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)