Sunday, March 01, 2009

An Incomplete Revenge (2008)

An Incomplete Revenge (2008) is Jacqueline Winspear's fifth book in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series. I haven't read any of the others, but I got this one free as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, so I figured it wouldn't hurt to jump in at the middle. An Incomplete Revenge works great as a stand alone novel, but the character of Maisie Dobbs is so interesting and well-drawn, that I really want to go back and read the previous books in the series.

The book takes place about a decade after World War I in England, and Maisie Dobbs is a "psychologist and investigator" running her own firm in London. Maisie served as a nurse in the war, an experience which still affects her daily, particularly because her great love, a doctor with her in the War, was seriously injured during a bombing raid and is still languishing, unresponsive, in a convalescent hospital. Maisie takes a job investigating a series of petty crimes and annual unreported fires in a village near the estate where her father works as a groomsman. Her father's employer wants to buy the brickworks and associated land near the village, but wants her to figure out what is behind the mysterious crime spree before he signs the check. Maisie heads out there during "hopping" season with the other Londoners that spend their summer getting out of the city and picking hops in the fields at the big estates. In addition to all the Londoners, a group of gypsies is also working the fields, and tensions run high between the mysteriously silent villagers, the London interlopers, and the close-knit gypsies. Maisie's skills of observation and her sensitivity to other people allow her to seamlessly move between these three groups as she unravels the terrible secret of the town and solves her case.

The mystery here is excellent, and Winspear gives the reader enough clues to figure out most of what is going on just before she reveals it, and saves a nice twist for the end that is surprising without leaving the reader feeling cheated. Intertwined with the mystery is the character of Maisie herself -- complex, sympathetic, and constantly growing.

As you might have noticed, I don't read that many contemporary mystery novels, and tend to be more of a hard-boiled pulpy type. However, I'd make an exception for the Maisie Dobbs novels, and I can't wait to read them all.

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