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.
Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.com
An Unmarked Grave is the fourth entry in Charles Todd's Bess Crawford mystery series. This novel opens with the heroine, British nurse Bess Crawford, working tirelessly in a field hospital full of soldiers wounded at the front, as well as those suffering from the flu, which is reeking havoc all across Europe. When secretly called upon to view the body of a man whose death an orderly believes suspicious, Bess discovers that the body belongs to a close family friend and officer within her father's regiment. Determined to get to the bottom of the apparent murder, Bess makes plans to discuss her findings with her nursing superior at the earliest opportunity. Unfortunately, Bess almost immediately falls ill with the flu herself, and it is weeks before she's recovered enough to investigate further. Moving between the French front and the English countryside, Bess never gives up on her quest to uncover the truth. Yet, with a number of new murders, it appears the killer is one step ahead of Bess. More dire is that Bess herself has become a target. Will Bess be able to solve the murders before she becomes a victim herself?
Overall, I enjoyed this novel immensely. Bess is a strong heroine who is easy to relate to and her attitudes and actions are consistent with the time period in which she lived. The secondary characters, including Bess' parents and friend, Simon, are also wonderfully drawn and interesting. The mystery itself is intriguing and left me guessing as to the killer's identify until the very end. I especially like the fact that this novel is set against the backdrop of World War I, a period in which becoming increasingly interested. Todd's descriptions of life in a field hospital are especially vivid.
Not having read any of the previous novels in the Bess Crawford mystery series, I was a little worried that my unfamiliarity with the events of earlier books might make it difficult for me to understand some of the back story included in this one. It turns out that this wasn't an issue and, as a result, the novel stands well on its own. Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to going back to the beginning of the series to read the books I've missed. I highly recommend this novel to fans of historical mysteries.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
An Unmarked Grave is currently on tour with TLC Book Tours. Click here to view the tour schedule. You can also check out the author's webpage by clicking here.