‘Hanging at Dawn’ a vivid insight into character’s backstory

BOOK REVIEW
“A Hanging at Dawn”
By Charles Todd
Witness Impulse, $11.99
Grade: A
The chance to know a character’s unknown backstory fuels “A Hanging at Dawn,” Charles Todd’s tightly plotted novella.
Todd’s two perceptive series about Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge and battlefield nurse Bess Crawford are known for showing how the historical and cultural touchstones of World War I and post-WWI continue to be relevant. And it is the evocative characters who drive both series by Todd, a mother-and-son writing team.
“A Hanging at Dawn” is a prequel to the Bess Crawford novels. Set years before the Great War began, “A Hanging at Dawn” shows how the enduring supporting character Simon Brandon became closely entwined in the Crawford family.
Simon’s entry to the Crawford family began when he was an angry teenager who lied about his age to join the British Army. The 14-year-old was escaping a cruel grandfather who raised him but barely tolerated the boy after his parents were murdered when he was a child. Simon often defied authority.
But the Crawfords, who are stationed in India, saw something special in Simon, who would eventually rise in the ranks to become Regimental Sergeant-Major. Clarissa trusted Simon so much that she put him in charge of her 5-year-old daughter, Bess.
A dangerous situation changes the dynamics of the relationship between the Crawfords and Simon, illustrating why his devotion to the family became unshakable.
“A Hanging at Dawn” is a tidy, energetic origin story about Simon as well as intriguing look at India at the turn of the 20th century.

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