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.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline Winspear

(32. - 1171.) - A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline Winspear - In the fall of 1942, young women, members of the Air Transport Authority (ATA), are ferrying fighters and bombers around England. When bored they may do some stunts. They are admired and disdained by men.

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

Winspear, Jacqueline – (2008) - Maisie Dobbs(Best fiction of 2008) (2008) - Birds of a Feather; (2009) - Pardonable Lies; (2011) - Messenger of Truth; (2012) - An Incomplete Revenge; (2012) - Among the Mad; (2013) - The Mapping of Love and Death; (2016) - A Lesson in Secrets; (2016) - Elegy for Eddie; (2018) Leaving Everything Most Loved; (2020) - A Dangerous Place - Part I on Maisie's life since the last book and Part II a review; (2020) - A Journey to Munich; (2021) - In This Grave Hour; (2021) - To Die But Once; (2022) - The American Agent; (2023) - The Consequences of Fear


  1. I find the background as you describe it to be very interesting, Bill; I'd have wanted to know more about moving the bombers, etc.. And I share your concern, if that's the word, about having to give up a bit too much disbelief. That said, though, Maisie Dobbs has such an interesting character that I can see how she and her personal life would be able to sustain interest.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. All the elements for a great story. The ATA is a great example of the contributions of women. Maisie's personal life certainly carried this book.