I’m pretty sure I was first in line on the library wait list for Jacqueline Winspear’s latest Maisie Dobbs book, Leaving Everything Most Loved, because it’s one of my favorite mystery series. You might’ve even noticed it was one I turned to last spring and summer when life was not so good.
Much like me last year at this time, Maisie’s at a turning point in her life. Her partner, James Compton, is ready for marriage, but she’s not so sure. Her loyal assistant, Billy Beale, isn’t recovering from an injury as well as anyone would like. She feels called to travel, but isn’t sure if she’s running to something or from something. Would going abroad for a time mean leaving everything she loves most?
Before she can move ahead with travel plans, though, Maisie has a case to solve. One of her spiritual mentors, Khan, sends Mr. Pramal to her because Scotland Yard has apparently put little effort into solving the murder of his sister, Usha. The trail is cold now; Pramal has come all the way from India, and Maisie’s Scotland Yard associate, Detective Caldwell, admits that after the trail went cold the police did little to work on the case. No one was there to push them, he says.
Maisie begins by trying to get to know Usha. She finds people who knew her, talks to other Indian immigrants, even tries her hand at cooking Indian food. She learns that Usha had a gift in healing the sick and injured, through Indian folk remedies as well as her sympathetic touch. Everyone who knew her talked about her self-confidence, beauty, and spirit, to the point that Maisie wonders if someone killed her out of sheer jealousy. Of course part of what Maisie is exploring here is what it would be like for her to try to enter another culture as Usha had done. She reveals that she knows little about India and, if she decides to follow her mentor Maurice’s footsteps to travel in India, will be entirely unprepared for the revolutionary movement taking place there during the 1930s.
In the meantime, Maisie begins to realize that Billy can no longer do the job. She sends him home for additional recovery time from a head injury he incurred in an earlier book and takes over his case, that of a missing boy, who, it turns out, might be connected to Usha Pramal’s death. It’s clear that Maisie will have to make decisions not just in her personal life but also about her investigations business.
This book reminded me of the second book in a trilogy — its ending is really just a way station, not a final destination. If you haven’t read the series already, don’t start with this one… but do start.