Like many other English girls did in the circumstances, Bess Crawford signs up to go overseas as a nurse during the Great War. While Bess is tending to the wounded, a dying young man asks her to deliver a strange message to his brother: “Tell Jonathan that I lied. I did it for Mother’s sake. But it has to be set right.” Later, when her hospital ship is sunk and she’s sent home with a broken arm, Bess resolves to find this Jonathan and deliver the message. However, when Jonathan and his family act like they don’t know what the message means, Bess decides that it’s her duty to investigate and “set right” what Jonathan’s family is trying to cover up.
Overall, not a bad book. Bess Crawford is (much to my surprise and delight) a likeable narrator. She’s sympathetic and caring and paints a vivid picture of the cold English countryside during WWI. While the book takes a while to really pick up, the final chapters were filled with so much action that I couldn’t put the book down until it was finished.
While it was an enjoyable read, there were several things that kept bothering me. I was surprised to find out that the author (authors, in fact, writing under a nom de plume) has written several other books before this one. The writing felt rough and unpolished, especially the dialogue, since most of the times it consisted of characters spouting random pieces of information at Bess, followed by an unrelated question, followed by some other random information that Bess had to recall thirty pages later to advance the plot. Most of said plot is also very transparent. It becomes clear right away (even before you find out who was murdered and how and when) that you only have two or three possible suspects, and then it’s just a matter of following Bess along in her motorcar ride through Kent (and the occasional train to London) until she puzzles it out.
It’s not a bad ride, though, especially for fans of historical mysteries who prefer intriguing characters over fingerprint analysis.