I'd forgotten my love/hate relationship with this one. I still love Bess (mostly, more below) as well as most of the book. The mystery is actually really interesting and the clues are there but very hard to find.
Sadly, we see little of her family though. Simon makes a few great appearances as if to soften the blow, but IMO only serves to show what could have been.
I blame it all on Lydia. What is it with women named this in literature being selfish idiots! (Literature only, I knew two real life Lydias and they are lovely women.)
Our hardworking nurse is extremely lucky and gets Christmas leave. Looking forward to seeing her family, she stumbles on a woman huddled in her doorway in London. Being the nice (and surprisingly unsuspecting) person she is, Bess gets herself pulling into not only a married couple's issues and a family's past, but a murder as well. No good deed goes unpunished.
While I definitely feel for Lydia at the beginning - she flees to London after her husband, freshly home from the trenches, slapped her after admittedly a below the belt remark - she uses up all my goodwill very quickly. Look, I can see both sides to their argument (not him hitting her though!). She wants a child so that should the worst happen, she'll still have something of him. Not the best reason to have a child but understandable under the circumstances. Her husband, Rodger, was scarred as a child by his young sister's death and the affect the loss had on his family. He does not want to relive that and can't see beyond the pain. However, their reactions are both wrong. He doesn't try to work through his issue and understand her point of view and she's too busy whining about how selfish he is. Argh.
And here's where my patience with Lydia dies a quick death. She's overly dramatic, prone to almost cruel actions that she clearly gives no thought to or their effect on others, dithers when she needs to make a decision, and is unbelievably selfish. The examples are unending but I'll give a few here (and try not to spoil anything).
She's not known Bess 24 hours before she's all but making demands of her, basically manipulating her to come with her rather than go home to see her family for Christmas leave! How you could even have the gall... Rather than doing something crazy like talking to her husband, she moves herself to another bedroom and then proclaims she's leaving for London, though she has no idea what she'll do when she gets there. Clearly Bess is suppose to take care of that. Even after he leaves his family home early so that she will feel able to remain, she continues to try to leave and inconveniences everyone, not even caring when a guest seems to have disappeared and people are concerned for him.
My biggest problem has to be hidden as a spoiler:(show spoiler)
Despite all that, I really do like this book, particularly as its focus expanded to look at the Australian forces, French orphans, and just a glimpse of what the French as a whole were suffering.
Yes, on to the next one. If I remember correctly, it was one of my favorites.