Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

February 26, 2013

Plot summary (from the publisher): 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.

Warning: Spoilers below!

Liked:

  • I thought this, the second book in the series, was much better than the first. I think the linear storytelling had a lot to do with it. Also, readers are (or should be) already familiar with Maisie Dobbs, so less time had to be spent on background info.
  • I love that Maisie solves her cases through good, old-fashioned detective work without relying on any of the technology and/or gimmicks used by modern detectives. She doesn’t turn into a sultry seductress to get information, she doesn’t have Google at her fingertips, she’s not an all-around badass who can use any weapon or defend herself with martial arts skills in hand-to-hand combat. She uses her brain.
  • The solution to this case — that the murders were being committed by someone who lost all her sons in the war (after they felt pressured to enlist by the women handing out the white feathers of cowardice) — was believable. I’m not sure how much of a chance readers had of solving the case (I was pretty lost most of the way), but once the solution was laid out, it made sense to me.
  • I like that although romance with the police inspector and that other doctor was hinted at, Maisie didn’t actually go out with either of them in this book. If there must be romance, let it develop slowly.

Disliked:

  • I’m not getting much of a feel for what Billy’s purpose is. He’s supposed to be Maisie’s assistant, but he doesn’t really do much in the way of helping her. He doesn’t even run errands or anything. Plus, his characterization seems almost stereotypical (he calls his children “nippers” and uses other British slang — the only character to do so) and over the top. I don’t like him.
  • Billy’s whole addicted to cocaine storyline was boring, too.
  • The whole thing about switching clothes/places with Charlotte at the end to catch the killer seemed rather cliche. I was hoping Maisie could get to the killer (Mrs. Waite) some other way.

Rating

Having read two books in the Maisie Dobbs series, I’ve been convinced to keep reading more. Birds of a Feather was a much stronger, better written effort than its predecessor, and I hope Winspear continues to hit her stride in subsequent novels. I give this one 4 stars out of 5.

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