Another very enjoyable Maisie Dobbs book! I am definitely hooked on the series at this point. Immediately after finishing An Incomplete Revenge, I started reading Pardonable Lies – that is, the third book in the series that I skipped over. Good stuff.
In this episode, Maisie ends up following Billy Beale and his family on their “working vacation” out to Kent, to pick hops and enjoy the air away from “the Smoke” (which apparently is London – I’m learning some Britishisms from these books, for sure). James Compton, the son of her original patroness and supporter, has come looking for her help in his business dealings in the small town of Heronsdene. His concern is with the strange events there, including petty crime and a fairly regular occurrence of arson. Since the Beales were already to be in the area, Maisie can use her assistant as usual.
I really liked the way this book opened with another woman’s perspective on Maisie – the weaving instructor, Marta, observes her and makes some guesses about her life. I appreciated an outsider’s view of her, since I think we often get Maisie’s point of view, even in third person.
We quickly learn some new and, I think, important details about Maisie’s personal history and past that I found valuable in understanding her, as well as entertaining in their own right. I’m glad Winspear gave her this new dimension. As I’ve said throughout the series, if Maisie lacks anything, it’s dimensions; perhaps Winspear is wise to mete them out sparingly like this, though, since I’m so interested and on the edge of my seat. Give me more! MORE!
The story itself (avoiding spoilers here) I found heartwrenching. I was surprised at the degree of forgiveness shown in the end – although the offended party does not call it forgiveness (he says, “that is not for me to do”), he does forbear to take (ahem) Complete Revenge. It was a satisfyingly complex and twisting story, with Winspear’s characteristic overarching, large-scale, human-condition themes, and I found the exotic addition of the gypsies to be a point of interest, too.
A few things caught my eye in this book. I really enjoyed the beautiful, sensual description on pages 219-220 of the War Office Repository. The polished dark wood floors, hushed tones, and onionskin papers, along with the emotions of the people doing their research (as imagined by Maisie), and the helpful clerk, “reminded [Maisie] of a library.” (They did me, too.) I’m a librarian, and am always excited to get a mention.
Another connection in this book that I REALLY enjoyed was the hop-picking! I’m a big fan of beer – I used to sell it for a living, and I’ve made pretty significant plans over it (like flying overseas), and it’s pretty important in my family – both my parents, and the Husband, and I are all beer people. And the HOPS are my favorite part. I’ve never picked any, but I have munched on fresh-dried ones, and, yum. I even have a tattoo: …because our littlest dog is named Hops, so now I have a tattoo for each dog. Here is Ritchey:
…and the two real-life models.
At any rate. Thanks for bearing with me through the tattoo gallery (there’s more where that came from, but I shall spare you). I’ll be commenting, as well, over at Book Club Girl‘s discussion post. Come on over! I’m so glad I’m participating in this read-along; it’s been great fun and I’ve discovered a new series I really enjoy.