My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I decided to go ahead and read the last Jacqueline Winspear book that I had on Kindle just to get it out of my queue. It had been there for a long time and I was tired of seeing it. It turns out that this entry marks something of an end to one chapter of Maisie Dobbs' life and so it is a good "ending," a good place for me to pause in my reading of the Dobbs saga and move on to something else for a while.
Dobbs is dissatisfied with her life. She is a successful businesswoman, fabulously wealthy thanks to a bequest from her mentor, has a good and caring (and rich) man as a lover, and is well-respected everywhere she goes. In short, everyone loves Maisie, so why wouldn't she be discontented? Yeah, right!
This is actually one of the things that annoys me about this character. She really seems to have little actual depth of understanding of just how lucky she is. Oh, she gives lip service to such understanding, but it seems about paper-thin depth. Moreover, she never really faces any disapproval from society about her life or any major obstacles to her achieving her aims. Yes, everyone loves Maisie. It strains credulity.
Maisie's discontent this time is rooted in the fact that she doesn't really want to get married, although her lover is pressing her to do so, and she wants to travel, to visit distant lands as her mentor Maurice did. To do that would mean closing down her detective agency, but then what would become of her two employees? Not to worry! Everything falls magically into place, as it always does in the world of Maisie Dobbs.
Maisie decides that she wants to go to India, and what do you know? Just a couple of months before, an Indian woman living in London was murdered. The police have been unsuccessful in solving the crime. Indeed, they don't seem to have expended much effort on it. As Inspector Caldwell admits to Maisie, no one was pressing them for a solution.
Then the woman's brother shows up. He has traveled from India to light a fire under the investigation and find out what happened to his sister. Maisie Dobbs' name was given to him by one of his fellow countrymen who had been another mentor and adviser to Maisie. When he speaks to Caldwell, the police agree to contract with Maisie to carry on the investigation and try to bring some justice to the dead woman.
It turns out to be a complicated mystery that has roots stretching all the way back to India, and soon it becomes even more complicated when a friend of the murdered woman is also killed in the same manner as the first. As Maisie becomes more deeply involved in the investigation, she is more and more intrigued by Indian culture and by the Indians that she meets in the course of her inquiries, all of which makes her more definite than ever that she wants to travel to that exotic land.
But first she has to wrap up her investigation.
She does, of course, with minimal help this time from her assistant Billy Beale who is still suffering from the injuries that he sustained in Elegy for Eddie or her secretary Sandra who is slowly emerging from her widow's shell and taking an interest in life once again.
So, everything gets tied up in a neat little bow. The villain is arrested, but he isn't really such a villain, even though he has murdered two women. He's a victim, too.
The lives of everyone she cares about have now fallen into place, just as Maisie would have wanted, so she is free to move on to her own future. That moving on proceeds slowly as we are treated to a long summing up of Maisie's life so far and as she looks forward to her trip to India. But finally, she's on the boat and on her way.
It's a little difficult to see just where Winspear is going with this, but there are several more entries in the series, so undoubtedly, she has a plan. I think it would be interesting to see, just once, something not work out exactly as Maisie wants it to. Maybe the ship sinks on the way to India, or she loses all her money and is left with nothing but her native resources, or her lover James finally gets fed up with her dithering and marries that dashing young aviatrix with whom he seems to have a lot in common. Well, I can dream, can't I?
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