Bess is back at the front in the start of An Unmarked Grave, and the war isn’t the only thing killing soldiers. It’s 1918, and the Spanish Influenza is cutting down strong and weak, nurses and soldiers. Amid the dead bodies, however, is one that’s unaccounted for. It seems someone has used the convenience of the dead bodies to slip in the victim of a murder. When Private Wilson reveals the body to Bess, she is astounded to find the dead man served beside her father and was a family friend. However, before she is able to contact the matron and notify her, Bess too is struck down with the flu, and her recovery is slow. Once she is stronger, she believes she dreamt of the body until she learns Private Wilson hanged himself. The more Bess learns, the more she is convinced Wilson was murdered as well. And the killer won’t rest until Bess is silenced.
An Unmarked Grave is the most intense Bess Crawford book to date, in my opinion. Not only is Bess near death in the beginning of the novel, but several other characters are in perilous circumstances as well. This book has a dark side to it that I think the previous novels have lacked, which makes sense as World War I goes on.
That said, I would also have to admit this was my least favorite book in the series, but not because of its darker quality. This series relies heavily on character, and I adore Bess. She’s strong and intelligent with a bravery I wish I would have in a similar situation but know I would not. However, this installment has a weak central mystery. The ending was unsatisfactory in that it was not supported by the bulk of the evidence, and there was an extremely odd storyline that kept popping up (if you’ve read it, the news story about the divorced woman). It just didn’t quite make sense.
Plus, the last book, A Bitter Truth, set up a possible love connection between Bess and Sergeant Larimore, an Australian solder. I was looking forward to the development of this relationship, but Larimore only appeared once in the book. Of course, that’s fine, I don’t mind a relationship taking a while to develop, but as Jenn at Devourer of Books mentioned, it was a throwaway. He appears for an instant only, and I’d rather Larimore not been present at all, as opposed to the odd way he was inserted into the plot.
Simon, on the other hand, the Crawford family’s dearest friend, seems to care more and more about Bess, and I think Bess certainly returns the feeling. The friendship seems very platonic, but you never can tell. I’d like to see Bess with a little romance in her life, so I’m very curious as to what the next book in the series holds. Even though this wasn’t my favorite, I’m still a staunch Bess Crawford fan and will look forward to the next title…and Bess Crawford’s continuing adventures.
For other opinions on An Unmarked Grave, check out the other stops on this book tour.