An Unmarked Grave

Image of An Unmarked Grave
Release Date: 
June 5, 2012
William Morrow
Reviewed by: 

“The authors have mastered the skill of pacing . . .”

Bess Crawford, independent and self-assured World War I nurse, once again steps into a mystery that takes her back and forth from the front lines in France to the safety of her parents’ home in Somerset, England.

The trips are not easy, beginning when Bess contracts the Spanish flu immediately after an orderly shows her the body of one Major Vincent Carson—a soldier known to Bess from her father’s military days. Seeing a dead soldier so close to the front lines is not an unusual thing, except this one did not suffer his injuries on the battlefield—he was murdered.

As Bess recovers from the flu in the comfort of her parents’ home, she thinks about Major Carson and wonders if this could have been a hallucination brought on by the flu—until she learns that the orderly who showed her the major’s body was found hanged shortly after Bess is taken back to England.

Coincidence does not sit well with Bess. With the help of a smart aleck Yankee and her faithful friend and father’s aide, Simon Brandon, she dives head first into the mysteries of these unconventional deaths.

As her search begins to peel away layers of information, sending her in a variety of directions, she finds herself in harm’s way, her life threatened on several occasions. Undaunted by the dangers she faces, Bess continues her search only to learn that the real target of the murderer is her father.

Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, she races to her family home, desperate to save her father’s life and bring the serial murderer to justice.

Once again the mother/son team of Charles Todd has woven a gripping tale. The attention to World War I detail on the one hand blended with the crack pace of the story on the other brings us another page-turner. The story detail in the hands of an inexperienced writer would make it difficult to follow the crumbs of clues as the story unfolds, but the authors neatly weave these pieces together into a smooth tale, easy to follow.

The authors’ use of the five senses is especially welcome in the battlefield scenes, where not only the sights, but also the smells, sounds, and even the tastes and touches of battle are vivid, bringing the tension of the story to the forefront.

The authors have mastered the skill of pacing as they bring us out of battle and back to the quiet of England to experience the deep sense of loss and frustration on those left behind.

In the character of Bess Crawford, the authors have created a protagonist independent at a time when most women, especially of well placed families, knew their place and kept it. But her very strength is what makes a good heroine—someone the reader cheers for from the sidelines; worries about when danger lurks; and is remembered as we wait for the next installment of the Bess Crawford mystery series.

The character of the antagonist is a little more difficult to nail down, although the pieces are neatly tied up at the end.