Book Review: Charles Todd’s An Unmarked Grave

Posted July 14, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Charles Todd’s An Unmarked Grave

An Unmarked Grave


Charles Todd

historical mystery in Paperback edition that was published by William Morrow on June 5, 2012 and has 272 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include An Impartial Witness, A Lonely Death, A Bitter Truth, The Confession, The Walnut Tree, Proof of Guilt, A Question of Honor, An Unwilling Accomplice, Hunting Shadows, A Pattern of Lies, A Fine Summer's Day, No Shred of Evidence, The Shattered Tree, Racing the Devil, A Casualty of War

Fourth in the Bess Crawford mystery series set in World War I and revolving around Bess Crawford, one of the nursing sisters helping on the front in the spring of 1918.

In 2012, An Unmarked Grave was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel.

My Take

Dang, it’s just not safe anywhere with Bess Crawford around! Fortunately, she’s not one to sit back. Between rescuing and protecting and investigating on both sides of the Channel, all the influence that Bess’ father and Simon have comes in very handy.

I do enjoy Todd’s characters and the homeyness he creates, yes, even on a battlefield! Todd brings the time period to life in its manners, expectations, and dialog. There are some aspects to the time that I can appreciate. There are others that are simply too bizarre!

There are some loose bits in this particular story. Just how is the order that puts Bess in danger set up? Dr. Hicks claims he checked it out, but with all the paperwork that the army requires, I can’t believe this move was set up this easily.

Wait just a minute…Captain Carson? I thought he was a major? And how does the Prince of Wales fit in with the worry about German spies. I do wish Todd hadn’t put so many Julias in this story. What was the point of bringing in Mrs. Campbell’s divorce? Yes, divorce is, omigod, the kiss of death socially, but for the little dribs that Todd drops I just don’t see the point.

The Story

As if the horror of war isn’t enough. As if these men aren’t suffering enough, the Spanish influenza hits Europe and the battlefront. Doctors, nurses, soldiers, all are dying from this plague. But this flu is still not as insidious as the man who murders so many for his own purposes.

Her father has warned her of German spies and Bess is well aware that men will also murder for revenge. When those around Bess are murdered, even she begins to exercise a caution.

The Characters

Bess Crawford is a young woman who understands the responsibility of duty. Her father, Colonel Sahib, and her mother have raised Bess with the regiment and she is fully aware of the men who have passed through it. Her own honor demands that she aid the wounded, her nursing skill requires that she do so on the front lines. Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon was her father’s batman and retired, technically, from the regiment when her father did. Technically.

Private Wilson is holding up under all of it. The influenza. The sorrow of having to bury all these promising young men. Yet, never did Bess believe he was depressed. Nor does his wife, Joyce Wilson, believe he would commit suicide.

Dr. Gaines is the doctor in charge of the convalescent clinic in Somerset. Captain Thomas Barclay is recovering there and is too eager to return to battle. Or play the role of bodyguard. Trelawney is one of the Colonel’s men, assigned to drive Bess on her undercover mission. Lucky for Bess that Captain Grayson knows her so well.

Major Vincent Carson was a promising soldier. A man whom Colonel Sahib thought would one day lead the regiment. Colonel Prescott wrote the letter to his widow, Julia, informing her of his death. Sabrina Carson, the major’s sister, married to please herself and not her family. It’s quite possible that her husband’s family took revenge for the slight. William Morton, her husband, has six other brothers in the war, some of whom could have done it. Hugh, David, Llewellyn, young Ross, and the twins with Ross Morton, their father, trying to run the farm on his own. With the tremendous numbers of men dying in this misled war, it’s not that surprising that those idiots in charge finally realized that they shouldn’t take every son in a family. It’s too bad they didn’t figure this out in this war!

The Cover and Title

The cover is Bess in her nursing uniform of a dark dress and the white apron, its straps criss-crossing in the back. Bess is standing in front of a window, her back to us, holding a paper, lost in thought.

The title is too accurate as Bess falls ill within hours of finding Major Carson who will find his final resting place in An Unmarked Grave.