An Unwilling Accomplice: A Bess Crawford Mystery
Charles Todd, a mother-and-son writing team based in both Delaware and North Carolina, have been bringing mystery fans and history buffs stunning novels set in Europe for the past few decades. Their Ian Rutledge series is hard-hitting and always compelling. For lighter fair, they developed the Bess Crawford mysteries, which now number six.
Bess Crawford is a highly respected and extremely efficient British battlefield nurse. The horrors of World War I have passed before her eyes, and she has had direct involvement in attempting to save those injured in battle. Her interactions with so many military figures has made for some interesting adventures, and her desire to heal and solve problems makes her a perfect candidate to do some sleuthing on the side.
"Coming out just shortly after the 100th anniversary of England's entry into WWI makes AN UNWILLING ACCOMPLICE that much more prophetic. It truly surprises and takes the series to a whole new level of complexity."
AN UNWILLING ACCOMPLICE is definitely the most intense novel in the series and takes a darker turn. No longer will the Bess Crawford series be looked at as light mystery reading, as this installment cuts to the heart of the nature of identity and the darkness that drives some people to commit terrible acts. At times I found it resembled some of the terrific twisty stories penned by Robert Goddard, where nothing and no one are what they appear to be.
At the start, Bess receives a message that she is to accompany some injured soldiers at a presentation given by King George. This incredible honor is sullied when one of the wounded soldiers in her charge, Sergeant Wilkins, disappears. There is no reason for this act of desertion, and Bess is deeply concerned. She suddenly comes under fire. First, her Matron comes down on her rather hard, telling her she has brought disgrace on the Service and giving her no pity. Bess does not have time to worry about this because word reaches her that a murder was committed in a surrounding village, and the suspect is none other than Sergeant Wilkins.
Moving into action and teaming up with a soldier named Simon Brandon, who works for her military leader father, Bess begins to search for the truth and Sergeant Wilkins. Regrettably, not all members of local law enforcement are happy about Bess being involved. An Inspector Jester even goes so far as to claim that Bess is complicit in the murder committed by Sergeant Wilkins --- an unwilling accomplice.
As Bess and Simon conduct their investigation, they must try to find some sort of motive that would make someone who was brave under fire turn around and commit a murder. A cast of characters begin to form from the towns visited by Bess and Simon, and the actual identity of some unnamed and mysterious individuals could somehow be linked to Wilkins. The question is why he committed this crime and how he was remaking his identity to avoid prosecution.
Coming out just shortly after the 100th anniversary of England's entry into WWI makes AN UNWILLING ACCOMPLICE that much more prophetic. It truly surprises and takes the series to a whole new level of complexity.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on August 15, 2014