Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review and Tour Stop: Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
Genre:  Historical Mystery
Pages:  336
Publication Date:  2005
Publisher:  Penguin
Source:  My personal library
Rating:  4 of 5 stars

Book Description (from the publisher):  
Jacqueline Winspear’s marvelous and inspired debut, Maisie Dobbs, won her fans from coast to coast and raised her intuitive, intelligent, and resourceful heroine to the ranks of literature’s favorite sleuths. Birds of a Feather finds Maisie Dobbs on another dangerously intriguing adventure in London "between the wars." It is the spring of 1930, and Maisie has been hired to find a runaway heiress. But what seems a simple case at the outset soon becomes increasingly complicated when three of the heiress’s old friends are found dead. Is there a connection between the woman’s mysterious disappearance and the murders? Who would want to kill three seemingly respectable young women? As Maisie investigates, she discovers that the answers lie in the unforgettable agony of the Great War.

Last March I discovered the wonderful world of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs when I read and reviewed The Mapping of Love and Death (click here to read my review). I was enchanted by the intelligence and heart of the main character and vowed that I would be reading more books from the series. Over the summer I read (and loved) the first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs, which gave me a lot of the background that I was looking for and was hinted at in The Mapping of Love and Death. I picked up a copy of the second book, Birds of a Feather, at a local bookstore a few months ago and joined the "March is Maisie Month" blog tour just so I would have an excuse to finally read it.

Once again I was struck by the way that Maisie's adventures are not only full of mystery and suspense, but also place a lot of importance on characters' emotions as well. Maisie's history as a former maid and nurse in World War I give her depth and a particularly interesting point of view from which to approach her cases. Indeed, even though at the outset Maisie's investigation into the disappearance of a wealthy heiress doesn't seem related to WWI, it gradually becomes clear that there are unexpected connections to it. I find it interesting and logical that the upheaval of the Great War would have such lasting effects on people in 1930 (the year this book takes place). I also was intrigued by how the beginnings of the Great Depression were in evidence throughout the story.

As with my experience reading The Mapping of Love and Death, I was utterly surprised by who ended up being the murderer. Maisie keeps her cards close to the vest and while I knew she was starting to connect the dots I was still utterly in the dark about the murders and their connection to the runaway heiress. I love it when a mystery can keep me guessing right up to the final reveal. This was another great book in the Maisie Dobbs series and I plan to continue with the rest of the series.

On a related note, if you are a Downton Abbey fan, you should give Maisie Dobbs a try! I was particularly struck by the common threads between that show and these books after watching the second season of Downton Abbey, which takes place during World War I. Maisie Dobbs was a maid before World War I and she worked as a nurse during the war. She observes many changes that occur within society during the war and the years afterward that would be familiar to fans of Downton Abbey. So if you're looking for Downton-esque reads, put the Maisie Dobbs series on your list!

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