With the country in the grip of economic malaise, and worried about her business, Maisie Dobbs is relieved to accept an apparently straightforward assignment from an old friend to investigate certain matters concerning 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 suggests a darker criminal element at work. As Maisie discovers, the villagers are bitterly prejudiced against outsiders who flock to Kent at harvest timeeven more troubling, they seem possessed by the legacy of a wartime Zeppelin raid. Maisie grows increasingly suspicious of a peculiar secrecy that shrouds the village, and ultimately she must draw on all her finely honed skills of detection to solve one of her most intriguing cases.
Early September 1931
The old woman rested on the steps of her home, a caravan set apart from those of the rest of her family, her tribe. She pulled a clay pipe from her pocket, inspected the dregs of tobacco in the small barrel, shrugged, and struck a match against the rim of a water butt tied to the side of her traveling home. She lit the pipe with ease, clamping her ridged lips around the end of the long stem to draw vigor from the almost-spent contents. A lurcher lay at the foot of the steps, seeming at first to be asleep, though the old woman knew that one ear was cocked to the wind, one eye open and watching her every move.
Aunt Beulah Webbthat was the name she was known by, for an older gypsy woman was always known as aunt to those youngersucked on her pipe and squinted as she surveyed the nearby fields, then cast her eyes to the hop-gardens beyond. The hops would be hanging heavy on the bine by now, rows upon rows of dark-green, spice-aromad ...
Both loyal fans of Winspear's mysteries and the readers new to her work will welcome this satisfying tale, set in a rural England that is still haunted by ghosts of The Great War. Maisie Dobbs is an independent and observant woman who relies on her perception and intuition to unravel long-time knots in the cases she pursues. The 1930's rural Kent countryside and the cityscape of between-war London serve as convincing historical settings for the unusual story that unfolds.
(Reviewed by Kathy Pierson).
Full Review (1076 words).
From the first page to the last, Winspear sympathetically portrays Maisie Dobb's acceptance of and respect for Roma people, and celebrates their spirit. Sometimes referred to pejoratively as "gypsies" in English speaking countries (a corruption of "Egyptian"), this ancient, family-centered culture is believed to have emerged from warrior classes in what is now Pakistan over a millennium ago. Migrating north and west into Europe by the 16th century, today's Roma are divided by their Indo-Iranian dialect into ...
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