An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd (audio)

Title:  An Unmarked Grave (Bess Crawford #4)

Author:  Charles Todd

Narrator:  Rosalyn Landor

Genre:  Mystery (series)

Published:  2012 – Harper Audio

8 hours 31 minutes

Synopsis (from publisher) 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.

My take:  I thought the 4th book in the Bess Crawford series had a different feel to it than the others. Yes, we read about Bess’ work as a nurse at the front and her unofficial detective work back in England while she’s on leave but there’s a menacing danger in this mystery. It’s one that threatens Bess, all of her loved ones, and some unsuspecting soldiers.

Revenge is one thing. Indiscriminate killing is another.

from An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd

I had no idea who the murderer was until the reveal. This mystery took turns that completely confused me! I can accept the solution but it wasn’t what I’d expected – even though I wasn’t sure what I expected 🙂

What I enjoyed about An Unmarked Grave was that we see more of Simon Brandon and Bess’ father in this book. It made me think that the series could continue after WWI. I would definitely read more about Bess solving crimes in post-war England. I also appreciated the descriptions of the front where Bess treated soldiers who’d been wounded, suffered the effects of gas, and  those who became ill with Spanish flu.

Rosalyn Landor’s performance was great. There’s a definite distinction between male and female voices that made me question more than once if there was a male narrator as well!

Source:  I bought it (Audible)

Note:  My thanks to Jennifer at Book Club Girl blog. If not for the Read-Along I may never have met Bess Crawford. I’m so glad I did!

A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd

Title:  A Bitter Truth (Bess Crawford #3)

Author:  Charles Todd

Genre:  Mystery series

Published:  January 2011 – HarperCollins

About:  (from Goodreads synopsis) When battlefield nurse Bess Crawford returns from France for a well-earned Christmas leave, she finds a bruised and shivering woman huddled in the doorway of her London residence. The woman has nowhere to turn, and, propelled by a firm sense of duty, Bess takes her in. Once inside Bess’s flat the woman reveals that a quarrel with her husband erupted into violence, yet she wants to go home—if Bess will come with her to Sussex. Realizing that the woman is suffering from a concussion, Bess gives up a few precious days of leave to travel with her. But she soon discovers that this is a good deed with unforeseeable consequences.

My take:  Charles Todd had me guessing all the way to the end of A Bitter Truth and I still didn’t figure out the murderer! Honorable Bess finds out the hard way that no good deed goes unpunished. She becomes one of several suspects in the murder of a house guest at Lydia’s home in Sussex. Over the course of a few weeks more bodies turn up. Not a great way to spend her leave from her work as a nurse near the front in France.

Simon Brandon, Bess’s family friend, tries his best to help her discover what’s going on. I wonder when these two will figure out that they have true feelings for each other. Sooner than later, I hope. I also can’t help wondering if we’ll see more of  Sergeant Larimore in upcoming books. He’s a tall, handsome, charming Australian who seemed to really enjoy teasing Bess when she treated him in the medical tent and when they met up elsewhere. I enjoyed their interactions.

All in all, A Bitter Truth is another good mystery in the Bess Crawford series. I look forward to reading the next book: An Unmarked Grave.

Source:  I bought it.

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

Bess Crawford Mystery Series #2

Published: August 2011 – HarperCollins

Goodreads synopsis: In the early summer of 1917, Bess Crawford is charged with escorting a convoy of severely wounded soldiers from the trenches of France to England. Among them is a young pilot, burned beyond recognition, who carries a photograph of his wife pinned to his tunic. But later, in a crowded railway station, Bess sees the same woman bidding a heart-wrenching farewell to a departing officer, clearly not her husband.

Back on duty in France, Bess is shocked to discover the wife’s photograph in a newspaper accompanying a plea from Scotland Yard for information about her murder, which took place on the very day Bess witnessed that anguished farewell. Granted leave to speak with the authorities, Bess very quickly finds herself entangled in a case of secrets and deadly betrayal in which another life hangs in the balance, and her search for the truth could expose her to far graver dangers than those she faces on the battlefield.

My thoughts: Although it may seem that the synopsis is a spoiler, it isn’t. We learn that information in the first few pages.

I thought the second book in the Bess Crawford series had a different feel to it than the first. Much of it centers around upper class people. There’s an underlying uneasiness that made me think that’s how Bess felt. Bess finds out that murder actually can happen to “nice people”. She’s not as insulated from the world as she once was – even though she’s a nurse on the front she’s finding out that terrible things can and do happen close to home.

As in A Duty to the Dead Charles Todd put me in the atmosphere of the novel. I was in the crowd at the train station,  the fog in a small village, the medical tent in France. It’s one of the things I love most about the series. I can see, hear and feel the setting.

I had two possibilities for the murderer. One was right but I still wasn’t entirely certain. I’m really enjoying the series and look forward to the next book:  A Bitter Truth.

Note: I wonder if Simon will start to play a more personal role in Bess’ life.

Source:  HarperCollins via Book Club Girl for the Bess Crawford Read-Along.

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

TItle:  A Duty to the Dead

Author:  Charles Todd

Genre:  Mystery; Series

Published:  2009 – Harper Collins

My take:  Bess Crawford is a British nurse (WWI). When one of her patients realizes he won’t recover, he asks her to memorize a message and deliver it to his brother. She allows nothing to stop her from doing so. Little does she know this will dredge up secrets the soldier’s family thought were put to rest. Bess is determined to get to the bottom of the message when she senses the family isn’t committed to honoring the soldier’s request. Or is she jumping to conclusions? Either way, things just aren’t adding up.

I’m always reluctant to get into the details of a mystery because I don’t want to spoil it for other readers. What I can say is I like Bess Crawford. She is an admirable and strong-minded young woman. I loved the setting – WWI era England. There are motorcars, trains, hospital ships, small villages, and London. The characters and plot reminded me of early Hitchcock movies – interesting plot and characters and filled with surprises. It all made for a good whodunit.

I enjoyed A Duty to the Dead and look forward to the next book in the series.

Source:  I bought it.

Book Time with Bess – The Bess Crawford Read-Along

I signed up for the Bess Crawford Read-Along at Book Club Girl. This is what hooked me:

About Bess Crawford, and A Duty to the Dead, the first book in the series:
So who is Bess Crawford? The creation of the mother and son writing team of Charles Todd – the team that brought us the acclaimed and bestselling Ian Rutledge series – Bess Crawford is a singular woman living in a time of great change in England. Independent-minded Bess Crawford’s upbringing was far different from that of the usual upper-middle-class British gentlewoman. Growing up in India, she learned the importance of responsibility, honor, and duty from her officer father. At the outbreak of World War I, she followed in his footsteps and volunteered for the nursing corps, serving from the battlefields of France to the doomed hospital ship Britannic.

On one voyage, Bess grows fond of the young, gravely wounded Lieutenant Arthur Graham. Something rests heavily on his conscience, and to give him a little peace as he dies, she promises to deliver a message to his brother. It is some months before she can carry out this duty, and when she’s next in England, she herself is recovering from a wound. When Bess arrives at the Graham house in Kent, Jonathan Graham listens to his brother’s last wishes with surprising indifference. Neither his mother nor his brother Timothy seems to think it has any significance. Unsettled by this, Bess is about to take her leave when sudden tragedy envelops her. She quickly discovers that fulfilling this duty to the dead has thrust her into a maelstrom of intrigue and murder that will endanger her own life and test her courage as not even war has.

More from Book Club Girl’s post:

As an added bonus to get you started, the e-book of A Duty to the Dead is just $1.99 for a limited time, so order up today and get reading!

The read-along officially kicks off today (but don’t worry, our first discussion won’t take place until March 26th) and it runs through the publication of the paperback of the most recent Bess Crawford novel, A Bitter Truth (on sale 5/1), as well as the new Bess Crawford hardcover, An Unmarked Grave (on sale 6/5). We’ll end the read-along in June with a Book Club Girl on Air Show with the Charles Todd writing team to discuss all the books in the series.

Here’s the schedule of when I’ll post questions about each book for us to discuss:

March 26th – A Duty to the Dead discussion
April 30th
 – An Impartial Witness discussion
May 1st – A Bitter Truth paperback goes on sale
May 29th
 – A Bitter Truth discussion (May 28th is Memorial Day)
June 5th – An Unmarked Grave – the new hardcover goes on sale
June 25th
 – An Unmarked Grave discussion
June 28th
 – Book Club Girl on Air Show with Charles Todd to Discuss the Entire Series

Look for updates along the way here, on Twitter (#besscrawford), and on the Book Club Girl and Charles Todd Facebook pages.