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Thursday, July 19, 2012

WWI Mystery Series Formulaic, But Entertaining

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

(Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier books in the Bess Crawford series.  These novels stand alone rather well, but I still recommend reading books in a series in order.)


After copping out on writing my own plot summary for the last book I reviewed, I planned to wow you with this one.  Yeah.  Isn't going to happen.  You want excuses?  How about a long family vacation, computer trouble, bored kids on summer break, excessive heat in the Phoenix area, yadda yadda yadda.  So, once again, please excuse my laziness and just enjoy this professionally-written jacket copy for An Unmarked Grave:
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.
If you've read earlier books in the Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd, An Unmarked Grave will feel very familiar to you.  It follows the formula established in the first three novels—the headstrong Bess encounters a dead body, then heads to England to investigate the murder, a process which involves poking her nose into secrets the families of the dead would rather keep buried.  Her digging, of course, makes her a popular target for killers of all stripes.  Yes, it's formulaic, but I'm still enjoying this series.  The capable, no-nonsense Bess makes a noble heroine, even if she isn't the warmest gal on the block.  Her escapades are intriguing without being lurid, which makes them clean, compelling reads.  I am getting a little irritated with Bess' stale personal life, however and would really like to see the dashing Simon Brandon make a move, already!  A little originality in plot would also be appreciated by this reader.  Overall, though, I'm entertained by this smart, sanitized series.     


(Readalikes:  Other books in the Bess Crawford series, including A Duty to the Dead; An Impartial Witness; and A Bitter Truth; also reminds me of the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  PG for mild language (no F-bombs) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of An Unmarked Grave from the generous folks at Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours.  Thank you!

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