Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Forgotten Place by Charles Todd

First Sentence:  The war had ended, but not the suffering.
The war is officially over, and WWI field nurse Bess Crawford has been reassigned to a clinic in England for amputee soldiers.  After the suicide of one of her patients, Bess takes advantage of her 10-day leave, traveling to Wales to check on several of her Welsh patients, one about whom she is particularly concerned.  Deserted by her driver in a very small hamlet, Bess finds herself trapped in a place where she's not wanted but has no way to leave. What is the secret the inhabitants are hiding?  Are they willing to kill to keep that secret?
One realizes how important is an author's voice with from very start.  Todd touches one's emotions and gives the sense of reading a very personal letter.  There is an intimacy to the tone which immediately creates a bond between the author, the reader, and the character of Bess.
The long-lasting impact of war, particularly for the physically maimed, is effectively conveyed—"No conquering heroes, these men.  No victory parades for them.  Our patients were the ultimate reality of war."  It is nice to realize how far we've come from that.  Todd, however, shows that not only did the patients suffer, but so did the families, and the communities from which they came. That has not changed. 
Todd perfectly conveys the insular nature of a tiny community.  The secretiveness, closemindedness, and suspicion of anyone from somewhere else are well captured.  The portrayal of Bess' anger and frustration are extremely well done.  Conversely, we see her wisdom and experience when talking about grief—"To stop living in the present, clinging to the past, is part of mourning for a while, but you have to make a future for yourself.'
Since the story is told from Bess' point of view, much of it is internal narrative, yet the plot does hold one's interest all the way to the end.  A slight criticism would be that the end does feel a bit abrupt. 
"A Forgotten Place" includes well-done suspense, a palpable sense of danger, and a very good twist.   Do be sure to read the author notes.

A FORGOTTEN PLACE (HistMys-Bess Crawford-Wales-1919) – G+
      Todd, Charles – 10th in series
      William Morrow – Sept 2018

1 comment:

  1. I do like the fact that the 'Todd team' does such an effective job of conveying that small-town insularity and suspicion. And I think these novels also portray very effectively the effects of war that go beyond wounds and physical scars. There's solid treatment of psychological scars, the plight of vets trying to fit back in and get jobs, the whole thing. I like this series on that score.