After opening this book I read two pages and then simply could not put it down. Lunch skipped, dinner warmed I read it in a day and was sorry to reach the last page. For this reader An Unwilling Accomplice is the best Bess Crawford mystery in a most excellent series penned by an estimable mother/son team writing under the name of Charles Todd.
They so perfectly capture England during World War I that their work certainly tops the list of historical mysteries. As one reads the voices of the characters are distinctly heard, the chill of the night tends to make you shiver, and the wartime wounded touch your heart. Battlefield nurse Bess Crawford is an exemplary heroine who while to the manor born doesn’t hesitate to go to the front lines where she is needed. She endures hardships and deprivation but soldiers on.
With An Unwilling Accomplice we find Bess on leave in London where before she can rest she receives a notice from the War Office telling her that she’s to accompany a wounded soldier, Sergeant Jason Wilkins, to Buckingham Palace where he’s to receive a medal from King George. Moreover Wilkins had specifically requested her although Bess has absolutely no memory of the man or his wounds. Obviously, she cannot refuse such an honor.
When she meets her charge Bess finds him heavily bandaged, literally from head to toe, and confined to a wheelchair. She feels no trepidation about this assignment as he will only be in her care for a day or so. The morning following the ceremony she goes to the sergeant’s room to prepare him for his return journey to find that he has vanished.
And there, my friends, begins an intriguing tale as both the Army and the Nursing Service blame Bess for the sergeant’s disappearance. There is naught for her to do but try to prove her innocence so she can return to duty in France. How exciting it is to follow her from village to village where she meets a cast of surprising characters, some helpful, some not, all with stories of their own.
- Gail Cooke