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!

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.

The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle

The Blessings of the Animals: A Novel (P.S.)Back of the book: Veterinarian Cami Anderson has hit a rough patch. Stymied by her recent divorce, she wonders if there are secret ingredients to a happy, long-lasting marriage or if the entire institution is outdated and obsolete. Couples all around her are approaching important milestones. Her parents are preparing to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary. Her brother and his partner find their marriage dreams legally blocked. Her former sister-in-law—still her best friend—is newly engaged. The youthfully exuberant romance of her teenage daughter is developing complications. And three separate men—including her ex-husband—are becoming entangled in Cami’s messy post-marital love life.

But as she struggles to come to terms with her own doubts amid this chaotic circus of relationships, Cami finds strange comfort in an unexpected confidant: an angry, unpredictable horse in her care. With the help of her equine soul mate, she begins to make sense of marriage’s great mysteries—and its disconnects.

~

The Blessings of the Animals is a novel about relationships – mostly marriage but also parental, sibling, and friends.  And then there’s the love of and responsibility to animals. Katrina Kittle shows the beauty of  being faithful to the people (and animals) in one’s life and the fallout when that doesn’t happen.  She also shows that being faithful to someone and making him/her content are not the same thing.  In the end, we are responsible for our own feelings of contentment.

The animals in the book are wonderful.  They made me laugh out loud and also had me tearing up.  I don’t want to give away any of the joy in learning about them so I’ll just say I felt as emotional about them as I did the human characters. Cami is a veterinarian and there is nothing she won’t do for the animals.  What the animals give to her is what she would hope to receive from the people in her life.  It would have been so easy for her to just shut down when her life changes abruptly but Kittle gives us a woman who rises to meet her responsibilities to her daughter, her friends, and her job.  It’s hard but she gives it her best and in doing that she starts her life moving in a new direction.

I didn’t plan to read this book as quickly as I did but I was hooked from the first page. I enjoyed all the characters and adored the animals.  The Blessings of the Animals will be on my 2010 Favorite Books list.  It would be a great selection for a book club.

Review copy from Harper Perennial


How To Knit A Love Song by Rachael Herron

How to Knit a Love Song by Rachael Herron: Book Cover

Back of the review copy:
When Abigail inherits a cottage from her beloved mentor, knitting guru Eliza Carpenter, it’s the perfect chance for a new start, a safe haven. She’s ready to leave the city for the country, ready to trade in her worn-out designer heels for brand-new cowboy boots. But Abigail doesn’t bargain on the wrath of a gorgeous rancher: Eliza’s nephew.
Cade inherited the rest of the ranch Abigail’s new cottage is on. He isn’t happy with the loss of what he thought would be his, and is even less pleased that she’s going to turn it into a knitting shop. While Cade struggles to accept this change in plan, and as Abigail fights a terror she thought she left behind, they both find themselves battling an undeniable attraction for the other. But as the knitter and the rancher fall in love, they’ll need more than infatuation: From seeds of doubt and suspicion, can trust ever bloom?

* * * * * * *

I’m fairly new to knitting so I don’t possess the expertise needed to knit much more than a scarf but I love to read about knitting. How To Knit A Love Song is a romance about Abigail Durant, an accomplished knitter, and Cade MacArthur who owns a sheep ranch. She inherits a cottage (from her mentor Eliza) that happens to be in the middle of the sheep ranch run by the handsome Cade (nephew of Eliza). It’s the set-up of all set-ups and you can almost hear Eliza laughing as Cade and Abigail begin to realize what she did.

The two are very confident and headstrong characters which makes for a lot of tension throughout the novel. Will Cade ever come to terms with a knitting store on his ranch? Will Abigail be able to leave her past behind and feel safe in her new surroundings? There is a lot more to the novel but you’ll want to read it to find out.

Rachael Herron’s novel has drama, romance, humor and a great setting. It’s about new starts, learning to trust, and taking a chance on love. I enjoyed it and look forward to the next book in the Cypress Hollow series.

Rachael Herron will be the featured author on Book Club Girl’s show (on Blog Talk Radio) – Wednesday, March 17 – 7pm Eastern. You can click here to listen.

Review copy from Avon A

Labor Day by Joyce Maynard

Cover Image

Labor Day is not your run-of-the-mill love story. It’s about Henry – a shy, lonely 13 year old boy who lives with his emotionally fragile mother across town from his father and his new family. It’s almost Labor Day weekend which means school will be starting in a week. That is why Henry and his mother Adele go shopping for clothes at a local discount store. It’s at the store where they meet a stranger (Frank) and bring him home. And that is the start of a very unique love story.

Author Joyce Maynard explores some really interesting issues: the love between single parent and child; single parent and an unexpected chance for new love; and children of divorce feeling a lack of control over their lives. It’s a lot to cover in a novel that’s less than 250 pages but Ms. Maynard’s story is a satisfying one that I know I’ll be thinking about for quite a while.
Review copy from Book Club Girl

Stone Creek by Victoria Lustbader

Cover Image

From the book: …like pain, love comes in many different shades and textures and strengths, from ones that tickle you to ones that blind you to ones that destroy you.
Lily Spencer is married to Paul and living a fairy-tale life. The only thing missing from her life is a child. At 46, she’s unable to conceive and Paul refuses to adopt.
Danny Malloy, 36, is the father of five year old Caleb. They are grieving the unexpected death of Tara who died a year earlier. Caleb doesn’t understand death much less the aneurysm that killed his mother.
Lily, Danny and Caleb meet and help each other on the road to healing.

Stone Creek is a very sad book and yet, by the last page, the reader is left with a sense of hope.
You can hear an interview with Victoria Lustbader here. The interview was found at Book Club Girl (see my favorite blogs list for the latest post at BCG). Thanks to Dar for telling me about the interview. I found it so interesting.