The latest installment of the Maisie Dobbs series, Leaving Everything Most Loved, will be released tomorrow, and it represents a turning point in the series. One that might make longtime fans a little apprehensive about where the series is headed. One that also is sure to entertain those same enthusiasts with the dramatic course of action that the protagonist chooses. Many read Maisie for the slow, thoughtful and deliberate way she navigates the disturbing memories she carries from the first world war, and for the way she respects the fabric of societal norms while still walking an unorthodox occupational path. She is comfortable inhabiting and interacting with a sense of "otherness." Will she choose the more conventional life or push that exploration of the "other" to another level?
While I enjoyed the last few novels in the series, I felt like the character of Maisie was caught in stasis, unable or unwilling to make difficult personal decisions for her own health and happiness and distracting herself with the demands of her job. The mystery portions were satisfying enough but the personal aspects began to repeat themselves. Can she resolve her personal difficulties? Winspear makes it very clear from the title and the quotes that introduce the newest book that a big shift is coming :
You shall leave everything loved most dearly, and this is the shaft of which the bow of exile shoots first. You shall prove how salt is the taste of another man's bread and how hard is the way up and down another man's stairs. - Dante, Paradiso
All the people like us are We, and everyone else is They. - Rudyard Kipling, "We and They"
I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. - Beryl Markham, West With the Night
The year is now 1933 and the body of an Indian woman is retrieved from the water of a South London canal. Her brother arrives from India some weeks later, and is disturbed to find that Scotland Yard has done so little to solve the mystery of his sister's death. Chagrined, the inspector recommends Maisie to assist the brother in finding his sister's killer. When a friend of Usha's, the deceased, also shows up dead, before Maisie has had a chance to question her, the links to another case begin to draw an elaborate web that forces Maisie's hand in looking at her love life and her career path as she seeks justice for a woman who was invisible to some in society.
You may come away from this book wondering what the conclusion means for the series. It would be unfair to discuss this in detail, but a lot of the structure of the series is dismantled both literally and figuratively by the end. This installment is the movement, the beginning of resolution that I have been looking for in the slower pacing of the last few books. Highly readable for fans and a book that might draw back some to the series who gave up on it a while back.
Visit links at TLC Book Tours this week to read about this and other books in the series.