Jacqueline Winspear






5th in the Maisie Dobbs series
Henry Holt, Jan 2008
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Mystery. England, 1931

It is hops-picking season in Kent, and the poor people of London use their vacation time from their regular jobs to come down to Kent and pick hops with their families. Gypsies, too, make the fields of Kent a regular part of their travels. The two groups have an uneasy peace with each other usually. Peaceful or not, outsiders mean trouble for the suspicious Kentish village of Heronsdene.

Maisie Dobbs knows the hops fields of Kent. Her father used to work there, her assistant Billy is working there now. And an old family friend has asked her to investigate Heronsdene. Why doesn't this sullen little village complain to the police about repeated vandalism and theft? Why do they fight their frequent fires themselves, without calling in a fire department? Heronsdene lives in an ancient shadow, but mutters blame on others on anyone, as long as it isn't themselves.

In AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE we explore Maisie's family past and see the possibilities of her future. Author Jacqueline Winspear believes our outer experiences mirror our inner ones, so Maisie must help Heronsdene explore its family past and possible future. The grasping hands of memory must be loosened, sometimes gently, sometimes violently.

Maisie is helped by the gypsy tribe, especially by Beulah, its matriarch, who forms a bond with Maisie. Winspear gives us fascinating details of gypsy culture it is they who contribute most strongly to the mesmerizing atmosphere of AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE, and to the healing.

I have been a long-time lover of Maisie Dobbs. I have followed her sympathetically as she attempts to recover from her experiences as a war nurse, to open herself to new experiences and new uses of her talents. Maisie's upward mobility from servant girl to professional detective is rare in her society, and probably could not have been done by a woman with a lesser intelligence and grace of character. She has been through hard times; I am happy to see her freeing herself. To me, the heart and atmosphere of AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE make it second in this series only to the multi-award winning debut MAISIE DOBBS itself.

Jan 2008


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