About Me

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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.

Friday, August 3, 2012

An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear

33. – 665.) An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear – It is the early fall of 1931 and the Depression is worrying Maisie Dobbs as business has slowed. It is with relief that she is retained by James Compton to investigate an unexpectedly large number of fires and small crimes around Heronsdene, a village in Kent, where Compton Enterprises is considering the purchase of a brickworks. I appreciate that Winspear has Maisie concerned over finances. It makes her more real.

As she readies herself to leave London she learns that Simon, the doctor she loved and worked with in WW I, is failing quickly. Since the shell blast that wounded him late in the war Simon’s body has mended but his mind is shattered and unresponsive.

I thought of Wilfred Owen’s poem Disabled about a WW I veteran when I read of Simon’s silent existence. Owen’s poem ends:

            Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
            And do what things the rules consider wise,
            And take whatever pity they may dole,
            Tonight he noticed how the women’s eyes
            Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
            How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come
            And put him into bed? Why don’t they come?

Maisie has never grieved the end of her relationship with Simon and finds herself filled with conflicting emotions over his abrupt decline.

In the country Maisie contemplates another broken relationship. She has been estranged from her mentor, Maurice Blanche, over his decision in Pardonable Lies to keep information from her. She misses their intimate conversations.

The area around Heronsdene is filled with hops pickers. There are Londoners having a working vacation. As well a tribe of gypsies has come to pick. The local residents have little regard for the city pickers and less for the gypsies as reflected in the signs on their businesses saying “No Gypsies Allowed”.

Maisie visits the gypsy camp and forms a relationship with the matriarch, Beaulah, and we learn, to my surprise, that Maisie’s maternal grandmother was a water gypsy.

As with the other mysteries in the series the investigation has elements that stretch back to WW I. While Maisie is occasionally frustrated by the “old boy” network of male public school ties she is equally a member of a special comradeship – those who have served at the front during the war. When male veterans hear she was a front line nurse doors open and information flows more freely.

Heronsdene is a grim community harbouring a secret from the war. While the residents resist giving her information Maisie proceeds with her customary diligence gradually assembling the facts she needs on her case map.

I prefer some ambiguity about the bad guy. There was never a doubt here of his identity or that he was the evil at the center of the community secret.

When Maisie ultimately determines what happened it is wicked, cruel and completely credible.

Maisie finds it a challenge, when a whole community in need, to meet her goal in each case of providing peace for all involved. She is more successful than I would have expected.

I admire Maisie as a character. I was less excited about this plot. I still enjoy the series and will keep reading of Maisie as she continues to make the personal adjustments from a maid under the stairs to an independent successful businesswoman. (June 29/12)


  1. Bill - As always, a thoughtful and well-done review. Thanks. This series gives such an interesting portrayal of an era and as the series goes on, I like the way Winspear weaves those changes into the novels. Of course, I'm biased because I like historical mysteries when they're authentic.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I like your reference to the series being authentic. I do feel as if I am in early 1930's England when I read the books.

  3. I just scheduled a post reviewing this book, too (for next week) but for now I'll just say that it wasn't my favorite Maisie Dobbs, either. Nonetheless, it's a strong series and better than many if not most.

    I didn't really think about it at the time, but you're right about the lack of ambiguity in the bad guy. That's not typical Winspear.

  4. Karen: Thanks for the comment. I look forward to your review.