World War I nurse and amateur sleuth Bess Crawford matches wits with a devious killer in this exciting and suspenseful adventure from New York Times best-selling author Charles Todd.
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.
©2012 Charles Todd (P)2012 HarperCollins Publishers
Narrative makes the world go round.
If you've never read a list mystery about a nurse (or similar) amateur sleuth solving crimes in the midst of WW1 carnage, this could be interesting. But the author team of Charles Todd wastes a good series premise and potentially interesting characters in that rich backdrop by producing a pedestrian rehash of other novels. Particularly wasted is the Spanish Flu epidemic material. I've listened to a couple of the Ian Rutledge novels - It's hard to believe the same team writes the Bess Crawford series. Number 1 in the series was better, and each subsequent novel seemed to be more loosely constructed -- just the opposite of what usually happens in a historical mystery series as the characters get a chance to develop. Here Bess still improbably hops around Britain and the French trenches, poking her nose in a minor mystery (compared to the hell all around) before eventually tripping over her villain in a too convenient formula.
Obsessive reader, 6-10 books a week, chosen from Member reviews. Fact & fiction, subjects from the Tudors to Tookie, Harlem to Hiroshima, Huey Long to Huey Newton. In-depth fair reviews - from front to BLACK!!!
I got hooked on author Charles Todd through is Inspector Ian Rutledge series. The Bess Crawford Mysteries are ALMOST as good, with the usual early murder in an unlikely location, followed by an amazing number of twists, turns, and red herrings which keep the reader off kilter until the very end. This is the 4th in the series. I say this so you don't start out of order. Each book can stand on its own but subsequent ones make reference to prior crimes.
Bess is the only daughter of a highly decorated British colonel who has chosen nursing on the battlefields during World War I, rather than a comfortable, if loveless, marriage to a gentleman of her class. While she lacks the training and knowledge of Rutledge (a well-educated member of London gentry who chose law enforcement before fighting as an officer in the same war), Bess' criminal deductive skills come from what I took as "female intuition", a bit of a condensending insult to women then and now. This choice by Todd gives the Bess Crawford series less of an overall impact, especially since it takes place before the acceptance of such rudimentary criminal forensics like fingerprints, ballistics, the information provided by rigor mortis and livor mortis - all which would become critical components just a decade later. Bess kinda "stumbles" her way into solutions with the full force of the considerable resources and access to military and government documents and databases provided by her father.
The narrator is out of league here. While Landor is great with Regency, Edwardian, and Victorian romance books, her range of voices and dialects is limited, especially with respect to males. All of her men sound like upper-crust fops talking like their buttocks are clinched so tight that a hungry man couldn't get a shilling from between the cheeks. A major flaw is with the dialogue between women of the same class. If more than 2 are talking, the normally irritating "Bess said" or "Lady Stiff-Upperlip remarked" is sorely needed just to keep your place or you'll find yourself rewinding repeatedly throughout the book.
That said, this series is still worth listening to. Try to get them on sale if you can and start with Bess Crawford before the Rutledge books. Comparatively, she is merely a tasty appetizer to Rutledge's outstanding main course. (NOTE: I will post this same review for the others in the series, only changing the chronological order since this is the only one where Audible.com has seen fit to add "Book 4).
I enjoyed this installment of the Bess Crawford series more than the previous ones. The story of a serial killer preying on WWI soldiers and nurses, in both France and England, kept me involved as Bess uncovered pieces of the puzzle while trying to keep from becoming another victim. Most interesting was the issue of the killer's motive -- is he randomly attacking people, or is he a spy, or is he out for revenge, and if so, for what perceived injury.
Bess is a pain in the neck, constantly going off into danger, lying to Matron, father and others, helping a deserter. The author constantly puts her in danger with no consequences for the perpetrator who tries to run her down, throw her off a boat, choke her, etc.etc. Hey there are policemen!!!!
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