Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

Title: The Mapping of Love and Death
Author: Jacqueline Winspear
ISBN: 9780061727665, Harper Collins, 2010
Genre: Historical Mystery, Private Investigator, #7 Maisie Dobbs mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Amazon Vine

First Line: Michael Clifton stood on a hill burnished gold in the summer sun and, hands on hips, closed his eyes.

Try as I might not to play favorites, there are still mystery series that are near and dear to my heart-- ones that I will always recommend first whenever I'm asked "What's good?" Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series is on the shortlist of my favorite series. I know readers who do not like the time period about which it's written (1930s showing the aftereffects of World War I), but they love these books, and it's all due to the characters.

Maisie was born into the English lower class and became a maid for a wealthy family when she was a young girl. Fortunately her employers were liberal thinkers who recognized Maisie's intelligence and fed it. After serving as a nurse in France during World War I, Maisie completed her university education and with the help of her teacher and mentor, Maurice Blanche, she set up practice in London as a private investigator.

In this seventh installment of the series, Maisie is asked to help a wealthy American couple after their son's body is plowed up in a French field. Although the rest of the bodies in the bunker died when it collapsed, Michael Clifton did not. He had been murdered. His parents are not aware of that fact, but Maisie is. What his parents are concerned about are the love letters from an English nurse that were given to them with the rest of Michael's effects. When Maisie begins her investigation, the American couple is attacked in their hotel room and very seriously injured. Maisie knows she's going to have to be very careful working this case.

In each book, Winspear addresses an area of World War I that may not be familiar to most readers. The Mapping of Love and Death covers the importance of cartography in the conflict. The mystery was dangerous, but one of its threads was a bit easy to guess. What I enjoyed most about the book was the author's setting the stage for future events in her characters' lives.

She shows the utmost empathy when writing about World War I and its effects on people, but she never leaves her characters behind. Maisie's assistant, Billy Beale, has his own aspirations and problems to deal with, and they're a part of the story. Maisie's mentor, the elderly Maurice Blanche, plays a role in this book, as does James Compton, the son of the people whom Maisie worked for as a young girl.

In a way, the mystery in The Mapping of Love and Death took a backseat to the main characters, but I didn't mind at all since I got the distinct impression that Winspear was doing a bit of her own cartography with her characters' futures. I am definitely looking forward to the next books in this series!


  1. This is a series that I've been meaning to get back to for some time. The books keep coming out though! :-)

    I did enjoy the first book when I read it and I'm sure I'll eventually move on in my reading of the rest of the series. Thanks for nudging me along, Cathy!

  2. I hadn't heard of this series but I'll look for the books. Sounds like something I'll enjoy.

  3. I'm way behind with this series - this one sounds great - mysteries and maps, two of my favourite things.

  4. I really want to try this series - it sounds fantastic!

  5. Great reviews, great site, I`m now a follower

  6. Kay-- You're welcome!

    Margaret--Mine, too. The series does indeed get better and better.

    Kathy-- It is. I hope you can give it a try sometime soon. :)

    Loupnw-- Thank you!

  7. I read the first one and didn't care for it. So I never tried the rest.

  8. Oh this is a series I must get back to and soon. I've read the first three and enjoyed them all. I've always described them as 'gently told period pieces'. I love that the author doesn't just tell the story of whatever Maisie is investigating, but tells the story of the time and place Maise and her friends inhabit.

  9. RCR-- Winspear went a little overboard in describing some of Maisie's methods, to the point where I found them a bit off-putting, but I enjoyed the book and was quite relieved to see that those idiosyncrasies were dropped in subsequent books.

    Suzi-- Exactly. They are always tales from "whole cloth".

    Debbie-- I'm glad you're another fan of this series!


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