Tuesday, September 28

Jacqueline Winspear: Maisie Dobbs

In post war London an ex-army nurse sets herself up as a private detective. Her first case is a husband who suspects his wife of being unfaithful. Investigation proves the wife’s innocence but opens up a greater mystery-what is really happening at a rest home for disfigured war veterans?
The more she uncovers, the greater her worry about her old comrades-in-arms becomes. With her worst fears confirmed it is up to her to save the lives of these men who have lost so much, facing her own demons in the process.
With a little help from her mentor and the local constabulary she manages to set things to rights and put her fledgling business on the map.
It took me quite a long time to read this because I kept comparing Maisie Dobbs with antipodean counterpart Phryne Fisher and Maisie came off a decided second best. The writing I associate with 1920s female detectives is much stronger and more subtle than this author’s, who has a 'tell rather than show' style. However, I eventually managed to give Maisie her due and ended up enjoying the story.
The initial case is simply a lead in to the greater mystery and is solved in the first quarter of the book. The story then regresses to tell us of the main character’s history from her early childhood through to the present day and while it gives great insight into her motivation, it makes the entire book feel like a prequel/prologue.
There is, however, a most satisfying conclusion to the many story threads.
I can’t say I’m sold on this series. Although it has many elements that I like in a story the author’s voice just misses the mark for me. I would consider giving another book in this highly successful series a go simply because, as I said earlier, this one felt like a prelude (or, to borrow TV terminology, a pilot episode) and I’d like to read a story dedicated entirely to a case.-Lynn

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