An Unwilling Accomplice (Bess Crawford, Book #6)
by Charles Todd
Release Date: August 12th 2014
2014 William Morrow
Hardcover Edition; 352 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher
3.5 / 5 Stars
Home on leave, Bess
Crawford is asked to accompany a wounded soldier confined to a
wheelchair to Buckingham Palace, where he’s to be decorated by the King.
The next morning when Bess goes to collect Wilkins, he has vanished.
Both the Army and the nursing service hold Bess negligent for losing the
war hero, and there will be an inquiry.
Then comes disturbing
word from the Shropshire police, complicating the already difficult
situation: Wilkins has been spotted, and he’s killed a man. If Bess is
to save her own reputation, she must find Wilkins and uncover the truth.
But the elusive soldier has disappeared again and even the Shropshire
police have lost him. Suddenly, the moral implications of what has
happened—that a patient in her charge has committed murder—become more
important to Bess than her own future. She’s going to solve this
mysterious puzzle, but righting an injustice and saving her honor may
just cost Bess her life.
An Unwilling Accomplice is the sixth novel in the Bess Crawford series, and while not exactly my favourite of the series thus far, it was still a fun and interesting entry in a series I enjoy for its descriptions of life on the Western Front as well as the life of a gentlewoman who decided to do her part and become a nurse. Unfortunately, the events in this novel occurred far more often in England than in France, and I couldn't help but be somewhat disappointed by that.
The plot, I thought, was more mundane than usual, although the conclusion definitely made up for it and caught me somewhat by surprise. There was a moment when the possible solution that actually occurred did cross my mind, but the plot line did throw me off somewhat and I began to question my own logic somewhat. Having read every single Todd novel out there, you develop an understanding and expectation for the unexpected, and I did think the solution was too plausible for the author. But I got caught, thinking the plot was more convoluted than it actually was, and I do have to commend the author for that, as it was her wonderful writing style that did do that. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to make up for the banality of some of the book, and I did find myself bored on occasion, wondering when things were going to get going. Too much driving around, and too much annoying people and interfering in what should be a police officer's job. It was fascinating to read about England during the war, and to learn about how people fought to survive during this time period, but there should have been more of a balance between that and the actual plot.
As always, I enjoyed Bess and Simon enormously, but what I wanted to happen didn't, and I am extremely disappointed by that. I would love to see the two of them get together, and while I am not a fan of "insta-love", I am also not a fan of dragging things into a "million" books just to keep a reader on the hook. I did enjoy the banter between Bess and Simon, and I like how he is protective of her. It is definitely interesting to see how the world was changing during this time period, and how Bess is slowly throwing off the shackles that bound her as a Victorian woman into one that is becoming far more independent and capable. As a history teacher, I am fascinated by this time period, and the transformation of women into independent, free thinkers, who challenged the boundaries set for them, and forged paths that would allow us to have the independence and freedom we have today. Quite an amazing time period!! And Todd captures it quite well in this novel, despite the issues I have with the plot. Bess still has quite a few strictures placed on her while at home, but is expected to behave as a professional while on the field, and I find the dichotomy of this quite fascinating. No wonder women were so confused as to what was really expected of them, and why so many began rebelling. The restrictions placed upon her as a nurse to keep her reputation spotless at all times must have been extremely stressful.
An Unwilling Accomplice is one of those novels I pushed myself to get through because I enjoyed the writing style and the research was quite good. I wasn't as crazy about the plot in this one, and thought it was the weakest of the entries in what has been a solid series so far. I did enjoy the characters and there were some new, interesting ones in the villages Bess and Simon drove through, and it definitely captured the close-mouthed times, when people would protect each other at all costs. I would like to see more depth to both Simon and Bess's characters though, as at times it is difficult to feel real empathy for either of them, something that is more evident in Todd's Ian Rutledge series. Despite all of this, I will still read the next book in the series as I am curious as to how things will develop now that we are close to the end of the war.