The last of our Todd reviews – we hope you’ve discovered some new series ideas!
A FORGOTTEN PLACE: Unforgettable!
Looking at the cover of this book, if you are an avid follower of Bess Crawford (British WW1 nurse who has been to the front line in France many times), you have to wonder what sort of post-war trouble the heroine will encounter. You can tell she is in a desolate place, a surprise since the story picks up after the Armistice in 1918 and her return to England. Bess is looking away from the reader, and you expect her to turn her head and ask you where you’ve been and what took you so long to arrive. It isn’t your fault it takes so long to get your hands on the book that follows A Casualty of War (2017, Harper Collins/Wm Morrow, ISBN 978-0-06-267878-2), but you cannot tell her that. You just go with her into the depths of a forgotten Welsh village named Caudle, located on the Gower Peninsula. And I promise, you will not sleep a wink until you get to the end of this book because the darkness of it seems far worse than the Great War itself.
Bess Crawford’s work in France is done when Matron sends her back to England with a Welsh unit commanded by Captain Williams. Every man is an amputee, and as they are miners, they have no future in their coal mine village. Bess is worried about her charges and goes to Wales to check on them—without informing her parents or friends of her intentions. By the time she arrives in the village where Captain Williams said he’d be, almost everyone in the Welsh unit is deceased, and she hurries to Caudle to check on the Captain when she finds out he left to help his widowed sister-in-law with her meager sheep farm.
From the moment of her arrival, you realize that every word you read moves Bess, the Captain, and Rachel (his sister-in-law) closer to danger, closer to death. But you cannot help yourself because the story is so compelling, and the characters of the village make life dark and dangerous. There is jealousy, greed, several brutal murders, and neighbors who watch Bess’s every move. She is stranded in Caudle, a guest in Rachel’s home, and each day she digs for the truth about the village, the residents, and the dark secret they have kept through many generations.
The storms and murders, and the residents’ unwillingness to let Bess leave the village or settle with her lot because her parents and Sergeant-Major Simon Brandon do not know her whereabouts, make you stakeholder in her resolve to get to the bottom of a mystery and survive. You, the passive participant in this adventure, cannot stop puzzling over the characters, the clues, and the desire to find a murderer before Bess, the Captain, and Rachel come to any great harm or end up buried in an unmarked grave near the Rectory or tossed into the angry sea to wash ashore weeks later.
The village has a secret it protects. Newcomers are not welcome. No stranger leaves alive, and you set your jaw and resolve to make sure Bess Crawford gets away before the killer gets away with murder. Hers. When Simon discovers her whereabouts, you want to relax and see how it all falls into place, but you cannot—because he has to leave temporarily, and it is up to you to stand watch as you read. Before he returns, Bess has to figure out a way to protect the villagers and their dark secrets without letting the killer get away.
As it is with all Bess Crawford novels, you marvel at A Forgotten Place because the last pages are a reveal that leaves you in awe. Even if you think you know it all, you discover you do not! When Bess leaves Caudle and heads home, you wonder if you stand to live the year in your time while she moves within a few weeks of hers. You want her to settle down and stay out of harm’s way, but you cannot resist counting the days until the next Bess Crawford mystery is in your hands.
About the Reviewer:
Liz Phillips is a middle school educator and writer living in Southwest Virginia, another forgotten place. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.