Sunday, April 25, 2010

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

The spirited heroine of Maisie Dobbs (Soho, 2003) is back to solve another puzzle in post-World War I London. Having been trained by a master detective, the former serving girl now a Cambridge graduate is hired by grocery magnate Joseph Waite to find his wayward daughter, Charlotte. What begins as a simple missing-person case evolves into the investigation of three murders, all of young women who were friends during the war. Charlotte may be the next target. Chock-full of period details such as how to start a 1920s-era MG, what to buy at the grocer's, what to wear in the country, soup kitchens, and heroin use, the novel follows Maisie's progress as she uses detection, psychology, and even yogalike centering to clear her mind. There is much substance to this mystery, which mines the situations brought about by the horrors of the war–both on the front and at home, and its still simmering aftermath–plus a hint of romance and the beginning resolution of two father-daughter rifts.

Birds of a Feather is the second book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Set after WWI Maisie is a young girl of the working class who had the fortune of being protected and educated by the Lady her father worked for. After the war she decides to become a private detective following in the footsteps of her mentor, Maurice Blanc.

In this second installment of the series Maisie is hired by Joseph Waite, a self made millionaire, to find his missing daughter Charlotte. Joseph seems a hard man only interested in the business and in keeping his daughter in line and, from what Maisie finds out, Charlotte was a deeply troubled and unhappy woman. When she tries to find out more about Charlotte she discovers that her school friends are being murdered and that the reasons behind Charlotte's actions may be connected to what is happening to them.

I really like Maisie has a heroine, she is nice and sensible, sometimes too perfect, but she is an interesting character and the series provides a very interesting glimpse of the life after WWI and how the war affected both the high and lower classes. I have a bit of trouble believing the paranormal side of Maisie's investigations but that is really the only down side. In this particular story I really liked how the mystery developed, I was kept intrigued and in suspense till the last page. I also liked that the motivations were so well connected to the period; I learned quite a few things.

I also enjoyed revisiting the characters we got to know in the first book, like Lady Rowan, Maurice, Maisie's father and Billy. Maisie still visits Simon, her former fiancé who was wounded in the war and that now lives in a hospital unaware of the reality around him but Winspear seems decided to give her a new love interest in this story. Although love triangles are not a favourite with me this might make her more human as Maisie is usually too emotionally contained.

Looking forward to the next book now...

Grade: 4/5


  1. I love the Maisie Dobbs series... read them all! My friend and I just saw Jacqueline Winspear at a book signing for the latest book. I've seen her several times and she's a wonderful speaker.

  2. I borrowed the first one in this series a long time ago but had to return it unread. I really think I would like to read this series. One day.

  3. Sounds interesting! I'm intrigued by the cover of this one alone :) Thanks!

  4. The first book is on my list of books to read. I love historical mysteries, and anything set in London.

  5. This sounds interesting. I've been reading quite a few books either written or set in Interwar Britain, it really was a fascinating time.

  6. I love this series! I have the newest book on my TBR pile, but haven't had a chance to read it yet!!