This week, I’ve been reading Jacqueline Winspear’s seventh Maisie Dobbs novel, “The Mapping of Love and Death“. Despite the attractive Andrew Davidson illustration on the cover, the story has very little to do with Kent, and everything to do with London, and an American couple trying to trace survivors of the Somme who had known their son, whose remains had recently been found.
Maisie, an independent investigator who has risen from the servant classes to the lower middle class, was herself a nurse in France during the war, which gives her access to others who knew the cartography unit in which the dead American, Michael Clifton, served. To add to the complications, he had surveyed some potential oil land in California prior to enlisting, revealing only that he had purchased it, but not the location, and now his brother-in-law is particularly keen to find out happened to Michael, and whether the letters he wrote to an unidentified “English Nurse” can shed some light on the affair.
Maisie is struggling to make her way in the world, a world in which the old certainties are breaking down in the aftermath of a world war, in a London in the grip of a recession. There are times when this feels like a history lesson, but mostly Winspear manages to keep the plot moving along without the handbrake of didacticism, that risks turning a smooth journey into a lurching one. It will no doubt play well to all those who enjoy watching Foyle’s War, or other wartime nostalgia. Pleasant enough, but I’d need to read more of the series to give this some proper context.