Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear: A review

The Mapping of Love and Death (Maisie Dobbs, #7)The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacqueline Winspear still mines the trenches of World War I in this seventh entry in the Maisie Dobbs series. It is 1932, more than a decade past the end of hostilities and yet the war continues to have repercussions in Dobbs' life and the lives of her clients.

Her clients this time are an elderly American couple searching for their son's past. Mr. and Mrs. Clifton have recently been informed that their son's remains - he had been listed as missing in the war - have been found in France. Among their son's belongings were found some letters from an English nurse whom he had met and had apparently had an affair with. The parents hire Maisie to find the woman, who must now be in her thirties.

The son, Michael, had been a gifted cartographer and it was in that capacity that he served the British Army. In August 1914, he had been mapping the land he had just purchased in the Santa Ynez Valley in California, believing that there was oil beneath it, when he heard that war had been declared in Europe. He felt a responsibility to go to England, the land of his father's birth, and join the fight.

The value of the land that Michael had been surveying is considerable and, as part of his estate, certain parties are now anxious to have its ownership resolved, but the plot thickens when a postmortem exam of Michael's remains indicate that he was not killed by shelling as originally thought but that he had actually been murdered before the shelling.

The plot thickens even further when Michael's parents are attacked and almost killed in their hotel room. Could this attack have anything to do with the fact that they have hired Maisie Dobbs? Was the attacker trying to recover Michael's belongings, the letters perhaps? Did it have something to do with the fact that their son was murdered? Maisie's famous intuition tells her that everything is related and to solve one crime may be the key to solving the other.

While Maisie and her assistant Billy Beale pursue their inquiries, they must also deal with upheaval in their personal lives. Maisie's beloved mentor, Maurice Blanche, is very ill and it seems that he may not survive for much longer. She wants nothing more than to spend all of her time with him and yet she must meet her responsibilities to clients. Maurice would expect that.

At the same time, she begins to have romantic feelings for the son of her patroness who has sponsored and nurtured her through the years. That these feelings are obviously returned does not assuage her concern that the man's rich and powerful family may consider this a match that is beneath him.

As for Billy, his wife has recently been released from the mental hospital where she was being treated for depression following her inability to cope with the death of their daughter and now the family is trying to get back to normal, but it is not clear that that will ever happen.

And so Maisie must deal with The Mapping of Love and Death both as it pertains to her clients and to her own personal situation. It is a quandary, but Maisie Dobbs, as always, is up to the task.


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