Saturday, August 16, 2014
AN UNWILLING ACCOMPLICE by CHARLES TODD
If you have somehow never read one of Charles Todd's Bess Crawford series, you are missing out on a real treat. Bess is one of those heroines that I just immediately loved and rooted for even though occasionally wanting to scold her for taking risks.
She is a British nurse in World War I and she spends much of her time in France near the front lines. This is a military service in which the women are held to a higher standard of conduct than civilian women. They have a uniform and are subject to orders just like soldiers. Since it is early in the 20th century, women still lead restricted lives anyway, but the nurses represent England and as such need to remain above reproach. How Bess manages to solve murders in that sort of climate is largely due to her father's assistant Simon Brandon. Her father is apparently in military intelligence.
In this story Bess is assigned to accompany a wounded officer to Buckingham Palace where he is presented a medal by the king. She is responsible for him until an orderly picks him up at the hotel the next morning to return him to the rehabilitation hospital. She can't remain in his room overnight of course, but when she checks on him in the morning he has disappeared. Then she hears of a sighting of him at a bridge where a man is murdered. She is in big trouble; in fact she's in danger of being thrown out of the nursing service. Obviously this calls for an investigation and when Simon gets wind of it, he comes to help.
The story becomes more and more mysterious until it seems like they are following several soldiers on the run. I loved trying to work out the plot and wasn't disappointed at the end. Meanwhile, I learned about the care of wounded men in France and England, and how ordinary people lived in the countryside during that war.
One character in this book stands out. A man called Maddie cares for all the people in several villages in England. He seems a competent doctor but doesn't claim to be one and Bess is mystified by him. He lives alone very simply. What is his story?
I haven't read all the books in this series but I hope to eventually.