Monday, April 26, 2010

The Mapping of Love and Death
The Mapping of Love and Death (Maisie Dobbs, Book 7) 
by Jacqueline Winspear
Harper Collins, 2010
This is the seventh in the Maisie Dobbs series and not the strongest one so far. Dobbs is a detective/psychologist who is based in post WWI London. All of these novels contain flashback scenes to the trench warfare of the first world war. I like the historical detail that Winspear brings to her novels. The small touches that paint the portrait of the era are very well done. She is able to powerfully evoke the time and place. This novel carries on that tradition very well. What I have found weak in this novel and the previous one ( Among the Mad) are the plot aspects of the crimes. She investigates the war time death (soon to be noted as murder) of an American cartographer serving with the British army in France. Details of the army cartographers work in the war are reliably well presented. Plot aspects of the murder are fairly weak and tenuous. In this crime you are asked to buy into some fantastic coincidences that are at best hard to follow and at worst silly. Despite these plot issues Winspear is able to create characters I care about and advance their stories through the series. Familiar character recur and their life stories are enriched. Plot spoilers ahead!!! In this novel Maisie develops a serious believable love interest, Billy Beale's family troubles are continued, Maisie's mentor Maurice succumbs to a long standing illness, and Maisie's Scotland yard connections are continued.
Since these novels are set in the 1930s, the spectre of the rising of Nazism in Europe is never far from the story line and promises rich material for the future of this series. There is palatable fear that Maisie's friend Priscilla who lost three brother in the first war is primed to sacrifice sons in the approaching second war. So I guess I read this series not so much for the crime novel but for the period piece that Winspear is so good at creating.

1 comment:

Carole said...

I agree completely with your assessment. These books are all about evoking a time, a place and a mood- the detective work is secondary. I love getting caught up in the 1930s and when I'm done each book I'm surprised to find myself back in the 21st century. Although I think the best by far was the very first Maisie Dobbs story, i look forward to reading the next one and many more.