Thursday, April 25, 2013

Shelf Life [adult]

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs has come a long way from her start as a kitchen maid in a large country estate. Given a formal education, she lied about her age and enlisted as a nurse in WWI. She got wounded, lost her first love, and was mentored by a man to whom world leaders turned for advice. She opened and ran a successful private investigation firm, was left a fortune by her mentor, and is close to becoming the mistress of the same country estate where she was a kitchen maid, through her relationship with the family’s son. This may make Miss Maisie Dobb seem a very ambitious woman, but she is far from ruthless in her ambition. In fact, Maisie Dobbs is probably one of the most compassionate detectives ever penned. Her inability to bring a murderer to justice in her last case weighs heavily on her – the murderer is a man who holds a key to keeping the rising threat of Germany at bay. This, combined with her current case involving the deaths of two Indian women, bring her to the brink of a decision that will change her future. When an Indian woman is found in a canal, having been shot between the eyes, Scotland Yard allows the case to slide for months until the young woman’s brother comes to England. He had served England in WWI himself but this passes no muster with the local police, so he visits Maisie Dobbs. As Maisie investigates she finds that the woman, Usha, had a special gift; courageous and unafraid – even in a foreign country where the colour of her skin and the bright softness of her sari is regarded with suspicion – Usha used her knowledge of exotic herbs and spices to ease the pain of those others would shun. Is this the reason someone chose to shoot her, afraid of her very courage? Then why shoot – in the exact same manner – her friend Maya, a homesick former ayah with no such talent? In the course of her investigation, Maisie encounters blatant racism, underhanded exploitation, dubious alternative churches, the continuing influence of shell-shock, and the lasting effects of domestic abuse. But she also encounters resilience, indomitable human spirits, true love and kindness, even as she prepares to make a life-altering choice that will affect everyone around her.  Those familiar with the Maisie Dobbs series will find Leaving Everything Most Loved a hugely satisfactory addition that will have audiences eagerly anticipating her next novel, which is sure to be the most adventurous yet; I would recommend new readers for the series to start with the first novel, simply called Maisie Dobbs, to get a better sense of her back story, before moving on to any of the others. 

This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on April 25, 2013. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Librarian. 

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