Tuesday, September 20, 2011

book review: The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

The backstory: The Mapping of Love and Death is the seventh Maisie Dobbs mystery novel. Here are links to my reviews of the first six books: Maisie DobbsBirds of a FeatherPardonable LiesMessenger of TruthAn Incomplete Revenge, and Among the Mad.

The basics: The mystery at the center of this novel is about the death of Michael Clifton, an American cartographer who died in World War I and whose body was only recently recovered. His parents hire Maisie to look into his suspicious death.

My thoughts: For the first time, our story opens in the United States. Knowing Ms. Winspear now lives in California made this detail even more fun to read. At times I worry the war-based mysteries will become too much of a stretch, but this one was among my favorites of the series for several reasons. First, I loved the story of Michael Clifton, an American-born cartographer who felt compelled to journey to England to fight for the country his father was born in. The duality of opening the novel where Winspear now lives but soon shifting to her native London was quite enjoyable.

I find cartography fascinating, especially in a historic sense. How we shape our ideas of our place in the world is one of the reasons I love to read. Cartography is a more literal depiction of our place in the world, and I found its military benefits intriguing:
"It had come as no surprise to his family that Michael Clifton chose to become a cartographer. He had loves maps since childhood, drawn to the mystery of lands far away, fascinated by the names of places and the promise he saw held within a map. 'You always know where you are with a map,' he had told his parents, while persuading them of his choice of profession. 'And if you know where you are, why, you're more likely to be brave, to have an adventure, to search beyond where everyone else is looking.'
While the mystery was completely captivating, the personal storylines in this novel were delightful and moving. At times the action and emotion read like a love letter to fans of this series. I so appreciate Winspear's continuing emphasis on life beyond Maisie's work as an investigator. While these mysteries would still be riveting if the case were the sole focus, Winspear achieves a depth in characters and emotions by moving the stories forward in time. I shed an embarrassing number of tears as I read this mystery, but I smiled through them all, which is a testament to the characters Winspear has created, molded and let experience so many things across these seven novels.

Favorite passage: "Even though she had her own flat in London, even though she was London born and bred, when she came to her father's house, to all intents and purposes she was considered to be home. Maisie smiled. He's been waiting for you to come home. It was true, she always felt a sense of belonging at Chelstone, and particularly when she reflected upon the hours spent with Maurice at The Dower House."

The verdict: The Mapping of Love and Death is the best Maisie Dobbs book yet. The mystery is intriguing and the personal storylines are equally intellectually and emotionally engaging.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Length: 368 pages
Publication date: March 23, 2010 (it's in paperback now)
Source: I bought it for my Kindle

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2 comments:

  1. I think I might have given up on this series too early, because the books are actually sounding more and more appealing to me as you review them. I might have to go back and read the second one and see how it goes for me. It sounds like I probably shouldn't miss it.

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  2. I've read only the first 3 Maisie Dobbs books, and really enjoyed them ... I better catch up so I can visit America in the 7th book. Your favorite of the series!?

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