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An Unmarked Grave (Bess Crawford) Hardcover – June 5, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 186 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

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.

About the Author

Charles Todd is the author of the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries, the Bess Crawford mysteries, and two stand-alone novels. A mother and son writing team, they live in Delaware and North Carolina.


Product Details

  • Series: Bess Crawford (Book 4)
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062015729
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062015723
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (186 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #195,084 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother-and-son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.

Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvelous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great-uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.

Charles learned the rich history of Britain, including the legends of King Arthur, William Wallace, and other heroes, as a child. Books on Nelson and by Winston Churchill were always at hand. Their many trips to England gave them the opportunity to spend time in villages and the countryside, where there'a different viewpoint from that of the large cities. Their travels are at the heart of the series they began ten years ago.

Charles's love of history led him to a study of some of the wars that shape it: the American Civil War, WWI and WWII. He enjoys all things nautical, has an international collection of seashells, and has sailed most of his life. Golf is still a hobby that can be both friend and foe. And sports in general are enthusiasms. Charles had a career as a business consultant. This experience gave him an understanding of going to troubled places where no one was glad to see him arrive. This was excellent training for Rutledge's reception as he tries to find a killer in spite of local resistance.

Caroline has always been a great reader and enjoyed reading aloud, especially poetry that told a story. The Highwayman was one of her early favorites. Her wars are WWI, the Boer War, and the English Civil War, with a sneaking appreciation of the Wars of the Roses as well. When she's not writing, she's traveling the world, gardening, or painting in oils. Her background in international affairs backs up her interest in world events, and she's also a sports fan, an enthusiastic follower of her favorite teams in baseball and pro football. She loves the sea, but is a poor sailor. (Charles inherited his iron stomach from his father.) Still, she has never met a beach she didn't like.

Both Caroline and Charles share a love of animals, and family pets have always been rescues. There was once a lizard named Schnickelfritz. Don't ask.

Writing together is a challenge, and both enjoy giving the other a hard time. The famous quote is that in revenge, Charles crashes Caroline's computer, and Caroline crashes his parties. Will they survive to write more novels together? Stay tuned! Their father/husband is holding the bets.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'd been thinking of giving up on Bess--all the coincidences and busybodiness that it was taking to get the Todds' battlefield nurse and amateur sleuth into murder-solving situations were stretching credulity a bit too much for me. But the last Bess book, "A Bitter Truth," seemed more believable to me than the first two, largely because several key scenes were set on Bess's own turf in war-torn France. So I had higher than usual hopes for this one and pretty much got what I'd wished for.

This fourth in the series begins and spends the majority of its time in and around the battlefield hospitals of World War I France, where the talents of both Bess and her creators--the American mother-son writing team that calls itself Charles Todd--really shine. It kicks off with Bess's discovery of a murdered man hidden among the war dead, followed by a hanging and, very soon, some pretty obvious indications that the next victim on the killer's hit list is to be Bess herself.

This Bess book has a huge collection of characters--alive and dead--with at least two red herrings among them. The writing is stellar; the pace is non-stop; Bess, Simon and the Colonel Sahib are in top form. I look forward to the next one in this series and I wish the same to you.

P.S. If you'd like some visuals to go with it, I think you'll find that conjuring up scenes of the Spanish Flu and WWI trenches from Downton Abbey II will do the trick nicely.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
While I'm a big fan of the Ian Rutledge series, this alternate Charles Todd book was a bit of a disappointment. It was the first Bess Crawford story that I've tried and while I liked the context--WWI and period England--the story seemed fractured and the action near frantic in pace. I think that an earlier book in the series would have been a better start with these characters, particularly the protagonist herself.

The book's greatest strength is its historic setting--the battlefields of northern France--where WWI has been raging for 3 1/2 years and a very large number of the young male population of Britain, France, and Germany has been killed or permanently injured. Bess Crawford is a battlefield nurse who has seen more than her share of suffering and in the opening of "Unmarked Grave" is shown the body of a murdered man that who had been good friend of her family's. Before she can report the killing, she is struck down by Spanish Influenza and sent back to England to recuperate. Another killing related to the first occurs and it becomes clear that Bess herself is next on the killer's list. What follows is a kind of extra-police procedural carried out by the heroine that involves multiple trips back and forth between France and England and several attempts on her life.

As it is, Bess Crawford is presented as dutiful, resourceful and courageous, but for me she came across as unemotional and detached. This is a book filled with killing and wounding but presented in a kind of bloodless way. The action is carried along mostly by dialogue--endless and repetitive dialogue--but with precious little inner reflection or outward emotion.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Among the many virtues of the Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd is that each of the books can be read on their own. You'll most enjoy the series about the World War I nurse if you read them in order, because there _is_ a (mostly slow moving) character arc, but none of these historical mysteries make you feel like you arrived at the movie 10 minutes late and have no idea what's going on.

Now that I've reassured you that you can pay attention to this book without being told that you simply _must_ start with An Impartial Witness... I'll tell you why it's a firm no-hesitation 5-stars story.

Bess Crawford is a dedicated nurse. Despite the rampaging influenza of spring 1918, she's doing her part in France... until she too is stricken with the flu and is brought back to her parent's home in England. But right before she falls ill, Private Wilson asks her to look at a newly-dead body. And it's a man she recognizes who, very clearly, was murdered. But by the time she recovers, the evidence is gone and Private Wilson, she's told, has hung himself. With the backdrop of 1918 England and France whispering their own stories, Bess takes it upon herself to find out what really happened. And, of course, in so doing she uncovers far more than she bargained for.

The story sounds good, but maybe that doesn't convince you. What works so well here is the quiet conversations (much like the Maisie Dobbs series -- I keep feeling as though Maisie and Bess must have been friends) that lead to flashes of inspiration.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Having read the first three stories in this series I was anxiously waiting for the publication of this novel. I had thoroughly enjoyed all the other books and this one was no exception. There were, however, several areas here that caused me some concern. There is one character that is introduced into the narrative in a rather off-hand way, who continues to be mentioned periodically throughout the novel, and yet never seems to have any real importance. Also, these stories are always filled with coincidences, but this one is absolutely loaded with them. I do understand that people of a particular social class in England during this time period (1918 during World War I) would have had strong connections. But, having said that, this amount of connection was a little hard to believe.

Bess Crawford is a nurse in a field hospital in France and in addition to dealing with the wounds from combat situations, now the doctors and nurses are also fighting the Spanish Influenza. Not only are the fighting men succumbing to this devastating condition, so are the medical staff who care for them. One of the older soldiers who serves as an orderly confides in Bess about a body he has discovered in the shed where bodies are stored until the burial detail can dig another communal grave. There are simply too many deaths to have individual graves so the military is left with no other choice. The body Bess examines does not show any wounds common with death in combat or from the influenza. This man has a broken neck and Bess is sure she recognizes him. The body count is simply one too many. Before Bess can communicate her concerns to her superiors, she succumbs to the influenza. By the time she is recovering the circumstances have all changed.
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