The Mapping of Love and Death
Review: Private investigator Maisie Dobbs is hired by a wealthy American family to look into the whereabouts of a woman who may have been involved with their son, who died in combat during the World War 16 years previously, in The Mapping of Love and Death, the seventh mystery in this series by Jacqueline Winspear.
Maisie's first reaction upon looking at the material given to her by Martha and Edward Clifton, including a diary, letters, and an autopsy report, is that their son Michael may have not died as a result of war injuries — rather, he was most likely murdered by a severe blow to the head. Still, her first line of inquiry is to follow why Michael was even allowed to join a British regiment. Though his family was originally from England, Michael was an American by birth. But as a cartographer, he brought a much needed skill set to the battlefield, one that allowed him to fight on behalf of Britain. When she learns that, just before joining the war effort, Michael had purchased a substantial amount of land in California, under which may be a fortune in oil, she has a potential motive for murder. But who was with him when he died? And does the mysterious woman with whom he may have been having an affair, a woman Michael's parents now seek, know anything that may help her learn what may truly have happened to him?
Winspear's narrative has a mesmerizing, almost lyrical, tone to it. Though the plot moves along swiftly, The Mapping of Love and Death is not a fast-reading novel; the expressive descriptions of people and places and the intricately detailed plot almost demand close attention. But it is Maisie herself that commands center stage, with her intuitive, yet perceptive, approach to her investigation. At one point a character says, "I thought you might find out the truth. As soon as I met you — it's your eyes, Maisie, they seem to just go right through a person."
A separate, strongly written, subplot involves Maisie's mentor, Maurice Blanche, a man who has played a key role in Maisie's previous investigations, who is dying. Their scenes together are always touching, and typically informative, as he helps focus her thoughts on what's important and what isn't. "Life is a riddle, my dear," he tells her. "It is filled with clues along the way, with messages we struggle to understand. You've been working on the case of a cartographer; you should know that all maps are drawn in hindsight. And hindsight, if interpreted with care, is what brings us wisdom."
The Mapping of Love and Death is a solid entry in this series, and though it ends with what will be a significant change for Maisie Dobbs, change is not necessarily an unwelcome event.
Acknowledgment: HarperCollins provided an ARC of The Mapping of Love and Death for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
An Incomplete Revenge
Henry Holt (Hardcover), February 2008
ISBN-13: 9780805082159; ISBN-10: 0805082158
Location(s) referenced in The Mapping of Love and Death: London, England
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The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear — A Maisie Dobbs Mystery
Publication Date: March 2010
List Price: $25.99