THE MAPPING OF LOVE AND DEATH by Jacqueline Winspear

Book Quote:

“She was thinking about lies. About the many times in the course of her work she had been lied to. It was a hazard of her occupation. She rarely missed a lie, seldom overlooked the sense of doubt that assailed her when she had been offered less than the truth. Indeed, she thought it was the presence of doubt—rather than certainty, perhaps—that led to cracking open many a case.”

Book Review:

Review by Eleanor Bukowsky (APR 3, 2010)

In August of 1914, twenty-three year old Michael Clifton had a vision. He stood with his surveyor’s equipment in California “on a hill burnished with gold in the summer sun,” and decided that this oil-rich land would be his. As he prepared to travel back east to rejoin his family, he heard that England and Germany were at war, and he impulsively decided to enlist. Even though Michael was American, his father, Edward, was born in England, and Michael believed that his skills as a cartographer would help the British. Sadly, he never returned home. Michael’s parents hire Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and private inquiry agent, to look into their son’s last days.

It is 1932. Londoner Maisie Dobbs has been a private inquiry agent for three years and she relies greatly on her trusted assistant, Billy Beale. Their new clients are Michael Clifton’s parents, Edward and Martha. A farmer in the Somme Valley was digging when he and his men unearthed the remains of a surveying team. One of the bodies was that of Michael Clifton, who was found along with his personal effects, letters, and a journal. Maisie’s task is to find the mystery woman whom Michael fell in love with during the war and to look into the questionable circumstances surrounding Michael’s untimely death. Michael’s correspondence and written reminiscences as well as the interviews that Maisie conducts with various individuals ultimately clarify what really happened to this unfortunate young man during his final days.

Maisie Dobbs is a refreshing and energetic character, an emancipated woman who, in spite of her humble roots, received a fine education thanks to her intelligence, tenacity, and the sponsorship of generous benefactors. Although at times she feels lonely and vulnerable, Maisie never allows herself to lose sight of all that is good in her life. She is fiercely loyal to her friends and is not easily intimidated. She and Billy put a great deal of effort into the Clifton case, which proves to be “a bloody maze.” In addition, a shocking act of violence leads Maisie to believe that someone is desperate to cover up his past misdeeds.

With her consummate mastery of historical detail, the author skillfully evokes the uneasy atmosphere in Britain in the era following the First World War, a tumultuous conflict that wreaked havoc on so many. Not only did a generation of young men sacrifice their lives, but even those who returned were often gravely wounded both in body and spirit. Maisie, who was a nurse during the conflict, still has painful memories of that difficult time.

The Mapping of Love and Death resonates more as a psychological study than it does as a mystery. Although Maisie’s skills are put to the test, she has amazingly good luck at every turn. Some useful contacts plus one or two coincidences yield key evidence that helps her connect the dots in a rather tidy way.

What is most memorable about this novel are the well-drawn relationships. Maisie is fiercely protective of Billy, a resourceful and hard-working man whose wife is slowly recovering from a breakdown following the death of their young daughter. In addition, Maisie cautiously embarks on a romance with an unlikely suitor. Will this woman who has been so unlucky in love find her soul mate at last? Alas, all is not sweetness and light; Maisie is distraught that her dear friend and mentor, “parent to her intellect, to her understanding of the world,” becomes seriously ill.

Whether she is comforting a poor and sickly woman who needs a shoulder to lean on, putting an officious detective inspector in his place, or courageously confronting a villainous foe, Maisie is always up to the task. The Mapping of Love and Death is, above all, about the importance of self-respect, family ties, friendship, and integrity. Maisie Dobbs consistently stays true to these ideals; that is what makes her such an admirable and appealing heroine.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 116 readers
PUBLISHER: Harper; 1 edition (March 23, 2010)
REVIEWER: Eleanor Bukowsky
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Jacqueline Winspear
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read our review of:

Pardonable Lies

Messenger of Truth

Among the Mad

A Lesson in Secrets


April 3, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Sleuths Series, United Kingdom, y Award Winning Author

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