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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.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 August 2011
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!
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VINE VOICEon 9 March 2009
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.
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on 29 November 2013
I am not sure what it is about Maisie Dobbs and her friends and family that draw me but I can't put these books down once I start reading them(in order). An Incomplete Revenge is another good yarn, set in the interwar years drawing on contemporary lifestyles and prejudices. Maybe I envy Maisie her independence and career? She is certainly a great character and I look forward to reading the rest of the books.
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on 9 March 2017
I loved this as much as all the other Maisie Dobbs mysteries. It's not about a recent murder, so a bit different -- but still very good.
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on 6 August 2017
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Very enjoyable. A most unusual detective in Maisy Dobbs having almost a second sight, spiritual dimension to her solving mysteries and crimes.
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on 31 July 2017
Jacqueline Winspear - and Maisie Dobbs never disappoint
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on 24 March 2010
While I did enjoy this book, it had a VERY slow start and it took me weeks to read it which is unusual for me. I would not call it a page turner until one gets towards the end and the reader already has guessed the truth.
To me, this book was a little bit too much "mumbo jumbo". It is set in 1931 during hop picking season in Kent and Maisie Dobbs is asked by a friend to investigate a village and estate before the friend purchases the latter. Every year a fire breaks out and the fire brigade is not called out, every year thefts are made but never reported to the police. So the case is a slow one and it is difficult to keep one's eyes open when Maisie slowly tries to interview the villagers that refuse to answer questions. Add to this the hop pickers that have got in to trouble, the gypsies present that are disliked by the Londoners as well as the villagers. Early on we are told about the gypsy matriarch being psychic and of course Maisie being so too perhaps thanks to being 1/4 gypsy herself. The book tends to become a little bit too much "medium"/"ghost whisperer" for my taste. When Maisie and the gypsy matriarch goes out to find things with the help of a stick guiding them, it almost got too much for me.
I still liked the book since there is a real mystery to why the villagers do not want to talk about the Zeppeline bombing that occured in 1915. A very tragic story comes forth and makes the book worthwhile reading. The truth behind why a family of three died that night is horrifying and tells about what war does to the people back home and their psyche. That not only the soldiers have to deal with terrible experiences and then memories.
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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?
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