Thursday, August 27, 2020

A Forgotten Place by Charles Todd

 

First Line: December 1918. The war had ended, but not the suffering.

World War I is over, but-- as Nurse Bess Crawford says, "...when we no longer needed soldiers, we tossed them aside like broken chairs." Now she has been assigned to a clinic for amputees, and a group of Welsh patients worries her. It's clear that they have nothing to go home to in a valley where the only employment is for the able-bodied down in the coal mines.

When their officer, Captain Williams, writes to tell Bess of their despair and of his own at trying to save his men, Bess requests leave and travels to Wales. She's too late. Most of the group is dead. Worried that Williams intends to kill himself, Bess follows him to an isolated peninsula where she's promptly deserted by her driver. Now Bess is stranded among strangers suspicious of outsiders. When she learns that the villagers are all hiding something, they do not allow her to leave, and-- what's even worse-- no one in England knows where she is. Bess must find the answers to all her questions without putting her only two allies at risk, but there is a murderer here who is driven to kill again and again...

My interest in nurses on the front lines during World War I began with the BBC's "Testament of Youth" and Lyn MacDonald's The Roses of No Man's Land. When I learned of Charles Todd's series featuring Bess Crawford, I had to get my hands on a copy. I've enjoyed the series ever since, but I have to say that with A Forgotten Place, this series has reached a whole new (and wonderful) level.

In reality, A Forgotten Place is a locked room mystery, if you can call an isolated peninsula a room. No one goes there. The police don't come there; the villagers take care of everything themselves. No one has transportation, so if anyone wants to leave, they have to walk miles and miles and miles over rough terrain. Getting letters in and out is left entirely to chance. The weather in December is atrocious, and the villagers are all suspicious, they're all hiding something, and they're Olympic gold medal winners at immediately thinking the worst of anybody or anything. It wasn't long at all before I wanted to run screaming away from the place, but I was trapped there along with Bess, and I simply couldn't leave until Bess could leave. The setting is superb and really set the tone for the entire book.

The writing team of Charles Todd always enlightens readers about a certain facet of life during World War I, and this time it's the plight of amputees. In many instances, it would have been kinder for them to have been killed in action. There were no jobs for them when they came home. Often their arrival meant even greater hardship for already poverty-stricken families. It's no wonder their suicide rate was high. 

The mystery in A Forgotten Place really kept me guessing, and I got to see a side of Bess Crawford's personality that has never really been shown before-- probably because she's never been in a situation like this one. She's always going to fight for anyone who's under her care, and she's always going to fight for the right, but this time, she's also got to fight for her own survival. These villagers are willing to kill to keep their secrets. Every time Bess was forceful with these people and their well-honed complicity of silence, I wanted to cheer aloud. And was I ever glad when Bess and I finally got out of the place.

I'm really looking forward to what Bess gets up to next!

 

A Forgotten Place by Charles Todd 

eISBN: 9780062678850

William Morrow © 2018

eBook, 384 pages

 

Historical Mystery, #10 Bess Crawford mystery

Rating: A+

Source: Purchased from Amazon.

15 comments:

  1. Wow. I've never before been inspired to read one of the books in this series, only because reading books set during and right after WWI in Britain wasn't my favorite period of time.
    However, this review is motivating me to read this book. It sounds like Bess is a great character, and the story has a lot of social issues, although the plight of disabled veterans was sad and often, terrible, as you point out. An added factor is the
    locked peninsula aspect.
    If the library was open, I'd take this out.
    I'll have to see what the budget can bear or if this comes into the library on Overdrive which I can read from the laptop.

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  2. The library has a sample with the first two chapters in Overdrive which I can read at its website. So I'll see.

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    1. I don't think the first two chapters will get you to Wales, but we shall see.

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  3. This one's a good series, Cathy, and I'm glad to be reminded of it. The Charles Todd team always does such a good job of evoking place and time, and I like Bess Crawford's character. I'm not quite to this one yet, but it sounds as though it's at least up to the quality of what I have read. Glad you enjoyed it.

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    1. I didn't enjoy it, I loved it. It's one of the series I've decided to get completely caught up on. One book to go!

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  4. Lovely review, I like the premise of this, thanks for sharing

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  5. The story sounds so fascinating and intriguing. Thanks for the review.

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  6. I like Todd's Ian Rutledge series for the information about shell shock in WWI. I've also enjoyed the Bess Crawford books and look forward to this one!

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    1. I didn't last very long with the Ian Rutledge series, mainly because Hamish just wouldn't shut up. I know that's bad, but I think if I had him yapping at me day in and day out, I'd be in the loony bin-- which shows how strong Rutledge is!

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  7. I've seen several of the books in the series on display at one time or another but never bothered even to pick one of them up to see what they were all about. I think you just changed that.

    The quote you begin with reminds me of one of the assignments I had while in the Army in 1969. I met planeloads of returning soldiers who were setting foot on on the mainland since leaving for Viet Nam a year earlier so that I could prepare them a bit for the poor reception they might receive from civilians inside the airport. Talk about being "tossed aside"...

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    1. Yes. My cousin had one of those receptions when he returned home after three tours in Da Nang.

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  8. My attitude is "Support the troops, not the war." Or substitute "veterans" for "troops." A good friend is a disabled Vietnam war veteran whose body has shrapnel in it, who uses huge crutches and has PTSD, among other results of the war. That is a slogan that this veteran and others promote. Many veterans of that war are very anti-war because of their experience. But they are friendly with other veterans, including at VA hospital encounters.

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