An Unmarked Grave

Written by Charles Todd
Review by Ellen Keith

In 1918, nurse Bess Crawford sees a murdered soldier amid the piles of the dead who have succumbed to influenza at the front. Before she can alert anyone, she falls ill herself, and while recovering, questions what she saw, believing it to be a product of her fevered brain. The suspicious death of the private who showed her the body, and additional deaths of others who could identify the “colonel” who made inquiries about the dead man, cause Bess to reconsider and investigate. Her determination sends her back to the front, where the killer could be anyone. Indeed, she manages to stay only a few steps ahead of him.

In this fourth Bess Crawford mystery, Todd ratchets up the suspense. War itself is obscene, but the idea of a nameless, faceless killer stalking soldiers and nurses, who witness enough death, is truly frightening. Although Bess’s parents would like to shield her from danger, they recognize that she feels a sense of duty. She’s not a wartime nurse and a colonel’s daughter for nothing. If there is one dangling thread, it is that Todd will soon need to address whether family friend Simon Brandon is more than a friend. A would-be suitor sees him as competition, but Bess stays tight-lipped on the subject. The Bess Crawford mysteries are a fascinating “other side of the coin” from the Ian Rutledge mysteries, the former feeling the thick of war, the latter dealing with its aftermath.