Kathleen D. (Hooksett, NH)
1918 . . . the French front . . . the Spanish influenza . . . a killer exploiting the cover of war
This 4th book of the Bess Crawford mysteries is, by far, the best entry to date! Beth must nurse wounded soldiers as well as battle the Spanish flu and track an elusive battlefield murderer. Although the story travels back and forth from the French font to the rural towns of England, the authors manage to keep the story line clear and exciting. In developing the story in this fashion, they remind us of the unimaginable sacrifices made on the home front. The fact that many families often lost not only one son but two, three or more is terrifying & truly difficult to comprehend. The reader experiences the rampant anxiety and chaotic confusion in the cities of disembarkation as well as the exhaustion, trepidation and absolute horror of war for those serving on the battlefields. What better place for a murderer to kill with impunity and mask his acts as the consequence of war!
This latest book is roughly 100 pages less than the previous novels--a great improvement. I found the story was more direct and developed rapidly. A clever twist in the resolution resulted in a very satisfying read.
Phyllis R. (EAST NEW MARKET, MD)
A Death in Wartime
In AN UNMARKED GRAVE, the fourth in his series featuring Bess Crawford, Charles Todd presents an unexplained death among all the wartime dead. When Bess finds a body that doesn't belong with the others, and of a family friend, no less, she tries to find his murderer. First, she must overcome an attack of the Spanish flu that keeps her from following up until the body is interred in an unmarked grave. Using her father's military connections, and the help of an American patient, she tries to continue her nursing duties while detecting. The American patient introduces a possible romantic interest for future stories. Bess evades her own murder while resolving her case after several false starts. This is a strong entry in the series and encourages one to keep reading.
Annette S. (Duluth, GA)
An Unmarked Grave
I had read the first three books in the Bess Crawford series and looked forward to this fourth book. I was not disappointed. The time setting is World War I. The main character is a battle field nurse - Bess Crawford. You will learn of the horrible and sobering conditions that were experienced by the soldiers, officers and auxiliary personnel,and follow this brave nurse as she unmasks the killer while putting her own life in danger several times.
Grace W. (Corona del Mar, CA)
A War on Many Fronts
Unmarked Grave is the fourth in the Bess Crawford mystery series, yet requires no prior knowledge of the earlier books to make for a thoroughly engaging and entertaining read. Bess Crawford is a plucky and highly capable nursing sister assigned to the field hospital and aid stations in France during World War I. She is no shrinking violet in post-Victorian age of war-torn England. Unmarked Grave takes place in 1918, when the horrors and the deprivations of the war are well felt both on the battlefields and on the home front of England. Charles Todd’s depictions of war, notably the chemical gassing and field hospitals triage, are highly effective and appropriately set the stage for the mystery. The storyline is quite suspenseful and makes for a very fast-paced read.
Lori (Wayland, MA)
An Unmarked Grave-another great read
I thoroughly enjoyed this 4th book in the Bess Crawford series. I received the book as part of the First Impressions program, reading it immediately after the previous book, A Bitter Truth, which was great too. I raced through both books. Although I like Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge books as well, this series isn’t as dark and has a faster pace. This book has an interesting murder scenario, great character development and I found it interesting to learn about the flu epidemic during WWI. I would highly recommend this book and the series (which should be read in order) to readers who enjoy Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs books. These books all provide a great sense of what life was like during this time period.
Nona F. (Evanston, IL)
Best of the series to date
From its first pages, Charles Todd’s latest installment in the Bess Crawford series, An Unmarked Grave, is a compelling and suspenseful “stay up all night even if I have to get up in two hours” read. A real page-turner, this is one of the tighter plot structures in the series despite an eyebrow-raising coincidental but fateful meeting three-quarters of the way through the novel. I also felt that the identity of the murderer came out of left field and was something of a let-down in an otherwise exciting denouement. The authors’ description of Bess falling victim to the devastating flu epidemic is very effective, as is their way of showing how hospitals, families, and villages were affected. As always, character depiction and development is strong, and Bess’s relationships with her family as well as with some characters who are new to the series continue to develop. Definitely the strongest entry in this series to date.
Fran T. (San Diego, CA)
An Unmarked Grave
I have read all of Charles Todd's Ian Rutledge mysteries and the three previous mysteries featuring Bess Crawford. The Ian Rutledge mysteries are notably more complex both in plot and character development. Since Ian Rutledge is a World War l veteran with major Post Traumatic Stress (as we now call it this is not surprising.
It is my impression that when Charles and Caroline Todd began a second series featuring a woman as the protagonist that they decided to make these novels a bit lighter. As a rule, I find the Rutledge novels more to my taste for the reasons referred to above. However, this novel has a somewhat more serious tone than several of its predecessors, because Bess is not only nursing on the front, but also falls victim to the Spanish influenza and becomes gravely ill. After she recovers, she tries to solve the mystery of who murdered an officer and family friend. Her detective efforts and her nursing assignments involve her in numerous trips back and forth between England and France with various English officers and enlisted men giving her assistance along the way. When the identity of the murderer is revealed, it comes rather suddenly, without much lead-in, Nonetheless, all the various elements of the novel are resolved rather neatly and as the story closes, Bess and Simon Brandon (her possible love interest) come together again.
In my opinion, this fourth entry in the Bess Crawford series was the strongest yet and I recommend it.