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.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear

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."

Maisie adds:

     "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.


  1. Bill - A fine review as ever. This is a good series isn't it ? One of the things I like about it, and that you mention here, is how Winspear ties together Maisie's personal life with the cases she's working.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Maisie is an interesting woman as well as a clever sleuth.

  3. Bill, thank you for this review. I'm not familiar with Jacqueline Winspear or her work. I usually don't purchase new books by contemporary authors and I have been considering membership of a library where I might get to read them. I'm intrigued by how Maisie Dobbs goes about solving Michael's "murder" presumably in the trenches during WWI. Learning about military cartography in a fictional context must make it more interesting.

  4. Prashant: Thanks for your kind words. I think Winspear will be read long into the future.

    I would be interested in learning more about how Indian libraries are set up. In Saskatchewan you are a member of all provincial public libraries when you join the local library.

  5. Bill, it's wonderful that you automatically become "a member of all provincial public libraries when you join the local library" in Saskatchewan. We've nothing of the kind in Mumbai, library membership being no longer a priority as Facebook registration is. However, we have some excellent libraries attached to old institutions, most of them established by the British such as the town hall library called Asiatic Society, which is more than 200 years old. In addition, we also have foreign-run libraries like American Library, British Council, and Max Mueller. Most private circulating libraries have closed down. They have been replaced by the secondhand bookstalls that both sell and lend books.

  6. Bill, I have read three books in the series and I haven't enjoyed them as much as you have. I do have more in the series though, and your review has encouraged me to give it another chance. I enjoy historical mysteries for what I learn from them.

  7. TracyK: Thanks for the comment. Reading tastes vary. I am glad you have tried more than one book in the series before reaching an opinion. I thought the fourth in the series, Messenger of Truth, was excellent.

  8. Prashant: Thanks for the further comment. I found it interesting to hear how your city's libraries are structured.