on 24 February 2008
For those who have not yet read the Maisie Dobbs series of novels, it is my advice not to start with this one, but with the first in the series entitled Maisie Dobbs and then read the next four in chronological order. For those already familiar with Maisie, and who already know the back story of our psychologist/private investigator, they certainly won't be disappointed with her latest exploits.
It is 1931, the country is deep in economic recession and Maisie is concerned about her business. She is therefore delighted to accept an assignment to investigate certain matters concerning a possible land purchase. Her investigations take her to rural Kent during the late summer hop picking season, to a village in which mysterious fires have taken place with alarming regularity and where the villagers - suspicious of everyone, particularly those involved in the hop picking (the families from London's East End and gypsies) - hide behind a wall of secrecy. As well as investigating the potential land purchase, Maisie is keen to discover the truth behind the fires.
As with Jacqueline Winspear's former Maisie Dobbs novel, this latest one is rich with period detail (a time when even a telephone was a luxury item) as well as instances of the gypsy language. This is the most exciting, atmospheric and enthralling of the Maisie Dobbs novels to date.
on 6 January 2013
Maisie leaves London and heads to Kent in the middle of hopping season to undertake some investigations into a brickworks and the surrounding village.
While I enjoy the Maisie Dobbs series (if you're completely unfamiliar, think post-WW1 solo female detective, a former nurse with painful history), there are several elements to the series that don't click with me - Maisie's psychic abilities are up there (I like fantasy, I just don't like psychics in historical fiction), as is her overly formal thought process and communication with other people. Maisie is supposed to draw people in and have them confide in her, and yet it puzzles me sometimes why people do so when faced with her cold calm exterior.
In this book, we get some sort of explanation for Maisie's psychic gifts when we discover she has Gypsy heritage. *sigh* A little romanticised and... well, silly, for my taste, but it doesn't overwhelm the story, which is a nice little mystery firmly rooted in the War, as are most of Maisie's investigations. I do like the way this series brings to life post-war England, and the way the war has affected so many lives, the very heart and spirit of the country.
Maisie has to let go of a painful link to her past, and it is nice to see a consistent maturing of her character as the books go on. I will definitely keep reading these, despite never rating them too highly - I like Maisie despite myself.
Enjoyed this episode of the Maisie Dobbs series very much. I had felt that one or two of the more recent one's weren't quite as strong, but this one tied up loose ends and filled in some gaps in the backstory and seemed to set the stage for Maisie to go forward in future episodes with a renewed strength. The whole series is an interesting exploration of the aftermath of the First World War which was still evident when I was a child (in the late 40s and 50s)when the widows and spinsters of the First War were joined by those whose lives were similarly reshaped by the Second. It's made me reconsider the wonderful women who were my teachers and who had experienced similar traumas. A fascinating social history of this period and it's social effect on women is to be found in "Singled Out" which I'd also highly recommend.
If you decide to read these books do start at the beginning to really appreciate Maisie's psychological approach to detection.
on 17 March 2009
Maisie Dobbs is a private investigator and psychologist in early 1930s London.
She solves mysteries by a combination of intuition and gentle probing. Shades of Miss Marple perhaps - only younger and driving an MG.
The nuances of 1930s class and speech are well observed, though sometimes the use of modern psychological ideas such as focusing or visualisation jar with the 1930s setting.
All the problems Maisie deals with have their roots in the First World War. Its aftermath and effect on combatants and non-combatants alike is a theme running through all the Maisie Dobbs novels - an original idea.
Dramatisations of the novels would make ideal Sunday night viewing. I wonder if any production company has shown interest?
'The old woman rested on the steps of her home, a caravan set apart from those of the rest of her family, her tribe.'
Maisie Dobbs is a great concept - she's a career woman - a career investigator. She uses the psychological in her detection - NLP-like techiques at times. And then the time period in fascinating - post WW1, Maisie was a nurse in the war, her sweetheart was horribly injured. There are class considerations - she is the working class daughter of a groom in a large estate but almost an adopted daughter to that much grander family. She went to Girton college and is therefore a bluestocking. She is, in short, a remarkable woman in a fascinating period.
The execution of these novels doesn't quite pull it off in terms of realising the potential that Winspear has set up and I agree with other reviewers that the series is somewhat uneven. This novel stands alone but will work better if read in sequence. This time the setting is in Kent - the East Enders are there for the hop picking and Maisie investigates some strange goings on invliving gypsies, semi feudalism and land.
I think this is a 3.5 star book - very readable, nice sense of time and place. I'd give it four if the mystery were more mysterious.
on 3 February 2011
This is the 5th in the Series of Maisie Dobbs Books & a great read
In this one you read about how Londoners & Gypsies went down to the hop fields of Kent you still have the way the 1st World War touches people & how they try to deal with it
I really enjoyed this book & certainly recommend it, you do really need to read the books in order so you can follow the characters but the story in each book is a complete one so if you did read it you could still follow it just that i feel you miss something.
Maisie Dobbs is working for James Compton – son of Lord Julian and Lady Rowan, Maisie’s former employers when she was a servant. She has been asked to find out background information on an estate in Kent that the Compton Company wants to buy.
It is hop picking season and Billy Beale, Maisie’s assistant, takes his family into Kent to take part in the picking while he is sleuthing for Maisie. The villagers seem to be very close knit and they don’t want to talk about past events and they won’t report crimes which seem to happen at the same time each year.
This is a very dark mystery where the shadows of World War I still hang heavy over the villagers and are still affecting events in the nineteen thirties. Maisie also has to face up to her own past and try to understand her mother’s family background. The story shows the best of human nature and the worst. The book could be read as a standalone novel but is probably better read as part of a series. This is number five.
An Incomplete Revenge is the fifth book in the Maisie Dobbs series by British-born American author, Jacqueline Winspear. James Compton, son of Maisie’s long-time patron, Lady Compton, is in the process of purchasing a large estate at Heronsdene, Kent for the family company, but some incidents of petty crime, vandalism and small fires in the area are cause for concern, so Maisie is engaged to conduct enquiries. It is early autumn of 1931, and as these cases all seem to occur during the hop harvest, it is especially convenient that her assistant, Billy Beale usually takes his family for a working holiday hop-picking at this time, and is able to contract to the farm on said estate. The waters are muddied, somewhat, by the influx of large groups of Londoners and gypsies, all taking part in the harvest, and the fact that the villagers of Heronsdene seem reluctant to involve the police or fire-brigade. It appears that the land-owner, Alfred Sandermere, is a poor businessman and not well-liked by his tenant farmers or the villagers. A theft from the Manor house, blamed on two young London boys, sees Maisie visiting the gypsy matriarch in search of information. Maisie notices that the mood in the village is unusual: there is an undercurrent of fear in addition to the resentment and suspicion that the presence of the Londoners and gypsies usually brings. It seems the villagers are still keenly feeling the wartime loss of many of their young men, and are strangely hesitant to discuss the Zeppelin raid that occurred in 1916. In trying to determine if this is a case of sabotage, insurance fraud, opportunistic theft by itinerant workers or something else entirely, Maisie’s investigations lead her to encounters with a determined journalist, a dishonest vicar, a loyal dog, some reticent villagers, a luthier and a very snobbish land-owner. She helps to fight a fire, learns to dowse for silver, attends two funerals, dances with gypsies, reconciles with an old friend and picks some hops. Winspear touches on school bullying, prejudice against gypsies and anyone who is different, mob mentality and, of course, revenge. Her extensive research into gypsy customs and beliefs and into hops and hop picking in the early 20th century is apparent in every page. This gentle-paced mystery has quite a twist in the tail: a shocking crime that only becomes apparent in the last few chapters. Once again, an excellent read that will have Winspear fans looking forward to the next book in the series, Among The Mad.
on 13 October 2013
I have really enjoyed the Maisie Dobbs series but this review is of the audiobook of Incomplete Revenge read by Orlagh Cassidy. While I read the other books in this series, I decided to listen to this one. I will not be listening to any others.
Firstly, this reader cannot do accents. Maisie, the Oxford educated former maid sounds virtually the same as Priscilla, a bona fide member of the gentry and yet often is indistinguishable from her costermonger father and her Cockney assistant Billy. This makes it very difficult to follow conversations. The Cockney and gipsy accents are not only not very good but they are also very inconsistent as some sentences will be read with a marked accent and others will slip back into the narrator's voice. Again, this is very confusing to listen to.
Secondly, the reader uses American pronunciations of words such as 'vase'. Listening to a novel set in 1930s Britain in which someone puts flowers in a 'vace' is jarring to say the least.
Thirdly, the reader simply does not know how to pronounce many words. Michaelmas, admittedly an uncommon word, is pronounced by her as Michael-mas instead of 'Mikelmas' but then 'barren' is pronounced 'bare-an'.
All in all the effect is of trying to immerse oneself in a novel but being prevented at regular intervals by poor and lazy reading.
I am a huge fan of audiobooks but in this instance, I would advise readers and listeners to stick to a format which does Winspear justice and to avoid any audiobook read by Orlagh Cassidy.
This is a highly atmospheric novel combining a vivid picture of life in the 1930s with a well-researched portrayal of Romany culture. This instalment of the sleuthing career of Maisie Dobbs has a strong story-line that coptivated me with its opening paragraph and held my attention until the story's end, when I closed the book regretfully, wishing that I could learn more about its chief characters. The Maisie Dobbs stories are gently civilised and full of fascinating characterisations, although there are the almost inevitable departures from probability that enable the writers of detective stories to provide a neatly shaped plot. Someone I know commented that the Maisie Dobbs novels are 'Tommy and Tuppence meet Miss Marple' and, apart from being set in the same era, they do have a similar pace and cultivated tone. However, I don't find this a drawback but rather a delighrful change from the violence and amoral tone of many modern whodunnits and thrillers. What delights me about these books is that they are highly moral and psychologically truthful, so that I am provoked to think and to learn.Maisie's philosophy is not mine and I suspect some of her ideas very much, but I am delighted that I know what they are and have to evaluate them. They affirm that we live in a moral universe.
Maisy's own story is involving, if a bit unlikely, and that of her assistant, Billy, is actually painfully likely. Jacqueliine Winspear made me care about what happens to them. Certainly, I understand the early part of the twentieth century much better than I did before.
I did not read the novels in order but read the third in the series and immediately ordered all the others from Amazon. Now,I have nearly finished reading them all and will be horrified when there aren't any more for me to plunge into!