Sunday, March 25, 2012

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs novels have always fit beautifully into the category, "Between the Wars." Her latest, Elegy for Eddie, not only fits that category, but it shows Maisie herself trapped between two lives. Just as England itself struggles to deal with changes in the world, Maisie is struggling to deal with changes in her own life.

Nothing illustrates Maisie's change in status more than the new case she takes on as an inquiry agent. Five men from Maisie's childhood, friends of her father, showed up to ask her to look into a death ruled a "regrettable accident." Maisie remembered Eddie Pettit, who was about ten years older than her, as a little slow, but a gentle, innocent man who seemed to have a magical gift with horses. Maisie's father once worked in Lambeth in the market with those costermongers, and they tried to help when her mother was ill. Now, it's Maisie's turn to try to help those men and Eddie's mother find answers to his death.

Eddie was killed at Bookhams Printers in what appeared to be an industrial accident. But, when Maisie visited the factory, she uncovered rumors that Eddie ran into a bully, a man who always hated him. And, it wasn't long before her probing caused a second tragic accident. She's determined to find answers, even as the case takes her into the homes of the class she now travels in as a wealthy woman and the girlfriend of Viscount James Compton. How much does the wealthy newspaperman who owns Bookhams know about Eddie's death? Maisie's questions involve newspapers, Winston Churchill, her friend Priscilla's husband, and even James himself.

Maisie Dobbs finds herself in a difficult stage in life, as well as in a difficult case. She's caught between her past, as a child of the working class, and her present lifestyle, as a wealthy property owner attending parties with the rich and influential. And, despite her love for James, she finds her life with him suffocating at times. It takes a couple shrewd friends to warn her that she might want to analyze herself and her life.

It's 1933. Germany and Hitler are on the rise. It's a situation already changing England, although war is in the distant future. Maisie's case, the story of an innocent man, is the story of innocent people swept up in forces beyond their control.  And, Maisie herself, trying to control people and events in her own life, sees how that can lead to tragedy. Changes are coming for Maisie Dobbs, for England, for Europe. The investigation of Eddie Pettit's death forces Maisie to reevaluate her own life, and her treatment of the people in her life. Winspear asks ethical questions of her character, and her readers. Elegy for Eddie is a powerful story of a character and a world caught up in change. Winspear is clever in her juxtaposition of Maisie's life and need for control, and the situation in England. Who should have the power to decide how people's lives are going to change? It's a question that leaves Maisie Dobbs, and the reader, with no easy answers.

Jacqueline Winspear's website is

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear. HarperCollins. 2012. ISBN 9780062049575 (hardcover), 352p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I requested a copy of the book from the publisher.


Kay said...

This entry into a great series sounds very, very good. Looking forward to reading it. And, I hear you're going to be having a special time with this author? How fun!

Harvee said...

I have seenthis book on many blogs and that plus your review make me think it must be a good mystery! I have it on my wish list!

bermudaonion said...

I have got to get started with this series! It sounds charming.

Susan said...

Someone (and I'm sorry, I can't remember who) just posted a review about this, and they found it annoying that the questions with James takes up so much of the book. I've read two books in the series, and I have the third to read on my TBR shelf here at home. I like Maisie and I enjoy the novels, but I find her non-attachment process both enjoyable and annoying at the same time - I can't decide if it helps the flow of the book or not. Maybe this was just the second book, it sounds like it does continue to be a good series.

Lesa said...

You're right. This was a good entry in the series, Kay. Hosting her at a Poisoned Pen tea tomorrow!

I hope you get it, Harvee. It was a good mystery. Good luck with that wish list!

So many series, so little time, Kathy. I understand.

Oh, that's interesting, Susan, that someone didn't like the dealings with the relationship. In my opinion, it's important to the continued development of Maisie's character. And, no matter what her strengths appear to be, she is a damaged character after her WWI experiences, and the tragic loss of her fiance, as well as the death of her mother when she was young. There are so many reasons she's afraid of attachment.

Karen C said...

Definitely intrigued now!

Lesa said...

Oh, good, Karen. I'm glad we caught your attention.