Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Leaving Everything Most Loved

Summary: The death of an Indian immigrant leads Maisie Dobbs into a dangerous yet fascinating world and takes her in an unexpected direction in this latest chapter of the New York Times bestselling series "that seems to get better with each entry" (Wall Street Journal). 

London, 1933. Two months after the body of an Indian woman named Usha Pramal is found in the brackish water of a South London canal, her brother, newly arrived in England, turns to Maisie Dobbs to find out the truth about her death. Not only has Scotland Yard made no arrests, evidence indicates that they failed to conduct a full and thorough investigation. 

Before her death, Usha was staying at an ayah's hostel alongside Indian women whose British employers turned them out into the street—penniless and far from their homeland—when their services were no longer needed. As Maisie soon learns, Usha was different from the hostel's other lodgers. But with this discovery comes new danger: another Indian woman who had information about Usha is found murdered before she can talk to Maisie. 

As Maisie is pulled deeper into an unfamiliar yet captivating subculture, her investigation becomes clouded by the unfinished business of a previous case as well as a growing desire to see more of the world, following in the footsteps of her former mentor, Maurice Blanche. And there is her lover, James Compton, who gives her an ultimatum she cannot ignore. 

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.  -- Harper

If there is one mystery series out there that I won't miss, it's the Maisie Dobbs mysteries by Jacqueline Winspear. I have read every single one of these books and I have loved each one of them for a different reason. What's so amazing about these books is that I think they just keep getting better and better. And that's no mean feat considering that the latest novel LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED is the tenth in this series.

LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED takes place in 1933 London and begins with the death of an Indian immigrant named Usha. Usha's brother arrives in London two months following her death to discover that the police have made little, if any, progress in the case; and he begins to question of his sister's death was ever a priority for Scotland Yard. He calls on Maisie to help in the investigation.

As Maisie looks into Usha's death, she discovers that Usha was living at a hostel for Indian women who have been turned out on the streets by their English employers. However, Usha seemed different from the other women who lived there. Maisie learns that one of Usha's friends has some valuable information about her death, but before they have a chance to talk, the friend ends up murdered too.

While Maisie is focused on learning more about the Indian culture in London and solving the murders, she is also concerned about one of her employees. In addition, she has some personal issues that need addressed including her relationship with her boyfriend and her desire to travel like her mentor Maurice. Of course, Maisie manages to find a balance in her life and she does solve the murders by the end of the novel. But she also makes a decision that could take her into an unknown world.

I absolutely couldn't wait to read LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED and I have to say I wasn't disappointed. It's no secret that I love Maisie and am a huge fan of Ms. Winspear's, and this novel definitely reinforced that. I am continually amazed that the books in this series continue to be fresh, and I appreciated the direction that Maisie's character went in at the end of the novel. Naturally, I can't wait to see where Maisie's adventure takes her!

One of my absolutely favorite things about LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED was that the story explored the Indian subculture in London in the early 1930s. I am the first to admit that I know almost nothing about London in this time period, but if pressed, I'd probably assume that there were some prejudices against Indians. I loved how this novel explored those tensions, and Maisie's insights into these issues was very astute. But I just love all things Maisie!

It should almost go without saying by now that the mystery aspects of these books are wonderful. I questioned who was the culprit and why, and I was definitely kept guessing until the end. However, what made this novel is more special was how it addressed Maisie's personal issues. In the past, Maisie has had some horrible things happen to her and it's been interesting to see how she's coped with everything. Once again, my heart went out to Maisie for the pain she's experienced, and I sincerely hoped that she could find some contentment and even happiness.

Poor Maisie! Since the death of Maisie's long time mentor Maurice, she's definitely been battling some inner demons. In this novel, her call to see the world (like Maurice) has really started affecting Maisie and the relationships in her life. The question exists through the course of this novel, "Will Maisie sacrifice everything because of her restlessness?" There were times when I understood Maisie's plight, and then there were times that I thought she might just be running away from her life. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about Maisie's decisions.

It's hard to put into words just how intelligent these novels are. Ms. Winspear had an amazing ability to create an intriguing mystery and then tie what's occurring in Maisie's personal life to it. In the case of this novel, the title is absolutely perfect and reflects not only Maisie's feelings, but also Usha's as well. For all ten books, I've enjoyed how Maisie solves a crime and also learns about herself in the process.

My thoughts about Maisie's actions lead me to believe that LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED would be a fantastic book club pick. There is a reading guide available with ten interesting discussion questions. Some of the topics you might want to explore include Maisie's relationship with her lover and the effects of Maurice's death on her. In addition, it might be interesting to discuss Maisie's restlessness and what Maisie's future holds.

LEAVING EVERYTHING MOST LOVED is another wonderful addition to the Maisie Dobbs series. I highly recommend this novel... and every single other one in this series, too.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read. 


Beth F said...

I read the first one in the series and really liked it. I should find the time to read the rest.

Anonymous said...

I know I want to get back to this series. I think I read the first 2 and then I can't remember why I didn't keep going because I really did love those 2.

bermudaonion said...

My mom adores this series as well. I tried Elegy for Eddie and thought it was okay. I really need to go back and start from book one.

Beth Hoffman said...

I've enjoyed several books from this series and this one sounds good!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have yet to read a Maisie book - I guess I should!

Marg said...

I think I am up to book 5 in this series. Your review makes me want to rush through the series so that I can get to this one!

LongTimeFan said...

One of the major things I have loved about Maisie is her independent, spinster streak. She doesn't need to "conform" to the norm. I have read and really liked everyone of "Maisie Dobbs" novels so far, but because I know she's giving in, I don't have any desire to even read this last one. And anyone so selfish as to give her an ultimatum like Viscount James Compton does, well Maisie should have kicked him to the curb.
Too many other good books on my "To Be Read" list for me to read this one.
And everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I bet I'm not the only avid Maisie Dobbs fan that is upset with this turn of events.
I was in love with storyline which is why I stuck with it.
Now, if she were to come back to her real roots, and her origins, then I would read both this one AND the next one, one right after the other.
We'll see how things go.