Friday, June 15, 2012

An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd

Synopsis From Back Cover: 

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.  But 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 touched 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 the tenacious and impetuous nurse must be vigilant.  With a determined killer on her own heels, each move she makes may be her last.

I need to cop to two different things right now, the first of which I feel horrible about.  For some strange reason, I had it in my head that this review was supposed to go up today, the 15th.   After looking at my schedule though, I realized it was supposed to be posted on the 12th.  I haven't done this before, so I wanted to apologize to everyone up front for not having this done on time.  The second admission I must make, is that for the bazillionth time, I have started a series well past the first book.  I really don't know why I do it, what makes me decided I want to jump in on what in this case is the 4th book.  Now I need to go back and read the other three, otherwise I'm going to feel as if I'm doing the character of Bess Crawford a disservice.  She is one of those characters that I fell in love with from the start, and I would never want to hurt her feelings by not going back and reading the other books.

Earlier this week I posted another review that is classified as historical fiction and I mentioned that the only part of that genre I seem to enjoy are mysteries set in the past.  It doesn't seem to matter the era, year, or culture that is being explored, if there is a murder, sign me up.  If there is a plucky amateur detective investigation the murder, sign me up even faster.  I would just put the blame on the fact that I'm a mystery lover anyway, but I'm not sure if that would be the right reason.  But don't ask me what else it could be, cause I have no clue.  I'm just going to set back, relax, and enjoy.

Much like the Maisie Dobbs books, there is a gentleness and calmness about the writing that I find refreshing and unique in a mystery.  Now that might not make much sense given the fact that the book starts in a French field hospital, with maimed and dying soldiers all over the place.  Only in these two series have I ever found authors who are skilled enough to enmesh their readers into such a horrific and well realized setting, without making the reader feel overwhelmed by the violence.  The miasma of despair that would naturally follow a plot and setting such as this is missing.  Reading the horrors of war and watching Bess investigate a murder, which puts her own life in danger, never felt bogged down.  I was relaxed and optimistic the entire time.  Now I'm not so sure this is the reaction the authors were looking for, but I'm not going to complain.

Evey setting, every character is well drawn and fully imagined by the authors.  At no point in time did something jump off the page and feel unauthentic to me.  Everything felt right for the period and the characters never acted out of character.  Both of those characteristics are blessings to a reader, and sadly blessings that don't always occur in a mystery novel.  I'm really curious to see if this is a pattern that continues with the other books.  I already have the one that occurs before this one, but haven't gotten started on it yet.  But if it is anything like this one, I'm going to love it.

I would like to thank Trish of TLC Book Tours for the opportunity to read/review this book.  Please visit the tour page to read other reviews.


Helen's Book Blog said...

I am reading this book for the tour right now (review due next week) and I am enjoying it!

bermudaonion said...

This series seems to have a lot of fans. I'd like to give it a try.

Staci said...

First off, things happen and all is good!! Secondly, between you and Bookfan Mary, I will absolutely have to read this series!!!!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

This looks so good but I am glad you mentioned it is not a first in the series... that would bug me.

I also wanted to let you know I am working on the post we discussed tomorrow morning.. sorry I am such a procrastinator lately... :)

Anonymous said...

This is a book that I knew I wanted to read from the first moment I saw it and now am all the more anxious to see for myself.
Thank you for the detailed review. It was a pleasure to read.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Ryan, I was happy to read your thoughts on this one. I've enjoyed this author in the past, and hope to get to read this one too sometime.

Alexia561 said...

Think we've all gotten review dates wrong at least once, so don't beat yourself up over it. Mistakes happen!

Enjoyed your review! Had a feeling you would like this series! Know what you mean about the gentleness and calmness in the writing, as I felt it reading one of Todd's Inspector Rutledge books.

Love your comment that you don't want to hurt Bess's feelings by not going back and reading the rest of the series! She seems like a lovely woman, so I'm sure she wouldn't hold it against you. :)

Teddyree said...

Ooh I think I'd enjoy this series too but being as completely anal as I am, I'll be starting at the beginning LOL.

I probably wouldn't have given this one a thought so I'm glad I read your review :)

trish said...

"She [Bess Crawford] is one of those characters that I fell in love with from the start, and I would never want to hurt her feelings by not going back and reading the other books."

I can't think of a higher compliment that you could pay an author. Obviously Bess Crawford has become REAL to you, and I think that's got to be the thing that authors hold their breath about the most, because these characters are real to the author as well.