A Forgotten Place: A Bess Crawford Mystery (Bess Crawford Mysteries)
A Forgotten Place, book ten in the Bess Crawford mystery series, unfolds in 1918 as soldiers are recovering from World War I wounds in a hospital in France, and Nurse (Sister) Bess Crawford is assigned to a clinic assisting amputees. Drawn to a unit of Welsh patients, many suffering from depression, she worries how they’ll adapt to life in mining communities that offer few jobs for men without limbs. On leave, Bess tracks them to a remote coast in Wales and finds Captain Williams, the unit’s leader. She is immediately involved in a series of calamities, bizarre discoveries, and sudden death among the villagers that build pressure until Bess can no longer ignore the compulsion to discover a truth that needs to be freed. Dark characters, a hangover from war losses, and an unquenchable fascination with a shipwreck create significant tension.
This being my first encounter with the series, I didn’t read much that explained Bess’s backstory, though I wish it had, or explained the fantastic character of Simon Brandon, but the plot drives its own force, and enough is gathered along the way to fill any potholes. The pace moves briskly at first, almost bulldozing scenes that could be meatier, then settles into the crevices of the Welsh coastline and is decelerated by the unforgiving landscape and the characters who scheme to keep their secrets hidden. The second two-thirds of the book are the most satisfying and well-earn the mystery designation. Highly recommended.