ELEGY FOR EDDIE is the ninth Jacqueline Winspear novel starring Maisie Dobbs, and in many ways is the most mature and perceptive entry in the series thus far. In the previous installment, A LESSON IN SECRETS, Winspear seemed to start to turn Maisie's attention --- and, consequently, the trajectory of the series --- away from the Great War of the past and toward the uncertainties, conflicts and tragedies yet to come.
"Maisie's self-examination, her sense of being on the verge of huge changes, makes ELEGY FOR EDDIE both unsettling and satisfying to read, as readers follow Maisie on what may be her most personal --- and personally revealing --- case to date."
In ELEGY FOR EDDIE, Winspear seems to personify this uncertainty and uneasiness in Maisie herself. The novel finds Maisie investigating the apparently accidental death of Eddie Pettit, a beloved figure from her humble childhood. Eddie was always a bit slow, vulnerable, and prone to fits of terror and confusion. But one thing could always calm him down: spending time with horses. Likewise, he was famed throughout the community for his ability to work with horses --- to calm them, train them, understand them. Like the horse itself in a rapidly modernizing London, however, Eddie seemed almost to be a relic of the past.
When, in an industrial accident at the paper factory where he worked, Eddie is crushed to death, his costermonger friends urge Maisie to investigate. They tell her that Eddie was troubled in his final weeks: agitated, secretive, not his usual happy self. Maisie's investigation reunites her with figures from her past --- and eventually leads her to question whether she can trust even her closest present friends.
ELEGY FOR EDDIE finds Maisie questioning everything, not merely the facts of the potential murder she's investigating. She's becoming increasingly weary and impatient with her romantic relationship with James Compton. He should be her perfect match, so why does she feel like she's suffocating when she's with him? What's more, a brutal attack on her trusted assistant, Billy, followed by a nervous breakdown and bitter recriminations from Billy's fragile wife Doreen, leads Maisie to question her own long-standing motives, her desire to help those less fortunate than herself.
"Who else have you been trying to help?" a psychologist asks Maisie at one point. "How might have you been trying to make the lives of others conform to your view of the world?" This is the first time that Maisie has been asked --- even forced --- to critically consider this aspect of her personality, and the answers she finds may shape not only the way she approaches Eddie's case but even how she comes to view the world she's created for herself and the lives she's affected, for good or ill.
Maisie's self-examination, her sense of being on the verge of huge changes, makes ELEGY FOR EDDIE both unsettling and satisfying to read, as readers follow Maisie on what may be her most personal --- and personally revealing --- case to date.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on March 29, 2012