On Monday, March 2, at 7 pm on BookPeople’s third floor, the 7% Solution Book Club discusses Jacqueline Winspear’s second Maisie Dobb’s novel, Birds of a Feather. All book clubs are free and open to the public, and book club picks are 10% off at the registers the month of discussion.
Birds of a Feather, Jacqueline Winspear’s second novel starring the indomitable Maisie Dobbs, begins with a missing person. A powerful grocer hires Maisie, now out on her own working as a private investigator after the retirement of her mentor, to find his missing daughter, run away again, this time at the mature age of 32. Dobbs quickly suspects there is more to the woman’s disappearance than the vestiges of teenage rebellion. The recent deaths of several of the missing woman’s old school friends only confirm Maisie’s suspicions, and she must discover what the four estranged friends – three dead, one missing – had once shared in common to make them all targets.
Meanwhile, Dobbs must conquer challenges in her personal life, including the increasing lack of communication between herself and her own father, brought to the fore by her search for the errant daughter of another. She also must figure out a way to help Billy, her assistant, as he turns to drug use to help with the pain from his old war wounds and gas-damaged lungs. She, too, must figure out a way to heal from her own wounds, psychological and physical, left by the war.
Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs may live in the mid-1920s, but her characters exist just as much in the past as they do in the present. Their paths in their current lives are still determined by the legacy of the war as much as any attempt to move past it into the future. How can they? Many of the characters in the novel no longer have a future – the war robbed them of theirs, in the form of sons, lovers, fathers, and husbands; all gone or returned irreparably damaged. The world of Maisie Dobbs is also a world of women; women who have taken over the traditional roles of men, first in the war, and then afterwards, in the post-war context of few men and many unmarried women.
Maisie Dobbs, in her work as a private investigator, uses intuition and empathy far more than deduction. Her detecting skills offer a welcome relief from the cold logic of a Sherlock or the bumbling niceness of a Watson, and she can pick a lock or interrogate a suspect as well as the next (wo)man. Jacqueline Winspear has created a believable and heroic female detective for a post-war Britain partially defined by its dearth of men, and has been justly applauded for her efforts.
Copies of Birds of a Feather are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. The 7% Solution Book Club meets the first Monday of each month. As always, books for book clubs are 10% off when purchased the month of discussion.