This is the third book in a series about a WWI English nurse who solves crimes. It was a huge letdown, because I liked Bess in the first book, but the plot of this book was a complete mess. It starts off as a typical cozy mystery in which someone is murdered and everyone at the manor is a suspect, but the bitter truth about this book is that you have no chance in hell to solve the mystery. The rules of fair play whodunnit are completely tossed out of the window, and in the last few chapters a secondary character appears out of the blue with a piece of information that explains the motive for the crime, which is completely different from what you’ve been led to believe up to that point and impossible to guess.
I found that really disappointing, because of all the time wasted on talking to all the other suspects and pursuing other leads. If the authors were going to make a random character the murderer, they could have spent more chapters developing the main character. Bess does a lot of, well, to be frank, she acts like a criminal. She’s complicit in the kidnapping of a young child from her caretakers, for example. One could make the case that she was trying to act in the child’s best interests and that the war made circumstances different, but to me it looked as if she has no idea what she’s doing. She hurts a lot of people out of thoughtlessness, but it’s all glossed over because she’s meant to be a good character.
Then there’s the matter of Roger, who hit his wife hard enough to give her a concussion, but that’s also forgotten when he becomes friends with Bess. I don’t know about you, Bess, but if I know a man has a history of violence, is always angry, and is a suspect in a murder inquiry, I wouldn’t want to follow him if he says he wants to talk in private. But, like everyone is fond of saying at every turn, who cares about a small disagreement between man and wife as long as the sanctity of marriage is saved. I would have accepted it if there had been some kind of commentary from Bess along the lines of “this is how people think in this day and age and it sucks but what can you do” like her interior monologue when she first saw Lydia’s bruises. But that was before meeting Roger. After she meets Roger he seems like a nice person so she conveniently neglects to think about Lydia’s concussion ever again. Plus, everyone including Lydia agrees that it’s her fault for making him mad after all.
So yeah it was a mess of a book and killed all my interest in this series with one fell swoop. I wanted to find out more about Simon Brandon and about the Australian soldier, but I prefer my mysteries (and my characters) to be a little less random. I’m afraid this is yet another series in which I’d recommend to read the first book, pretend it’s a standalone, and don’t bother about the rest.