I spied my first Maisie Dobbs novel while exploring the fiction stacks at my local library. It was the character’s name that first piqued my interest; I suspected she would be a plucky, young woman determined to prove herself as a private eye, which sounded right up my alley. Then, it was the beautiful book covers that made me pine for the first book in the series, something my local library unfortunately did not have. I returned week after week, but no such luck. Even though I was a tad reluctant to start yet another mystery series promptly in the middle, when TLC Book Tours offered me the opportunity to participate in the Month of Maisie blog tour, I couldn’t resist. Throughout the month of March, several bloggers will be blogging about Jacqueline Winspear’s historical mystery books from the series starter to her newest novel Maisie Dobbs: Journey to Munich, which will be released on March 29, 2016.
Released: June 2008
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
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Synopsis: With the country in the grip of economic malaise, and worried about her business, Maisie Dobbs is relieved to accept an apparently straightforward assignment from an old friend to investigate certain matters concerning a potential land purchase. Her inquiries take her to a picturesque village in Kent during the hop-picking season, but beneath its pastoral surface she finds evidence that something is amiss. Mysterious fires erupt in the village with alarming regularity, and a series of petty crimes suggests a darker criminal element at work. As Maisie discovers, the villagers are bitterly prejudiced against outsiders who flock to Kent at harvest time–even more troubling, they seem possessed by the legacy of a wartime Zeppelin raid. Maisie grows increasingly suspicious of a peculiar secrecy that shrouds the village, and ultimately she must draw on all her finely honed skills of detection to solve one of her most intriguing cases.
Rich with Jacqueline Winspear’s trademark period detail, this latest installment of the bestselling series is gripping, atmospheric, and utterly enthralling.
I wasn’t enamored…at first
I struggled to immerse myself in An Incomplete Revenge, partially because I’m a distracted reader and partially because I’ve never read a mystery novel quite like this. Most mystery novels I’ve read started off with a bang. Quite literally, like a gunshot wound or vehicular homicide or being bludgeoned over the head with a totem from a paranormal museum. The crimes in An Incomplete Revenge are more subtle; breaking and entering, stolen family heirlooms, and a string of fires that seem more of a nuisance than a life threatening situation. (Is it insurance fraud? Are companies exploiting a village to ensure they can buy land at bargain prices? Or is something even more sinister going on?) Plus, there was quite a bit of back story leading up to the investigation. But, once I started chapter six, I was hooked. Winspear’s pacing was perfect as she masterfully weaved multiple mysteries that kept me guessing all the way to the end and complex relationships throughout 320 pages that seemed all too brief for me.
The Maisie Dobbs novels are a wonderful blend of mystery and history
I was on a mystery novel bender, which is why I plucked a Maisie Dobbs novel off the shelf in the first place. But, it was that historical fiction aspect that truly intrigued me. Like many of the novels in the beginning of this series, An Incomplete Revenge takes place in 1931 England. Maisie’s character is colored by her experience with World War I, during which she served as a nurse to wounded soldiers. The detail of post-World War England is rich– the prejudices, the desire to rebuild, women trying to stay in the workforce after male counterparts have returned home, and of course the grieving of loved ones lost to the war. But, the Maisie Dobbs novels aren’t just set in the early 1930s. They progress down the timeline eventually leading to the start of WWII, which is when A Trip to Munich takes place, and I so terribly want to read it!
I wouldn’t recommend starting in the middle with this series
For some reason, I break reading law when it comes to mystery novels. So often can they be read as stand-alones that I’ve never felt the pressure to read a mystery series in order, but that is not the case with the Maisie Dobbs novels. The secondary characters and the relationships they hold with Maisie are so wonderfully developed that for once, I felt like I was missing out having not read the previous books. There are two characters I have in mind:
- Her beloved Simon, who has spent the post war years as an invalid in a hospital after enemy bombs rained down upon the military hospital where he (and Maisie) worked. In An Incomplete Revenge, even though Simon was still alive, Maisie is seeking closure from losing the Simon she knew and loved during the war, but I’m curious to know how she handled herself prior to this novel.
- Her estranged mentor, Maurice Blanche, who is barely on speaking terms with Maisie. I was dying to know just what Blanche did to drive Maisie away. (Don’t tell me! I’m going to pick up the earlier books in this series to find out!)
Winspear, you’ve made a new fan out of me
I finished this book feeling positively giddy (and with a sudden craving for eccles cakes, whatever those are) because by far An Incomplete Revenge is one of the most thought-provoking and complexly written mystery novels I have ever had the pleasure to read. If you read this novel and find yourself sluggishly reading through the first couple of chapters, stick with it because the last half of the book (three-quarters, really) are absolutely rewarding. I won’t be bothering with the library to track down the first couple of books in this series; I’ll be going directly to the bookstore because I need more Maisie Dobbs in my life ASAP!
I received a copy of An Incomplete Revenge for free in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts are ever my own.