Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book Review: Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear's marvelous and inspired debut, Maisie Dobbs, won her fans from coast to coast and raised her intuitive, intelligent, and resourceful heroine to the ranks of literature's favorite sleuths. Birds of a Feather finds Maisie Dobbs on another dangerously intriguing adventure in London "between the wars." It is the spring of 1930, and Maisie has been hired to find a runaway heiress. But what seems a simple case at the outset soon becomes increasingly complicated when three of the heiress's old friends are found dead. Is there a connection between the woman's mysterious disappearance and the murders? Who would want to kill three seemingly respectable young women? As Maisie investigates, she discovers that the answers lie in the unforgettable agony of the Great War.

Synopsis courtesy of

My Review

3 Stars

Birds of a Feather is the second novel in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mystery series.  Set in late 1920s England, the series features a young private detective, Maisie Dobbs, as the heroine.   In this novel Maisie is recruited by a wealthy businessman to locate his runaway daughter.   While the case initially seems straightforward, it soon becomes complicated by the deaths of three former school friends of the runaway woman.   While it seems that the three deaths are unrelated, Maisie investigates them in the hopes they will help solve her case.  What she uncovers leads her back to events of the Great War, which turns her case into one much larger than that of simply locating a runaway woman.

While the mystery component of the series' first novel (titled Maisie Dobbs) wasn't all that mysterious, nor was it the focal point of the book (click here to read my review), in Birds of a Feather the mystery serves as the foundation for the story.  Winspear does a good job of subtlety linking Maisie's case to that of the deaths of three women so that the connection between them does not become obvious until the novel's conclusion.  Winspear also excels, much like she did in her first novel, at illustrating the impact of the lingering effects of the Great War on those whose lived through it.   Ultimately, however, I didn't enjoy Birds of Feather nearly as much as I did the first novel in the series.   My lack of enthusiasm for this book comes down to the simple fact that for much of the novel Maisie, who is clearly an intelligent and independent woman, comes across as cold and detached.   While this is understandable given everything Maisie has been through, it makes it quite difficult for the reader to connect with the heroine.  This begins to change towards the novel's end, which makes me hopeful that Maisie will continue to grow as the series progresses, but not enough to improve my rating.  Nevertheless, I will continue with this series. 

Recommended to fans of the first Maisie Dobbs novel, as well as to those interested in reading books set in the period between the two World Wars.

Note: The novel comes from my own personal collection.