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LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED
by Jacqueline Winspear
Harper, March 2013
352 pages
$26.99
ISBN: 0062049607


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Although I had not read any of the previous Maisie Dobbs books, there is enough background information skilfully interwoven in this tenth novel of the series that I had no difficulty in following the evolution of her personal interactions with her assistants Billy and Sandra, her family history and her lover, James Compton. Maisie's rise from a working class background to become a prosperous private investigator was made possible by her mentor and patron Maurice Blanche who not only paid for her education at Cambridge but in his will made Maisie the benefactor of his estate. Previous stories in this series concentrated on issues relating to the Great War. Having served at the front as a nurse, she could draw on her experiences for her investigations.

There are still a few references to the war experiences but her present case moves Maisie into new directions when she is brought in to investigate the murder of an East Indian woman, Usha Pramal. Her brother, a former sergeant-major in the British colonial army, has arrived in London demanding answers from Scotland Yard which had mounted only a half-hearted investigation. Perhaps as Maisie remarks to Detective Inspector Caldwell, "because she was the wrong colour." As Maisie is drawn into the Indian subculture of London she uncovers the exploitation experienced by Pramal and her good friend Maya Patel in the Ayah hostel run by supposed Christian missionaries, Mr & Mrs Paige. They in turn lead Maisie to a self-styled pastor, the Reverend Colin Griffith, who had briefly known Usha in India before she came to London as a governess. Maisie discovers that Usha was a highly educated woman with a special talent for healing. Usha was able to earn extra money for her services and in fact already had enough saved to return to India where she wanted to open a school for girls.

The novel had some interesting turns and twists, particularly when Maisie has to take over the case of a missing boy that Billy had been assigned to pursue and she finds that the Reverend Griffith works with young boys in the district where Usha's body was found. The two inquires intersect with some surprising results.

The title of this novel can refer to both Usha and Maisie. Did Usha leave her beloved homeland and family because of a failed romance? Why did she leave the employ of a family who loved and respected her, abandoning children who adored her and in order to live in the Ayah Hostel and do domestic work? Maisie faces her own dilemmas as her lover James is anxious to get married and have her accompany him to his new job in Canada. To do so would mean giving up the career she loves and her longing to travel to India on a quest for self-fulfilment inspired by her benefactor Maurice's formative experiences there.

Although I found the writing a bit stilted in the early chapters and the plot development slow(involving an unbelievable number of visits to the Paige hostel), Winspear has Maisie consult a couple of interesting religious figures as she struggles both with finding the murderer and dealing with the conflicting desires of her own heart. This tenth novel hints at a change of direction in the series.

Bringing a crucial chapter in the life and times of Maisie Dobbs to a close, LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED marks a pivotal moment in this remarkable series.

Ann Pearson is a photographer and retired college Humanities teacher who lives in Montreal

Reviewed by Ann Pearson, April 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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