The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear - The 7th Maisie Dobbs mystery is excellent. It is one of my favourites in the series. Both the mystery and the telling of Maisie's life are superb.
Maisie is approached by wealthy Bostonians Edward and Martha Clifton. Edward was born in England and moved to the United States as a young man. Their son, Michael, while an American, successfully enlisted in the British Army in 1914.
His skills as a surveyor and cartographer were in great demand as the conflict bogged down in trench war. Accurate and detailed maps were needed for artillery fire, assaults from the trenches and defensive strategies.
Michael went missing in 1916. A French farmer, 16 years later uncovers the dugout in which the bodies and his unit have been entombed since the war. Their bodies were shredded with shrapnel. The dugout had been covered up during the shelling.
In Michael's effects were his journal and a series of lettters signed "The English Nurse". The Cliffords retain Maisie to find the nurse. The letters are an emotional tug on Maisie's heart. She is taken back to her exchanges of letters as an English nurse with her Simon, the English doctor she loved during the war. Each set of lovers had been equally careful with names as they used ambulance drivers to bypass the censors. Both The English Nurse and Maisie have lost their loves during the war.
The search shifts from a son's relationship with his girl to murder when Maisie spots an anomally in the death report.
Maisie enters the world on military cartography. I found her journey deep into the Great War fascinating as I learned about a part of military science with which I was unfamiliar.
Maisie's mentor, Dr. Maurice Blanche, powerfully describes the art of the cartographer:
"Ah, a man who makes maps - an adventurer with his feet on
"You see the names of far-flung places and want to see who lives
there, and what paths they travel through life. Ah, but the
mapmaker, he is one who looks at the land around him and
interprets it for the rest of us, who gives us the path to our own
adventure, if you like."
"She wondered if this was how a cartographer might begin his
work, simply by standing at a vantage point and regarding the
land he must interpret for others to find their way ..... He must be
the storyteller and the editor, seeing the curves and movement of
the land with a practiced eye, and then bringing a mathematical
precision to the page. If he was wrong, then people would
become lost on their journey."
Jobs well done have a beauty not always appreciated. I thought back to my youth when maps intrigued me. Distant lands were made real on paper. Coming to present time I read the book on a ship making 10 stops in 8 different countries which meant daily looking at maps of places I had only dreamed of as a boy. Far away lands had come to life for me.
In her personal life Maurice is failing. Having recently lost Simon it is a struggle for Maisie to see her mentor in such physical decline. He sees her as the daughter he never had and to Maisie he is a second father.
Romance finds its way back into her life with the return of James Crompton from Canada. A reader cannot but hope that a new love will let Maisie end her solitary evenings sitting alone in her flat. (May 22/13)
I am looking forward to the 8th in the series. As with other great series I am anxious to see what happens next in Maisie's life both professionally and personally.
- Bill Selnes
- Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
- I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.