Monday, January 31, 2011

book review: Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

The backstory: Birds of a Feather is the second Maisie Dobbs mystery novel, and I'm reading the entire series as part of Book Club Girl's Read-Along. My review of Maisie Dobbs, the first novel in the series, is here.

The basics: Maisie Dobbs is back to solve another case. This case is a bit more serious than the last one: Maisie is hired to find Charlote Waite, the only daughter of a wealthy businessman, who has gone missing.

My thoughts: Birds of a Feather was more of a pure mystery than Maisie Dobbs. The reader is already familiar with Maisie and her history, and Maisie gets to solve a much more difficult (and increasingly frightening) crime. The missing person case is shrouded in mystery and Maisie is cognizant of the fact Charlotte's father came to her rather than the police. Despite the mystery being the focus of this novel, Winspear still manages to enhance Maisie's character as well as let the other minor characters shine.
Part of what makes this mystery so intriguing is Maisie's personal connection to the case. Charlotte is an unmarried woman who does not need to work but perhaps yearned to work, and Maisie senses a connection with her:
"Perhaps Charlotte's curiosity about the contemplative life, that the book and pamphlets in her room suggested, stemmed from a desire for a deeper, more intimate connection than that promised by marriage to the men in her circle."
Maisie describes herself as a psychologist and investigator, so it's natural for her to get inside the mind of the person she's trying to find, but I'll be curious if future cases continue to bring characters seemingly similar to Maisie. Maisie's identification with Charlotte mirrors my identification with Maisie herself. I think part of the appeal of Maisie for modern readers is the idea that if I were Maisie's age during World War I, I could easily see myself living a life similar to hers.

Favorite passage: "She had yearned for conversation rather than talk; for heartfelt passion not indulgence; and that she had ached for the intimate connection that came with true friendship rather than from a cadre of society sycophants." (p. 81)

The verdict: The mystery takes center stage in this novel, but Winspear has successfully written a historical novel as compelling in character and setting as it is in mystery.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 336 pages
Publication date: June 1, 2004 (it's in paperback and on the Kindle too)
Source: my local public library

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  1. I liked a lot of things about the first book, but had been holding back on the second for fear of what I may find, so I am glad to hear that it was such a good read for you! I am going to have to think about continuing on with this series, as it sounds like the mystery was a lot more satisfying this time around! Great review on this one!

  2. I haven't read this book, but I keep seeing the cover. I LOVE it. I would actually love it in poster form to frame and hang, haha!

  3. Great review - I'm so glad you're along for the read-along ride. I too liked BOAF a bit more than MD and am looking forward to the next book even more now!


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