After reading and listening to most all of Jacqueline Winspear’s later Maisie Dobbs mysteries, I’m going back to catch the one I missed. So here are my thoughts on #2 in the series, Birds of a Feather(2004).
The year is 1930, and Maisie has her own private investigation agency, and an assistant, Billy Beale. Turns out she and her doctor/fellow had saved Billy’s leg during the war, and he’d do anything to help her now — particularly as the soup lines and employment lines grow. The mystery involves a missing woman, Charlotte Waite, whose father owns a chain of grocery stores, prospering despite the depression. Maisie makes Waite promise to sit down and talk with his daughter when she’s located in order to get at the deeper problems in their relationship, not something this hardworking, generous, yet controlling man is used to hear from those in his employ.
As Maisie investigates, she finds out that Charlotte had connections to a murdered woman whose case is being handled by Inspector Stratton, whom she’s run across before, and she meets Dr. Andrew Dene, a fellow protege of her mentor, Maurice Blanche. Both men are interested in her, although she’s uncomfortable with their interest. Maurice asks her to confront her relationship with her father, not only because he’s aging, but because not doing so is preventing her from building relationships with others. Thus, Maisie’s investigations force her to face her own demons as well as those of the Waite family — which, as in so many of Winspear’s other books, lie rooted in World War I.
I have to say that I did not think this one was as good as some of the later Maisie Dobbs books. I didn’t like the fact that at a couple of points Maisie had information that wasn’t shared with the reader, only hinted at, and I thought the psychological, even supernatural, aspects were overplayed (such as when she almost fainted on the street in London and later found out her father had been injured working with a horse miles away at Lady Rowan’s country home). However, it’s a credit to the author that the books have improved with time, so I’m not going to complain too much about that.
And, since I’ve already reviewed book #3 in the Maisie Dobbs series, Pardonable Lies, you know I really love the rest of the books.