Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review: Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

The 1930s seem to have gotten quite popular with TV as well as books ("Upstairs Downstairs") lately. And I am no stranger to the fascination with this era of our history which we are somewhat reliving, at least economically, if not with the world war bookends (thank God.) So the Maisie Dobbs books are completely interesting for me, as a glimpse into the changing economy as a middle class is emerging from the former working class, and Maisie, once a lady's maid, now has her own business. Those types of changes in the social structure happened so rapidly as to almost cause whiplash it seems, and yet they did happen, and with much less fuss than I would have assumed if I myself lived in the 1890s and 1900s (the decade, not the century) and someone told me how things would be different in just 20 years.

Meanwhile, Maisie is operating her detective agency with the help of her assistant, Billy, and is called upon to look into the disappearance of Charlotte Waite, a wealthy young woman. Has she escaped her father's strict household? Has she gotten into trouble? Is this related to the recent murder of a childhood friend of hers? Maisie is on the case and through her novel methods of deep thinking, meditation, and close inspection, she will crack the mystery. Meanwhile, her father falls ill, Billy has his own issue, and is the cute doctor asking Maisie out on a date? Sensible Maisie will always get everything done that needs to be done with a minimum of fuss.

I enjoyed this very much. I guessed somewhat the ending, but not entirely and was pleased that the ending was both a bit of a surprise and yet also well set-up. (I hate mystery endings out of left field.) I suppose the deep thinking and meditation aren't that odd if you think about other sleuths pre-CSI like Sherlock Holmes, but the way that Maisie sits in the girls' rooms and feel the pervasive feelings they left behind, like an aura, feels unique to me, and the meditation also seems unusual for the time. I really enjoyed those parts. The era is a delight each time as the care is serviced with an oil change after every long trip and needs to have 5 steps just to start it! While it does make me appreciate the conveniences of today, Maisie's lack of an iPhone doesn't hold her back at all in solving these mysteries, so perhaps that isn't the point of those details. The books are lovely quick trips back to a time that, while in some ways simpler, was also the beginning of the modern era and feels familiar, if so very different. I think I will continue with this series as a nice distraction.

I checked this book out of the library.

1 comment:

Kimberlee said...

Yay!! So glad you like this one and the series. One of my favorites by far. Great review.