I can't believe we've already come to the end - for now - of the Bess Crawford series! Today we discuss the 4th book in Charles Todd's bestselling series, but our read along is not over yet. After today's discussion here, we still have our live online radio podcast with the Charles Todd writing team this Thursday night, during which we will talk about the entire Bess Crawford series!
I think An Unmarked Grave might have been my favorite Bess mystery so far - it certainly kept me guessing until the end and I loved how much action there was. Bess was on the move the entire time.
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 bestselling 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.
1) In each of the previous books in the series, we saw Simon Brandon take on a increasingly bigger role in investigating crimes with Bess and in this book, the Colonel and Bess' mother are also actively involved in her search for the killer. What did you make of this?
2) Both Bess and Simon fall ill in this novel - Bess from the Spanish Flu epidemic ravaging both France and England and Simon from his wounds. What did you think of each of them in their more vulnerable states and why do you think the authors chose that for them?
3) There were several suspects put forth throughout the course of the novel. How did you feel when the killer, and his motives for killing, was finally revealed?
4) What did you think of Bess' decision to help Hugh Morton in his desertion?
5) I loved the scene of Bess working alongside the doctor to save Sargeant Mitchell, with her father looking on. As far as we know this is the first time he's seen his daughter in action as a nurse and what she can do. What did you think of that scene?
6) What new word did you learn from this mystery? For me it was "sappers" - which refers to either a military specialist in field fortification work or a military demolitions specialist.
More than anything, this novel drove home for me, even more than the previous three, the toll that the war is taking, as it drags on - on soldiers, nurses and the people of England and France. There was a haunting sense of the loss and devastation and the hopelessness that the end is not in sight. I found this audio recording of Roses of Picardy - the song that Bess hears a soldier playing on a mouth organ when she is working in Ypres: "I thought how homesick he must be, letting the instrument put into words what he couldn't, that the war had last far too long and there was still no end in sight. He had lost heart, and I couldn't fault him for that."
I look forward to seeing your answers to the above questions, and then, our Book Time with Bess Read Along isn't quite over yet! Please join us on Thursday night, June 28th at 7pm ET, as we welcome the writing team of Charles Todd to Book Club Girl on Air to answer all our questions about the entire Bess Crawford series - as well as anything else you'd like to ask them about their Inspector Ian Rutledge series and researching and writing the war in general. Set your reminder for the show here!