In 2012 I won all four books of Charles Todd’s Bess Crawford Mystery Series from Criminal Element. I wasn’t able to dive right into them and normally I’m a stickler about reading things in chronological order, but one thing I’m discovering about myself in early middle-age is that I’m much more willing to let go of old patterns and traditions that no longer suit my needs. Therefore, I’ve thrown caution to the wind and read the fourth and most recent Bess Crawford Mystery, An Unmarked Grave, first. Crazy, I know.
ABOUT THE BOOK: World War I nurse and amateur sleuth Bess Crawford matches wits with a devious killer in this exciting and suspenseful adventure from New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd In the spring of 1918, the Spanish flu epidemic spreads, killing millions of soldiers and civilians across the globe. Overwhelmed by the constant flow of wounded soldiers coming from the French front, battlefield nurse Bess Crawford must now contend with hundreds of influenza patients as well. However, war and disease are not the only killers to strike. Bess discovers, concealed among the dead waiting for burial, the body of an officer who has been murdered. Though she is devoted to all her patients, this soldier’s death touches her deeply. Not only did the man serve in her father’s former regiment, he was also a family friend. Before she can report the terrible news, Bess falls ill, the latest victim of the flu. By the time she recovers, the murdered officer has been buried, and the only other person who saw the body has hanged himself. Or did he? Working her father’s connections in the military, Bess begins to piece together what little evidence she can find to unmask the elusive killer and see justice served. But she must be as vigilant as she is tenacious. With a determined killer on her heels, each move Bess makes could be her last
Diving into a series that was already fully underway was like hopping on a ride already in motion. There was no slow introduction of characters and how they’ve come to know one another, what their motives are, etc., which may have added to the suspense for me (is Simon a trusted friend or is he involved in the murder?) On the other hand, stepping into this series four books in, the characters weren’t described very well but it was easy enough to glean from the action what roles they must typically play within the series.
Much of the description of the war front and nursing was standard (deeply rutted roads, long lines of wounded to tend, the dread/desire to return to the front) and therefore I thought the atmosphere a bit lacking as these realities came off sounding like cliches at times. What was different was the emphasis here on people needing to show their papers/orders to move about, get transport, or use resources. It was not a feeling of “we’re all in this together and you’re wearing the right uniform,” but rather that soliders and nurses often went wild and had to be disciplined, as well as the threat of spies being a real danger. The need for papers also heightened the dramatic tension of the plot.
And as far as the plot goes, there were some nice twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. Overall, I thought the mystery was good, but that more care could have been taken to create a stronger atmosphere as well as a stronger sense of time and place.
I do plan on reading the first three books in the series that I received from Criminal Element and will keep my eye out for book five of the series.
An Unmarked Grave
Other stops on the tour:
Tuesday, January 8th: JulzReads
Wednesday, January 9th: Seaside Book Corner
Monday, January 14th: Peppermint Ph.D
Tuesday, January 15th: Speaking of Books
Wednesday, January 16th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Friday, January 18th: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, January 21st: WildmooBooks
Wednesday, January 23rd: Layers of Thought
Thursday, January 24th: Reading to Know
Friday, January 29th: Queen of All She Reads
Wednesday, February 6th: Bookworm Meets Bookworm
Thursday, February 7th: Ace and Hoser Blook