I enjoy series books, but they often cause me to worry. So may times things go wrong. An author runs out of ideas, the characters lose their interest, or sometimes books just become variants on a familiar formula.
And so I wondered when I picked up Jacqueline Winspear’s fifth Maisie Dobbs book. Particularly as there was a noticeable change in cover design – lovely, but much lighter and brighter.
I am pleased to be able to say that any worries that I had proved to be quite unfounded.
The story opens in London in 1931 with the economy deep in recession. Business is hard to ome by and so Maisie is relieved to undertake an investigation for the potential purchaser of a Kent estate.
James Compton, of the Compton Corporation, is the potential purchaser of the Sandmere Estate, but he has concerns.The present owner, a younger son who became heir when his brother was killed in the Great War, has run down the estate and it is very nearly bankrupt. And there has been a spate petty crime and vandalism in the house, and at the accompanying brickworks. The Compton Company needs to be certain that there is nothing amiss before taking ownership
When Maisie arrives in Kent she finds a community at war. The landowner, the local villagers, the incoming workers for the hop-picking season – both travelling gypsies and working Londoners – dislike and distrust each other.
And there seems to be a deeper mystery – why is their a stony silence about the night that three members of a Dutch family were killed in a Zeppelin raid?
Jacqueline Winspear has skilfully avoids the pitfalls that so often befall series books.
Her plot is well-constructed, complex and compelling. It has its roots, as do all of her plots, in the Great War but she takes a new angle that feels entirely appropriate. That war did change so many lives in a multitude of ways. The resolution is striking and thought provoking.
Characters and the times and places that they live in are wonderfully evoked, and every detail rings true. Maisie’s personal story continues to develop. Changes happen and more changes seem to be on the horizon, and it feels entirely right. Even after life changing events life can hold more twists and turns.
If only all series worked this well …