Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Genre: Fiction (Historical / 1930s / Mystery / London / Private Investigator / Murder / post-WWI)
Publisher/Publication Date: Harper Perennial (4/22/2011)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Did I finish?: Yes -- and immediately wanted more!
One-sentence summary: In 1932, a former WWI nurse-turned-PI investigates the mysterious death of a WWI soldier.
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction
Do I like the cover?: I adore it -- I believe Andrew Davidson is the illustrator for the whole series and I adore the vintage-y feel of the art as well as the imagery here. The focus of Maisie's investigation is a cartographer, and the two locales on the cover feature in the novel. Very nice details reflected here.
I'm reminded of...: Nicola Upson
First line: Michael Clifton stood on a hill burnished gold in the summer sun and, hands on his hips, closed his eyes.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Start reading this series, stat.
Why did I get this book?: I've long been curious about the Maisie Dobbs series, and last year, nomadreader called it her favorite Maisie Dobbs book to date.
Review: I hate coming in to a series midway, but after hearing nothing but raves for the Maisie Dobbs book, and this one in particular, I decided to plunge in and see what happened. I'm both sad and pleased I did so, because I had such a great time with this book, and I am desperate to start the series and get more Maisie.
When describing this to my wife, Masterpiece Theater/BBC-ish-ness is what I latched on to: Maisie is restrained, scarred by her experiences in World War I, in an era in which class and gender structures are being rigidly maintained and shaken up. (I kept recasting her in my mental film, since the only thing I'm fuzzy on is her age.) She's from of a working class family but had a unique opportunity to gain education, and as a result, she's aware of her place both 'upstairs' and 'downstairs'. I'm sure the theme of class straddling isn't new to the Maisie books, but I really liked that Winspear doesn't dismiss this after the first few books as I'm sure it colored and affected every aspect of Maisie's interactions.
The feel of the mystery runs more like Agatha Christie -- we're told about the crime, but we don't witness any gruesomeness, which I appreciate! -- but unlike Christie, this isn't a cagey whodunnit. I'm lazy with my mysteries -- I don't like to solve the crime -- so I appreciated that Maisie did the heavy lifting for me.
There's a romantic element to the story that I understand is a bit new and unusual for the series, which again I have mixed feelings about: on one hand, I love savoring it here, and I'm a bit sad I'll have to wait six books for it!; and on the other hand, I really appreciate that Winspear doesn't keep her 'formula' for these novels the same and force Maisie to remain without affection.
I'm being pretty vague on the plot because ultimately that wasn't what hooked me to the story. Like everyone has said, Maisie really is reason for reading, and I found her to be fascinating, intimidating, and appealing. I think one could read this story with no knowledge of the Maisie universe and be fine: Winspear offers tidbits that reference the previous books, and I never felt baffled or confused by a relationship she had.
Now I just have to decide: start with book one, or grab book 8 (A Lesson in Secrets)?
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As part of the March is Maisie Month Blog Tour, I have two giveaways! Both are for US/CA readers and close 3/30.
Enter to win a copy of The Mapping of Love and Death!
Enter to win a copy of the newest Maisie Dobbs novel, Elegy for Eddie!