John’s quick take: A murder mystery whodunit featuring a plucky nurse-cum-detective, set in EnglaOriginal review by John posted on Layers of Thought.
John’s quick take: A murder mystery whodunit featuring a plucky nurse-cum-detective, set in England and the battlefields of France during the First World War.
John’s description: Bess Crawford is a frontline nurse, serving in aid stations just behind the trenches during the grim battles of the First World War. She is also the daughter of a highly respected and well-connected Army Colonel – hers is a family that is steeped in military history and traditions.
It is early in 1918 and to add to the horror of war, the Spanish influenza epidemic is sweeping through the region, leaving behind a trail of destruction and death. Bess and her colleagues, already exhausted and close to breaking point, now have to deal with a huge influx of sick and dying soldiers that have been struck down by the disease.
Then in the midst of the madness, the body of an officer is discovered among the piles of dead waiting to be buried in mass graves; but he has been neither shot nor infected by the contagion – he appears to have been murdered. But before Bess can report the murder, she too falls sick and for a long time her life hangs by a thread. When she finally recovers, she discovers that the only other witness to the murdered officer’s body has reportedly committed suicide and the officer’s wife has received official notification that he died in battle. Bess is determined to seek justice, but with no body, no other witnesses and no-one but her aware that a crime has been committed, how can she identify and find the murderer among the killing fields of the Western Front? As she sets out to solve the mystery, she soon becomes a target for the unknown killer.
John’s thoughts: This is definitely a book for whodunit fans, which is a category I don’t normally fall into, but the unusual setting drew me to the book. My grandfathers both served in the First World War, and like many whose close relatives experienced it I am fascinated (and absolutely horrified) by the madness of this terrible war. Needless to say anything set during that period has a good chance of grabbing my attention. And it did, because Todd does a good job of capturing some of the circumstances and atmosphere and conveying what it was like for people who were caught up in the war. So far so good.
Where I struggled a bit was with the storyline and the main character – it just didn’t feel realistic or authentic. The notion of an upper-class woman serving as a nurse on the frontline, able to frequently travel to England and back, fighting off attackers and roving the Western Front trying to solve mysterious murders just didn’t ring true for me. But perhaps that is the point and that An Unmarked Grave is intended as a piece of escapism. If that is your preference and you enjoy stories about amateur sleuths trying to solve heinous crimes, then this one is for you. The setting is unusual and certainly makes for a dramatic backdrop. So personally I’d rate this book three stars; it was an entertaining book and an enjoyable read that I’m sure many fans of the murder mystery genre will rate more highly. ...more
A dark and tragic World War I historical fable that examines the role of superstition aOriginal review posted at Layers of Thought.
4.5 stars actually!
A dark and tragic World War I historical fable that examines the role of superstition and patriotism gone awry within the rural Appalachian mountains.
About: Pretty and smart Laurel lives in a gloomy cove that her parents purchased many years before within the iconic Appalachian mountains. The superstitious locals believe the area is haunted, think Laurel is a witch, and believe that she and the cove are the cause of any bad luck or misfortune falling upon the town. So she is avoided and shunned. Left alone in the cove - her parents dead, her brother just returning injured from the war efforts in Europe - she feels like it’s a gift when she hears lovely and mysterious music. Following its sound she finds a man playing a flute. He has a secret that Laurel will soon discover.
Although the war is believed to be ending, in the town there remains the remnants of patriotic fever. In particular there is one local, a recruiter, who is obsessed. Sadly his beliefs and actions will have consequences for the characters as their lives inevitably become horrifically and intimately intertwined – leading to an ending that will blow most readers away.
Thoughts: Several years ago I fell in love with Ron Rash’s writing while reading his fabulous book Serena. I would say that this recent book, The Cove, is a bit simpler in style than this previous book, which I think may make it more accessible to a larger variety of readers. Nevertheless, it is just as thought provoking.
With a style that is reminiscent of some of my favorite classic American authors such as Willa Cather and John Steinbeck, the author gives the reader a feel for a rural setting within the US where one can experience the daily life of the people detailed within the story. He uses the language of the natives in these mountains, with their special dialect and its slow simplicity; very effective for helping the reader to feel like they are there. The best part is that imbedded in the story is a moral around the foibles of human behavior that is akin to a dark fable. I like books which exemplify my country’s heritage, are surprising, and provide a reason to think. This book does all three.
I would recommend this book to readers who like historical horror as there are some very dark aspects to this story. Ron Rash has included some shocking scenes with one section where I was out of breath, expecting a huge calamity. Although not something all readers enjoy, I did since I love horror.
This was a romantic, tragic page-turning novel for me. It was easy to read, lyrical, and heartrending. With Serena and now The Cove, I have Ron Rash on my list as a favorite contemporary author. I give The Cove 4.5 stars and highly recommend it to readers who like a “take your breath away” twist in their reads. ...more