The backstory: An Unmarked Grave is the fourth title in the Bess Crawford historical mystery series by mother and son writing team Charles Todd. I've reviewed the first three titles in this series: A Duty to the Dead, An Impartial Witness, and A Bitter Truth.
The basics: The novel opens in France in the spring of 1918 when the Spanish influenza is killing many on the front lines. When a private discovers an extra body in the shed, Bess once again finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery.
My thoughts: One of the things I love most about this series is the character of Bess Crawford. She is both innocent and experienced. She's confident and bold, yet her behavior conforms to the societal norms of her times. Despite being mysteries set in the war, there is a gentleness to this series as Bess is a nurse not a constable.
In many ways, then, An Unmarked Grave surprised me. Almost all of the action takes place in France, where both the front lines and Spanish influenza pose major risks to everyone. Danger was imminent on each page. A body appears at the beginning of the novel, which is also characteristic of a more traditional detective story, and it immediately took this novel to a dark and sinister place.
The verdict: An Unmarked Grave is the most intense and fast-paced Bess Crawford mystery yet. I was riveted to the action and shocked Todd was bold enough to put so many major characters in harm's way. The high stakes of war and disease were illuminating and depressing. It's a wonderful mystery, and it will delight readers of this series. I don't think it would work well as a stand-alone novel, however, as the action is so fast-paced that a knowledge of the regular characters will help readers distinguish the large cast of new characters.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 272 pages
Publication date: June 5, 2012
Source: publisher via TLC Book Tours
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