Deep in the minds of all mystery readers exists characters,
settings and storylines that are not forgotten and that find a
permanent place in their hearts. Readers always know when they come
across an author who has created one of these experiences for them.
Jacqueline Winspear has written a series that does just that with
her heroine, Maisie Dobbs.
THE MAPPING OF LOVE AND DEATH is the seventh book in the series,
which is set in England between the two world wars. Maisie receives
a letter from Dr. Charles Hayden, an American surgeon who she met
during World War I. He has referred Mr. and Mrs. Clifton to her.
Mr. Clifton, who grew up in England but left in his teens to work
in America, is very successful in his business and has married into
an important American family. Their meeting with Maisie involves
their son, Michael, a cartographer and surveyor for the Royal
Engineers in WWI who suddenly disappeared in 1916. Sixteen years
have passed, and his remains were discovered recently in a field in
France. When his journal, personal affects and letters are returned
to his loved ones, they find personal correspondence from a
mysterious lady who simply signed her letters as “the English
nurse.” The family asks for Maisie’s help in locating
this woman so that they can learn more about Michael’s life
during the war.
Maisie looks through the documents she receives and reads the
French coroner’s report, which declares that Michael and his
unit died from a shelling attack. But Maisie ascertains --- as does
the American surgeon and Michael’s father --- that the young
man died from a different kind of attack: a blunt object to his
skull. Was he murdered? And, if so, why?
As Maisie undertakes the case, her investigation uncovers how
cartography was used in the war and who had knowledge of an
American cartographer. With the help of her friend, Priscilla,
Maisie learns of Lady Petronella Casterman, a former suffragist who
founded a medical unit staffed by women who were sent to France in
1915. Could the English nurse have been on her staff?
When the Cliftons are attacked in their hotel room and their
place is ransacked, the case becomes more puzzling for Maisie, who
herself is attacked and stripped of her briefcase. How are all of
these threads of Michael’s life intertwined, and do they
create a reason for his murder? Could the catalyst for all of this
have been the land he bought in California before enlisting in the
Royal Engineers, or was it something that happened during the war?
Because of Maisie’s indomitable abilities to analyze human
behavior, she is able to piece together facts that will solve the
case, including the discovery of the English nurse’s
identity. There is also the usual cast of characters who support
every Maisie Dobbs mystery: her father; her assistant, Billy Beale;
the Comptons; and her mentors, Maurice and Khan.
Jacqueline Winspear’s mystery series keeps me coming back
for more because of her delightful heroine. Maisie solves the
puzzles of each case through her understanding of human nature and
uncovers the truth about herself and her characters. She is complex
in her outlook, yet hopes to find closure and peace as she closes
each case. I respect Maisie for her knowledge of human nature
and all that it encompasses in her search for truth and
Reviewed by Jennifer McCord on January 6, 2011