Sunday, November 7, 2010

Recommended Reading

British Post-World War l Private Investigator Maisie Dobbs is brilliant and insightful. To solve a case she depends on instinct and intellect. Clues are not always found in what someone says, they're in what's not said; not what's in the room, but what's absent from the room, or the quality of the clothes hanging in the closet. Clues come from a person's story told in silences and pauses and expressions the eyes can't disguise. They are found in what she reads between the lines of her own voluminous and meticulous hand-written notes.

In Maisie's world there is no internet; she is persuaded to install a phone and accept the loan of her benefactress's car. She's definitely low tech, so she relies on her well-developed intellectual gifts.

There are no bad guys in this story. Maisie begins by investigating a wife's suspicious activities, which leads her to a cemetery, which leads her to a retreat for servicemen who are so disfigured by war wounds they can't bear to be seen in public. The scene in which she de-fuses a terribly dangerous situation is riveting. She  walks purposely into a crowd and begins to sing the anthem of the Red Cross Nurse:

It's the one red rose
The soldier knows
It's the work of the Master's hand
'Mid the war's great curse
Stands the Red Cross Nurse
She's the Rose of No-Man's Land

 . . . . and this inspiring song restores sanity and reason and compassion to a situation which was headed in a deadly direction. The story is a poignant reminder of the interior and exterior scars left on the bodies and in the minds of the soldiers who came home.

Her mentor reminds her: "Remember, Maisie, while there is always a victor and a vanquished, on both sides there are innocents. Few are truly evil, and they do not need a war to be at work among us, although war provides them with a timely mask."

The pace and style of Maisie Dobbs is more typical of the 1920s post-war British authors; yet the first book in the Maisie series was published in 2003. It's refreshing and beautifully written, and the descriptions are lush:

"It was a fine day in early June, a day that seemed to predict a long hot summer for 1929. Maisie drove conservatively, partly to minimize chances of damage to the MG and partly to savor the journey. She felt that she only had to smell the air and, blindfolded, she would know she had arrived in Kent."

There are more Maisie Dobbs books out there and I'm going to read them all, as soon as I locate some ginger biscuits with clotted cream.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

SoHo Press 2003
In your local library!

1 comment:

CTW said...

Thanks for sharing an author I've never even heard of. Sounds like something I would be interested in.