Monday, March 14, 2011

Review: An Incomplete Revenge

Summary: With the country in the grip of economic malaise, Maisie Dobbs is relieved to accept an apparently straightforward assignment to investigate a potential land purchase. Her inquiries take her to a picturesque village in Kent during the hop-picking season, but beneath its pastoral surface she finds evidence that something is amiss. Mysterious fires erupt in the village with alarming regularity, and a series of petty crimes suggest a darker criminal element at work. A peculiar secrecy shrouds the village, and ultimately Maisie must draw on her finely-honed skills of detection to solve one of her most intriguing cases yet. -- Picador

AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE by Jacqueline Winspear is the fifth book in the Maisie Dobbs series. As you probably already know, I am participating in Book Club Girl's Mad for Maisie readalong where I am attempting to read all eight of the Maisie Dobbs books in a little over two months! Reading them isn't really the challenge because I absolutely adore these books. However, I will admit that writing the reviews is getting more and more difficult with each book.

While I enjoyed AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE, I'm not sure it was my favorite one in the series. The mystery was very good, as was the storyline surrounding Maisie's personal life. However, this book was incredibly dark to me. I was actually uncomfortable reading certain parts of the story, and when I could tell where one of the mysteries was going, I was saddened and disheartened. I think AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE definitely showed quite a few elements that reflected the darker side of human nature.

I don't want to make it sound like I didn't really like this book because I did -- it was very well written. But perhaps a better phrase would be that I "appreciated the story." Every single time I read a Maisie Dobbs book, I am so impressed with Ms. Winspear's writing. It's evident that the author has researched early 1930s London and effectively uses what she has learned in every book. In addition, I think she comes up with intriguing characters and mysteries that keep readers hooked. And I am definitely "Mad for Maisie" and I love seeing how her character evolves. However, after reading AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE, I think I'm even more blown away with how well Ms. Winspear uses recurring themes and even symbolism within the various storylines. The Maisie Dobbs books are probably most classified as mysteries, but trust me, they are so much more than that!

I am so happy that there is a reading guide for this novel because I do think it's a very interesting one to discuss. The book does standalone and could be appreciated (and discussed) solely on its own; however, I do think your talk would be more interesting if you know the background of the characters. While all of the books in this series tend to deal with some complex issues, I found AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE to be a little darker than the others. Because this book showed a side to people that is less than desirable, I think their actions would be fascinating to discuss. Some of the topics that you might want to explore include loss/grief, bigotry, secrets, revenge, bullying, the effects of war, and the themes of fires, animals, and dancing.

It should come as no surprise by now that I recommend the entirely Maisie Dobbs series, including AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE. I am so excited to start the next book AMONG THE MAD in a few days!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

I don't mind dark from time to time. I really need to give this series a try!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I don't mind occasional dark either!

Rebecca Rasmussen said...

I'm with Kathy -- I need to get moving on this series!