It’s that time again! Time for the Maisie Dobbs Read-Along!
This week’s book is The Mapping of Love and Death, and of course the title is significant. Our mystery is the questionable wartime death of a young American man who enlisted with the Brits (in WWI) as a cartographer; he was allowed to do this because of his extraordinary skill and training in the field, and because of his father’s British origins. Maisie is struck by the young man’s very likable family, who are attacked in their hotel immediately after meeting with her, and land in the hospital in critical condition.
Maisie tracks the mystery of what turns out to be a murder in the trenches (characteristically, delving into the war-related past to solve a mystery of the present), as well as the question of what happened to the cartographer’s sweetheart. As a bonus, of course, she solves the attack on the parents, too. In what is almost becoming a predictable format, the past – in this case, the father’s familial past in Britain before his emigration – plays an important role. We see some tragedy in this book, but things are ultimately resolved to general satisfaction in terms of the mystery.
Two important things happen in Maisie’s world: Maurice Blanche, her lifetime mentor, friend, and father figure, dies. And she takes on a new beau, far more promising than anyone we’ve met so far, because she has a truly emotional reaction to him rather than being detachedly “fond” as she was of Dr. Dene. The new beau is James Compton, son of her patroness the Lady Rowan, and I suppose I’m (naturally) naive to the difference in their social classes being such a big deal, but I couldn’t help but be a bit impatient with this question. I thought it couldn’t help but be resolved – as it was – by Lady Rowan’s demure acceptance of the inter-class question. She’s always been a nonjudgmental friend to Maisie. I was a bit surprised at her protest, which was unrelated to social class, and now I’m especially impatient to see Maisie declare her intentions and continue to “walk out” with James. The book left us hanging on this point. I suppose I’ll look forward more anxiously than usual to A Lesson in Secrets, the new Maisie book, released just a week or two ago. (It’s en route to the library now and I shall read it first thing.)
So let’s review. Another mystery was solved, satisfactorily but also according to a pattern I’m becoming very comfortable with – if not perhaps a touch bored. Maurice died, which is a very real personal tragedy for Maisie, as well as being one of those silver-lining opportunities for greater personal growth and independence, much as Simon’s death was. Ah yes, I didn’t say that she is now a quite wealthy young woman! Thanks to being the overwhelming heir to Maurice’s fortune. She has a new man, one I find very promising, if she can quit being wishy-washy and say YES Lady Rowan, I adore your son! I suppose it’s hard to think about remaining an independent businesswoman and get married, especially in her time. But James seems so wonderful, surely he’d be supportive?
I have left out any consideration of Billy Beale, generally one of my favorite characters. His family life & drama didn’t play quite such a strong role in this book; but that’s good for them, the reason being, that they had less drama. Billy’s still dreaming of emigrating to Canada, and I have a feeling Maisie’s new-found personal wealth will trickle towards the Beales; but there may also be a new mouth to feed around that household soon! So who knows. I continue to hold Billy and his family close to my heart and look forward to meeting with them again soon.
I believe that sums it up. I enjoyed this Maisie book, as all the others. But there is very much a pattern to the structure that can be comfortably rhythmic and predictable but has thoroughly ceased to make me gasp. For truly suspenseful, edge-of-my-seat mystery novels, I have learned, I must look elsewhere. That’s okay. There are lots of good suspense writers out there. I can’t wait for the new Michael Connelly to arrive! And I recently really enjoyed my first experience with Lisa Gardner; and there’s Elizabeth George… she hasn’t settled into any kind of predictable pattern, yet, to me. Although, come to think of it, her Barbara Havers character frustrates me in the same way Maisie does: I want to shove them or shake them into realizing the teeny tiny steps they could make that would get them so far… it’s taking awfully many books for these women to realize their own worth in certain areas. But don’t get me ranting.
Still loving Maisie and still loving the read-along! Check out our fearless leader Book Club Girl for discussion of The Mapping of Love and Death.