Maisie, in turn, looked at the headstone she had unwittingly chosen as her cover. It bore the words: “Donald Holden. Born 1900. Died 1919. Beloved only son of Ernest and Hilda Holden. ‘Memory Is A Golden Chain That Bind Us ‘Til We Meet Again’”. Maisie looked at the weeds underfoot. They may have met already, she thought, while keeping a keen but inconspicuous watch on Celia Davenham, who remained at the immaculate neighboring grave, her head bowed, still speaking quietly. Maisie began to clear the weeds on Donald Holden’s grave.
“Might as well look after you while I’m here,” she said quietly, placing daffodils in the vase, which was mercifully full of rainwater. She couldn’t afford to trudge all the way across the cemetery to the water tap: Cilia might depart while she was gone.
As Maisie stepped to the side of the path to deposit a pile of weeds, she saw Celia Davenham move toward the headstone she had held her vigil. She kissed the cold, grey marble, brushed away a tear, then turned quickly and walked away. Maisie was in no hurry to follow. Instead she nodded at Donald Holden’s headstone, then walked over to the grave that the Davenham woman had just left. It said “Vincent”. Just “Vincent”. No other name, no date of birth. Then the words, “Taken from all who love you dearly.”
Maisy Dobbs, the first in a long series of mystery novels by Jacqueline Winspear, is a pleasant read, although I was expecting quite a lot more from it.
It starts out as a mystery that sounded a bit foggy from the start but picked my interest nonetheless when references to WWI veterans appeared. Then the middle of the novel – and it’s a good chunk, taking up half of the book – turned out to be Maisie’s backstory. This suggests to me that this book is really an introduction to the character, more than a standalone mystery. The middle of the book is almost a story on its own, with a few, not very strong connections, to the mystery. The last part of the novel, the conclusion, was in fact quite weak and unrealistic, if I may say.
Yes, as a mystery, it was quite disappointing. What saved the book for me was the cast of very nice characters, most of whom I had no trouble relating. I really liked the historical setting, especially the recreation of the war experience, if it felt a bit detached at times. I find that Winspear is very good at creating episodes. Many were very involving, even moving. But as far as the plot goes as a whole… that was a lot less involving. At least, this is my feeling for this first novel.
An enjoyable one, anyway. Do give it a try.
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