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Sunday, 7 April 2013

‘An Unmarked Grave’ by Charles Todd



Published by William Morrow Paperbacks,
January, 2013.
ISBN: 978-0-06-201573-0


The Bess Crawford series, in which this is the latest entry, takes place during World War I, with Bess serving as a nurse in France, but usually getting involved in all sorts of crimes, including murder.

This time, deaths result not only as a result of the conflict, but the Spanish influenza epidemic and at least four murders, including that of a major who served with her father, the Colonel sahib, in India. Unfortunately, the major had no identification and was buried in an unmarked grave before Bess could supply his name.  But first, she falls ill with the flu and is returned to England to recover.  And it’s quite possible that Bess saw the murderer, placing her in
jeopardy.

The rest of the book finds Bess, after recovering from her illness, shuttling back to the front and then returning to England in search of the killer.  Of course, there are the Colonel’s mysterious capabilities and super-human contacts within the British establishment which are never disclosed, as well as the abilities of his sergeant-major, Simon Brandon, which permeate the novel, as well as Bess always finding just the right help, be it a person, automobile or telephone, just in the nick of time to make the reader scratch his or her head.  And too often, coincidences arise along the way.

Nevertheless, as in previous books in the series, the battlefield descriptions, the medical efforts to save the wounded and the effects of the conflict on both military and civilians are excellent.  Perhaps the plotting is over-developed, but that is typical of this mother-son
writing team, which pays great attention to detail.  Characters are well-drawn but the  conclusion is sort of forced.  Over all, though, the novel reads well, and is recommended.
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Reviewer:  Ted Feit
Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother and son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced. Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvelous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.Charles learned the rich history of Britain, including the legends of King Arthur, William Wallace, and other heroes, as a child. Books on Nelson and by Winston Churchill were always at hand. Their many trips to England gave them the opportunity to spend time in villages and the countryside, where there’s a different viewpoint from that of the large cities. Their travels are at the heart of the series they began ten years ago.
Charles’s love of history led him to a study of some of the wars that shape it: the American Civil War, WWI and WWII. He enjoys all things nautical, has an international collection of seashells and has sailed most of his life. Golf is still a hobby that can be both friend and foe. And sports in general are enthusiasms. Charles had a career as a business consultant. This experience gave him an understanding of going to troubled places where no one was glad to see him arrive. This was excellent training for Rutledge’s reception as he tries to find a killer in spite of local resistance.
Caroline has always been a great reader and enjoyed reading aloud, especially poetry that told a story. The Highwayman was one of her early favorites. Her wars are World War 1, the Boer War, and the English Civil War, with a sneaking appreciation of the Wars of the Roses as well. When she’s not writing, she’s traveling the world, gardening or painting in oils. Her background in international affairs backs up her interest in world events, and she’s also a sports fan, an enthusiastic follower of her favorite teams in baseball and pro football. She loves the sea but is a poor sailor—Charles inherited his iron stomach from his father. Still, she has never met a beach she didn’t like.
Writing together is a challenge, and both enjoy giving the other a hard time. The famous quote is that in revenge, Charles crashes Caroline’s computer, and Caroline crashes his parties. Will they survive to write more novels together?


Ted and Gloria Feit live in Long Beach, NY, a few miles outside New York City.  For 26 years, Gloria was the manager of a medium-sized litigation firm in lower Manhattan. Her husband, Ted, is an attorney and former stock analyst, publicist and writer/editor for, over the years, several daily, weekly and monthly publications.  Having always been avid mystery readers, and since they're now retired, they're able to indulge that passion.  Their reviews appear online as well as in three print publications in the UK and US.  On a more personal note: both having been widowed, Gloria and Ted have five children and nine grandchildren between them.



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