I often wonder whether it’s a good thing that I have this tendency toward sticking with a series, regardless whether my level of interest or love for it has waned. It has to get pretty bad, or never be good at all, for me to stop before the end. So here I am, writing up the sixth and surely penultimate if not final, entry into Charles Todd’s Bess Crawford mystery series. This entry is called An Unwilling Accomplice, and we find our heroine Bess at home on leave from France and the horrors of World War I. During her ever-so-brief respite, Bess gets a shock when she receives word that a soldier she has no recollection of treating has requested she accompany him to Buckingham Palace, where King George will personally decorate him for bravery. Naturally she agrees and when the soldier in question disappears the following morning under her care, she is reprimanded by the army and her superiors. When the missing soldier is later suspected of a brutal murder, Bess feels it necessary to head north and clear her own name. Along for the ride is, as per usual, Simon Brandon. The two run about I picturesque northern England, following barely-there but coincidentally useful clues, on the hunt for Bess’ slippery ward.
This book was fine. I remember first reading this series and loving it. It’s totally up my alley in that it’s a mystery, it’s about British people, and it’s a period piece. I’ve read the previous five entries in the series and liked them to varying degrees. At this point though, I wonder how much more Bess has in her. The war is winding down. The story itself takes place in either April or August (one of the A months, I know that for sure) of 1918. Either way, there’s only so much time left for her to be a nursing sister. She could very well continue with that career post-war, but to what end? How likely would it be that a young woman in the 19-teens and 1920s England would be involved in too many mysteries, realistically? I don’t really remember much of the details from the book. It was peppered with red herrings, prime suspects, and twists. I didn’t solve the mystery prior to the denouement, but I’m fine with that. My only criticism with this book in particular is that a good chunk of Bess and Simon’s investigations felt repetitive.
What is pleasing is that they haven’t felt it necessary to really push the Bess and Simon relationship. Is Todd’s intention to have them ending up as a couple? It’s hard to say. I’d be fine with it if they did, however, I do enjoy that it’s so far from the focus that the real mystery comes through. If you need a quick mystery read and enjoy this time period, check it out.