Bess Crawford is a World War I battlefield nurse serving in France. In this, the seventh in the series, she is visiting the Ashton family in Kent, an English village, while her train has been delayed. She gets caught up in investigating a two-year-old fatal explosion at the Ashton Gunpowder Mill, and seeks to prove the innocence of Philip Ashton, who has recently been arrested for murder in the deaths of over a hundred men who worked in the mill at that time. There is a man fighting on the front lines in France who is said to have been a witness. He may be able to help free Philip but when Bess finds and approaches him, he refuses to return with her. Not only that, but many of the villagers also seem to have suddenly bought into the idea that Philip is responsible. Bess finds herself in a very dangerous situation as she continues to pursue truth and justice.
Todd paints Bess as a brave and determined heroine who has an uncanny sense when it comes to solving mysteries. She’s true to herself and true to her friends. The Ashton’s personalities were well drawn as the British upper class that they were. This is fictional, yet much of the series is based on actual historical events. In the Author’s Note, this story is loosely based on a fire and explosion at Faversham’s Oare Gunpowder Works in April 1916. In the series, it’s now 1918 and with the WWI drawing to a close, I wonder how and if the stories of Nurse Bess Crawford will continue. I wouldn’t actually recommend beginning the series here. Bess’s character, so viable in prior works, was just a bit flat in this one. Rating: 3.5 out of 5.