Monday, December 12, 2011
An Incomplete Revenge: Review
An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear is the fifth in her Maisie Dobbs series. In the aftermath of World War I and returning home after serving as a nurse during the confrontation, Maisie has established herself as an investigator with a hint of psychic abilities. Her investigations always have a link with the Great War and this one is no different.
Business has been a bit slow lately--evidence of the general state of the country's economic troubles--and Maisie is eager to accept what seems to be a simple assignment to investigate a potential land purchase on behalf of James Compton, the son of the benefactress of her early years. Compton's company is looking to buy a brick business located in a small village in Kent. It would seem to be an easy transaction, but Compton is concerned about the odd atmosphere and legacy of petty crimes and fires that have dogged the community since September 1916. Maisie's assignment is to determine whether these incidents might tarnish the transaction. As she attempts to question the villagers, she learns that the they won't admit that the fires are anything but careless accidents and it becomes obvious that they would prefer to pretend that certain incidents from 1916 never happened. Before the investigation is over, Maisie will become involved with gypsies, schoolmasters, a lying parson, and a reporter eager for a scoop to get her out of small-town reporting. There is also a strange relationship between the townsfolk and the last remaining son of the squire's family...and the fear and unease is almost palpable. In the midst of all this, Maisie will have to confront her own ghosts and pain from the war years and events will lead everyone concerned to lay those ghosts to rest.
As always, Winspear spins a fine tale that makes the years following WWI come to life. She has also given us some interesting insights into the lives of the gypsies and hop-pickers who roamed through rural Britain during the time. The mystery is a bit intricate and I began to despair of Maisie ever getting to the bottom of it. There were numerous rounds of her going to a member of the community only to have them say, "Oh that fire. It was just an accident. I was silly and left the stove burning...or accidentally dropped hot ashes...or the boys were larking about in anticipation of Guy Fawkes Day...." or whatever. It was bit much on the repetitive side. But overall, Maisie is an interesting detective and the story fairly well told. Three stars.