton Abbey. I knew he looked familiar! Home Fires sounds terrific. Did anyone see The Wipers Times? BBC showed it a couple of years ago and we happened to catch it our last night in Glasgow. Now that seemed real. I'm trying to get my nerve up to see Testament of Youth at the movies. Now, important stuff. When is Ian going to get a love interest? And will Bess finally figure out her father's aide is hot stuff?

  28. Fathers and sons who've been to war. Yes they have a special connection. My husband was a grunt in Vietnam in 1969. My son was in the 7th Cavalry in Iraq in the invasion. When he returned to Ft Stewart finally he and his father had some private time together. I cannot imagine what passed between them. War experiences are not something one wants to see repeated in a family.

  29. Welcome Caroline and Charles — and huzzah for a new Bess

  30. Here I am chatting with two of my favorite authors. :)
    I love Bess and Duncan and Gemma! I can't wait for each new installment.

  31. Hi, Kathy, nice to hear from you. Albany was a great weekend, and we met a lot of terrific people there. Come and say hello again in Raleigh. One of the thing I love most about reading is discovering that there's another writer out there that I haven't come across. And even more wonderful is to find out that they have a backlist to explore and enjoy! It's like stumbling on a treasure trove, or to put it another way, finding that that box of chocolates has a second luscious layer.

  32. So glad to look forward to a new Bess installment. Love these books. WWII being "my war" had never really imagined the devastation and loss of a whole generation of men and boys that occurred in WWI.

  33. I'm a new reader of the Rutledge books but am catching up fast. I must add, Caroline and Charles, that your books do not read as two authors, as so many 'double author' books do. Perhaps it's the familial connection that keeps you in sync? I've not got read any of the Bess stories but they are all on my TBR list! Deb, I can hardly wait for the next in your series!

    Having grown up in Britain, I think the old stiff-upper-lip so ingrained in the psyche is part of the reason for the lack of knowledge shared in families during the war years. It surely destroyed so many good people as much as the bullets, bombs and bayonets did.

    So many (good) books, so little time!

  34. Pat, so interesting about your husband and his father. Neither of them had an easy war, and it must have been good for them to talk to someone else who understood.

    Charles: I was talking to someone who'd been in Iraq, and he told me that you were never safe, there was no "behind the lines," not even in the Green Zone. And much the same was true in Vietnam, where you couldn't tell friend from foe. I agree with Caroline, it must have helped both of them to talk.

    As for Rutledge and Bess and love. I wish we knew the answer. So far they haven't given us a clue about where their heart lies. It's funny with characters--they do their own thing, and you can't dictate to them. One of these days they will probably surprise us with an engagement or something, and there we'll be, wondering why we didn't see it coming. As for Simon... I know quite a few people who would agree with you there! :-)

  35. Hello, Susan! Thanks for the warm welcome. We're enjoying being here.

  36. Jan, we know what you're saying. We preorder our favorite authors as soon as we know a title. And we have a local bookstore that takes care of us. There's nothing like it, going in and asking them to put us on the list. Then you know it's going to happen.

  37. Diane Hale here: Congrats on the latest Bess book. I particularly love that you two "just" wanted to entertain with your writing. I think every successful author I've talked with shared that same passion for the process.

    As a retired nurse, I easily identify with Bess. As a PTSD survivor, I find your keen insight into how mentally crippling it can be makes Rutledge absolutely believable. Kudos for your ability to create such well-rounded, fascinating characters.

    I have no relatives (that I can find) who fought in WWI or WWII, but I know my relatives and husbands (two former Marines) talk very little about what they experienced in Viet Nam. I suspect that their experiences were even more difficult, as they came home pariahs, rather than respected for their service.

    Again, kudos on your terrific writing!

  38. I'm in the Simon camp, too:-) But I don't know if he is right for Bess. In a way they are almost like siblings... As for Rutledge, I don't think the right woman has come along, either.

    Thanks, Charles and Caroline, for the nice comments about Duncan and Gemma. Let's see... what can I say without too big a spoiler... Denis Childs comes back into the picture, which causes Duncan even more complications. Then Denis is badly injured and Duncan knows he has to get to the bottom of what has been going on the last couple of books before worse things happen. He enlists the help of some old friends, which is huge fun for me. And Gemma has her own problems to deal with. A beautiful young woman is found dead in a locked garden in Notting Hill, and Gemma is convinced to investigate. Melody and Doug have their parts to play, as well...

    Yvonne M, that's so interesting--I knew you were British, at least by upbringing, as soon as you used "got" rather than "gotten." I love the variations in our two English languages.

    Pat D, I want to see Testament of Youth, too. I absolutely LOVED the book, it was a real marker for me.

    Caroline, I agree that Crimson Fields is a bit soapy, but I've still enjoyed what I've seen. I love "Mr. Moseley" as the commanding officer. And if anyone is wondering where they've seen the nurse with the mysterious fiance (can't think of her name) it's the actress, Suranne Jones, plays Rachel Bailey in the British cop series Scott and Bailey. Which is also sometimes a bit soapy, but I love it.

  39. Hi to both of you. I'm a great fan of Bess and just now getting started with the Rutledge books. Sadly, I've heard Crimson Field is over after just the one season. No reason given that I know of but it was a wonderful way to "see" what Bess had as duties and challenges. Being a bookseller gives me the chance to talk about the books I enjoy and you can rest assured that I do that with mystery lovers wanting something historical as well. Thanks for taking the time to chat.

  40. Hello, Todds! If we were meeting somewhere real, I'd give you a big hug, Caroline.

    I'll echo others and say how much in awe I am of getting out two meticulously researched books a year - that feature very real characters and thought-provoking questions about war, and peace, and duty and family... my hat is off to you.

    Perhaps I should ask my son to start writing with me. Maybe that would get me moving faster!

  41. You are right, Barbara. WW2 is closer, and we know more about it. In school many of the classroom history books stopped around the time of Teddy Roosevelt, and the rest was a vast wasteland that the teacher mentioned in passing. The Great War, the Great Depression were just words, never mind anything else. And the Great War really did change the course of our own history. We're still dealing with it in many parts of the world. Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans. It's an important event even today, in terms of what went on then.

  42. Hello and welcome, Caroline and Charles, from another fan.

    I'm wondering if you've seen the movie Testament of Youth, based on the memoir by Vera Brittain? The memoir details her experience as a VAD nurse in France during WWI. I haven't read the memoir (apparently, it was well received and hasn't been out of print since its publication), but thought the movie was stunning--powerful in its depiction of the horrors of war. The cinematography is breathtaking and the acting is fine. A moving film.

    Like several of you, I'm mildly addicted to Crimson Fields, but Testamentnof Youth is light years more powerful. I'd be interested in hearing your reaction, if you've seen it?

    And Debs, your mention of Suranne Jones and Smith & Bailey made me wonder when the new season starts? It can't be soon enough for me!

  43. Yes, Anonymous, we blamed the men fighting out there for the government's decision to go to war. And that was wrong. They were asked to serve their country and they did, with honor and courage. We've known a number of Vietnam vets who were out there, and they didn't deserve to have their country turn its back on them.

    It's nice to hear that you, a nurse, like Bess. A good many nurses have told us this, and we are always pleased to know that we got her right. So many of the qualities that make her a good nurse also make her a good sleuth. In addition to her training, she has to be observant, she has to be objective, she has to follow orders and yet think for herself, and she must be compassionate and committed. There are so many stories of nurses giving comfort to the wounded and the dying. That's their line of duty too. And yet they shouldered it every time, and it couldn't have been easy.

  44. Hi Caroline and Charles! so sorry to be late to the party--it's been that kind of day. Congrats on the new book--I too, am in awe of your schedule and productivity. Do you two ever disagree about what direction the characters should take? And if so, how do you work this out?

  45. Oops--of course I meant to say SCOTT & Bailey!

  46. Always a pleasure, Maryanne. And I have to agree that Crimson Fields was more intent on the personal problems than the war, but I loved watching "Bess's war". I think ANZAC GIRLS is far better, because you get to see a lot more about Gallipoli and the Down Under contribution to the war. For instance, an officer who didn't believe women should be out there as nurses--that orderlies could do just as well--rationed water for the wounded, even for bathing them to prevent infection. This fifty years after Florence Nightingale showed the world that clean patients survived better. But it happened. And these women were dumped in the most awful circumstances, and still they persevered. Delicate blossoms or not, women can step up and do their bit, and it was fascinating to watch. I think you'll like it. It's not just a woman's show, either. My male friends in England enjoyed it just as much.

  47. Hi, Julia, good luck asking your son! I had to wait and wait for Charles to think it over. And I expect boredom with his hectic travel schedule decided him more than the idea of writing together. But I will say this, once he got hooked on the project, he was right there, doing his share. My daughter has her father's brain, more scientific. Although I'm told she's writing children's stories as a way to relax from her work. Can't wait to see them if it's true.

  48. Deb. you've just whetted my appetite! And I know Duncan, he'll try to do all this on his own, choosing his friends, but I will bet you he can't keep Gemma in the dark for very long!

    But I can begin to see why you didn't rush this book out this year--it's complex and there's intrigue and danger too, all of which take careful plotting. There's going to be a major impact on Duncan's world, as well, which has to be handled delicately. We faced much the same problem with A FINE SUMMER'S DAY, which went back to 1914, and Rutledge before the war changed him. There were nuances, shifts in characters in the course of the book, details that had to fit in perfectly with what we'd already written about Rutledge. Very much a challenge as well as being so exciting. You're wise to take you time and get it just right. Your fans will be grateful for that. They are counting on you.

  49. Kate, I read TESTAMENT years ago, and it was indeed a powerful book. I haven't seen the movie, and I'm glad to hear you liked it, that it's really important to see. I had a professor who was very much interested in Lawrence of Arabia, and the Arab war. He loaned me several books I couldn't find elsewhere, including TESTAMENT. I was worried, to tell you the truth, that they might have used the wrong actors to play the parts. That can be awful, when you remember a book so well. Glad to know I have nothing to worry about!

  50. Yes, yesterday was our disaster day! By afternoon I was ready to go back to bed and start all over again.
    A great question, Lucy!
    We hadn't had any experience in collaborating and sort of made up our rules as we went along. So when it came to disagreements, we always fell back on what is best for the character. Surprisingly--at the time, it makes great sense now--it worked for us, and settled many a disagreement fairly quickly and without any real argument. And it's true, you know--whether it is dialogue or action or character development, a false step can change things pretty quickly. I think it's a rule that any writer can use, not just collaborators. For those of you out there considering writing, it's a form of self-editing that really helps because it keeps your focus.

  51. Not to get controversial, :-),but last week we went to our local little dairy farm cum ice cream place, and they had something like 27 flavors. Reading through them I found I was going for my favorite again, rather than experimenting with something new. And my favorite is Turtle, which is chocolate with loops of caramel and pieces of pecan. My second favorite is Black Forest, with chocolate and chunks of real dark cherries. Do you stick with the same flavor all the time, or are you like Charles, eager to experiment? Someone else told me that the new salty caramel, vanilla with caramel chunks and bits of sea salt. Yes, I know ice cream is going to end up on our hips before we finish the cone, we're only human. And it's 90 degrees out there...

  52. Debs, I did email you but to make sure, my email is Can't wait to read The Girl in the Glass. Thank you.

  53. Charles just pointed out that somehow we skipped answering Yvonne. But first let me say I think you are right, the British are less likely to bring up unpleasant things or family concerns. When they do talk to us, we appreciate it!
    As for how do we keep the books seamless? First of all, we didn't want to distract readers by having them picking out what Charles wrote or what Caroline wrote. And we didn't really go for the idea of you write the even pages and I do the odd ones kind of splitting up the book. But these sort of took care of themselves when we discovered that working without an outline meant we had to do each scene together. So what you read on the book's page is what we've hammered out together, starting with what the scene is about, who is it about, and where it's supposed to go. By the time we're at the writing stage for a scene, we have done a lot of the writing already in testing various possibilities. Then it's just a matter of choosing what works best, what holds the scene together and makes the character work. Truly collaborating. Then we move on to the next scene and do the same. By the time a book comes out, I can't really tell myself what which of us wrote. So it's not so much blood ties as what comes out of the discussions, that makes it appear seamless. Does that make any sense?

  54. I'm late to the party today. What a thrill to have the Todds here. I love your Bess books and I have this one on pre-order.

    I enjoyed Crimson Field and I am so annoyed that BBC cancelled it and is not making another season. (Richard Rankin is adorable.) I'm hoping (fingers crossed)that PBS makes future episodes. It was overly dramatic as far as the personal lives went but I thought of Bess throughout. I've seen the first episode of ANZAC Girls and it seems it's time to look at the rest.

    Best wishes with the release. I can't wait to read it.

  55. I greatly admire that your Rutledge books appeal equally to male and female readers. I think that's pretty rare. Another benefit of your partnership, no doubt. My boyfriend is a huge Ian fan (and he's crazy about Ian's car). Sometimes when we pull into a gas station he will say(out of nowhere) "I wish we had Ian's car. He never has to stop for petrol!" Your books have become a real part of our lives. Any tips for aspiring writers on how to grab both male and female readers?

  56. Thanks so much, Marianne. I was surprised too that Crimson Fields wasn't renewed. There aren't that many programs that show how women during 1914-18 stepped up to serve their country, but they did, in droves. If they weren't nurses, they replaced men in other fields, from driving omnibuses to growing food. The women who left behind a very protected life and comfortable home to nurse the wounded in appalling conditions deserve to be recognized. One thing I liked was the opening sequence--which showed laundered bed linens and even bandages being dried in the wind. Another was the doctor who was trying new techniques to save limbs. And the women with their bloodstained aprons who helped bring the horribly wounded off the lorries and into the hospital. Just to mention a few things. Maybe we should write to the BBC and remind them that many soldiers survived because of these nurses, and they deserve to be recognized too and given their place in the commemoration of the Great War.

  57. Great interview, Debs & C and C! Thank you for the synopsis.

    Perfectly gorgeous cover! I'm fully primed to read your latest.

    Crimson Fields… can't believe it was canceled.

    Argh... storm just hit. Can't stay... love your books, C and C!


  58. Hi, Susan. We've actually driven in Ian's car--and it does have to stop for petrol just like any other car! It's just that it can get repetitive when you mention the mundane too many times; readers are turned off when the action has to stop at the wrong time. How to appeal to both men and women? We aren't really sure how we managed to create a male and a female character who appeal across gender lines. There's just something in both Ian and Bess that reaches people without regard to gender. And if we had to guess, it's probably because we care about our characters and let them be real people. Both Bess and Rutledge have their own codes of conduct, their own beliefs and feelings, their own way of looking at the world that makes them what they are. It's true of the minor characters as well. They aren't just there to support the hero/heroine. They have their own part to play. And readers seem to respond to this. Anybody else have a comment on this?

  59. Hi, Reine, hope the storm wasn't too bad! Thanks for the comments. We've really enjoyed chatting with everyone today. And doesn't Deb do a great job setting up the interview? That's why we love working with her. We like the cover too, and we think it fits the story and even more importantly, the mood of the story, very well. Sometimes they don't always go together, and yet they should.

  60. Love and adore both your series; you're one (two) of the best out there. I recommend them highly -- and I read a lot of historical mysteries so I know of what I'm talking. You've done such great work bringing the time period alive. Thank you for taking the time to be here today.

  61. looks interesting

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

  62. Thanks so much, PK! We really enjoyed taking part in today's blog. It's always so nice to hear from readers and fans, to know what they are thinking about a series. We're so close to each book that we really can't step back and judge it. Writing The End is like saying good bye to some characters and wondering what will become of others, and very emotional after spending so many months with them. So it's very personal, and that makes it all the more rewarding when readers "get" what we are trying to say and enjoy the books as much as we have. It makes it all worthwhile.

    Cheers, everybody! It's been great fun, and we hope you've had fun too!

  63. WOW--the verdict is in! Katie Baer has won the free copy! Congratulations, Katie!

    Email Deb and she'll see to it that it is sent to you. And next time you see us, ask us to sign it. We'll be happy to.

    It was a terribly hard choice. There were so many terrific questions and interesting conversations. We were almost ready to throw darts at a board and see who the winner was!

    You are all the greatest!

    Caroline and Charles.

  64. I'm so pleased! Many thanks.

    I will look for you at Bouchercon. Our Triangle SIC chapter will be there to welcome everyone.



  65. Deb--Sorry--my email to you with my address for the Todds' book won't go through. Can you please clarify your email address?

    Many thanks


  66. Katie Baer, it's If you still have problems, post in the comments and I'll see it. Congratulations! It's a terrific book.

    And huge thanks to Caroline and Charles for being such super guests!


    (Sorry, forgot I was signed in as JRW:-))

  67. Greetings. Don't know if this will find it's way as this post dated 2015 and now 2021 I have recently discovered the "Charles Todd" books. Today read my second Bess Crawford mystery, "A Pattern of Lies" which I enjoyed immensely.. til the end. Could someone tie up the loose ends? I even looked for an epilogue:
    1. Who set off the explosion and fire and explsion? Collier? But how and why?
    2. Who killed Britton? Collier? What was it that Rollins was witness to?
    3. What was Alex Craig's role?
    4. What did Heatherton-Scott and his valet find that indicated vindication for Ashton? "All would be explained" but wasn't.
    5. No reunion for the Ashtons. Was he released due to new" evidence? Couldn't determine what that evidence was.
    I tried to re re- read the last section of the book but couldn't figure it out.
    If blogger or authors can explain ONLY please email as enclosed directly or I may not find my way back to this page. Thank you!