Most of the women, such as Jo Hardy, are upper class. Only women from well-to-do families could afford to take flying lessons before WW II.
Hardy becomes involved in a bizarre incident involving someone shooting at her ferrying a Spitfire and then rescuing a bound up black American soldier, Matthias Crittenden. Winspear rarely veers into the incredible but Hardy’s story and the Americans involved did more than require a suspension of disbelief.
Maisie Dobbs is asked to investigate as Hardy is worried how Crittenden will be treated in the segregated American army. Though she has amazing contacts in Inspector McFarlane from Scotland Yard and her husband, Mark Scott, I doubt in real life she could have achieved investigative opportunities from the U.S. Army.
Condemnation of American segregation in the American Army, while laudable, becomes heavy handed.
Maisie is spending more time at Chelstone Manor with her adopted daughter, Anna, who is displaying some signs of psychological distress. Maisie soon realizes the problems stem from Anna’s treatment at school where there is a new headmistress.
How Maisie and her new husband, Mark Scott, both prominent individuals wrestle with the schooling of their child was more interesting than the implausible pursuit of a trio of villains in rural England.
Bringing Eleanor Roosevelt into the story was inspired. The First Lady is visiting England and her security detail is uneasy with her penchant for heading into crowds or impromptu speaking to members of the public.
I would have found the plot more interesting had the role of the ATA ferry pilots been emphasized and the participation of the mysterious evildoers decreased, even eliminated.
I felt the story of the women pilots was fascinating but to include them took contortions.
Winspear piqued my interest when she delved into the files of her old mentor, Maurice Blanche, for assistance in a situation of “the personal mirroring the professional” - a circumstance where “something emerging at home that is currently evident in the case at hand”. Maurice urges compassion. Maisie, the mother, finds compassion difficult in dealing with a woman who has brought pain to Anna.
Reconnaissance aerial photos taken from a Spitfire play a cameo role. I was reminded of Bird’s Eye View by Elinor Florence where a young Saskatchewan woman becomes a highly valued reconnaissance photo evaluator.
With Maisie now married to Mark Scott she has yet another surname to add to her birth surname of Dobbs and her first marriage where she was Lady Compton.
Maisie’s personal life has always been important to the series. In this book I thought it carried the plot. I found myself more eager to find out what was happening to Anna and Mark than the mystery investigation. Adjusting the mystery to a more credible storyline would have made A Sunlit Weapon a great book