Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Elegy for Eddie: Review (possible spoilers)

Please know that there may be spoilers involved in this particular review. I cannot speak to my reactions without possibly revealing more than you want to know about the plot. I will not reveal the solution, but there may be pointers. Read on at your own risk.


Elegy for Eddie is the next installment in Jacqueline Winspear's series featuring Maisie Dobbs and the last one I needed to read before my blog tour book (Leaving Everything Most Loved). It is now April of 1933 and Maisie comes to work one morning to find a deputation of Covent Grden costermongers waiting on her doorstep. Most of these men she knew when she was growing up and her father, Frankie, had been one of them. They know of her current position as a "psychologist and investigator" and want to engage her services to look into the "accidental" death of Eddie Pettit. Eddie was well-known among the costermongers--and to Maisie--for his uncanny abilities with horses. It was said that there wasn't a horse that Eddie couldn't calm and work with.

Now Eddie is dead--apparently from a run-away roll of paper at Bookhams, a paper factory, which crushed him. But his mates among the costermongers are quite sure that there is more to the story than a mere accident. Maisie know they must be right--because as soon as she asks Billy Beale, her assistant, to nose around the streets near the factory and ask a few questions at the nearest pub, he is beaten within an inch of his life. She also discovers that a reporter who had befriended Eddie is also dead, in what has been officially labeled a suicide. And then a man who had long bullied Eddie is quickly identified as possibly being behind the paper factory "accident," but he winds up conveniently dead as well...another victim of an apparent suicide. That's one too many deaths for Maisie. But as she digs, she finds that there are ties to affairs of international import and she realizes that she will have untangle the international threads before she can understand exactly what happened to Eddie.

I have mixed feelings about this one. As mentioned in my review of the previous novel, Winspear does historical novels very well. She manages to bring the reader to the time and place with detail and atmosphere. The surrounding swirl of build-up the Second World War adds tension. But the lack of resolution for the crimes just doesn't sit well with me. I realize that there are people who get away with murder in real life and I realize that there are people who kill for seemingly pointless reasons. But I expect my crime fiction to bring the crime home to the perpetrator and for a sense of justice to prevail. There is no justice in Maisie's world. And, perhaps it's reflective of the times, but the story is pretty bleak. No one is held accountable for the deaths. Also--unless I missed something, there really isn't a good explanation for Eddie's death. I can see the reason for the reporter's death--but honestly, Eddie just didn't represent the threat that the reporter did.

The other point that bothers me is Maisie herself. How long is she going to waiver over her relationship with James Compton? That poor man is the most long-suffering lover I've ever seen. If she's afraid she'll have to give up her independence and/or her profession, then she needs to talk it out with him. And if they can't come to an agreement, then she needs to give it up. I suspect that James would let her have what she wants...but she needs to find out and figure out where things are going.

One other thing I did like about the story was its ties to Maisie's past. I liked that she was approached by men she knew when she was growing up to help with a current problem. The investigation takes Maisie back to places that she hadn't visited since she was young and it could have helped her put her present life in perspective. It could have helped her character to grow much more than Winspear seems willing to allow happen.  She seems intent on keeping Maisie in this slough-of-despond, brooding, examination of every little thing and relationship in her life. Let the woman grow and learn and start to live rather than dwelling on the past and worrying about whether she fits into her new life (with money!). She's supposedly a smart woman and solves problems for others--let her solve her own. ★★


Donna said...

The one thing I especially like about the Maisie Dobbs books is that they show an England between the wars not depicted in the books actually written during that time period. Except for the Compton's, Maisie's patrons, there are no country houses or aristocrats. A much different world than Christie's and Sayers'.

Bev Hankins said...

Donna: That is true. It is nice to read about the working class people and see what life was like for them.

fredamans said...

When a character starts to grate on me, it's hard to continue to read!