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by Jacqueline Winspear
Picador, November 2008
352 pages
ISBN: 0312428189

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Maisie Dobbs continues to enjoy owning her own detective agency, even though the economic depression, resulting from the war, continues to threaten her finances. Therefore, she accepts a case from her benefactor, James Compton. Compton wants to purchase an estate in Heronsdene but has some concerns about it. There have been a series of fires in Heronsdene and Compton needs to convince the board of his company that this purchase is financially sound.

As it is hop-picking season, Heronsdene is inundated by seasonal workers. These people include her handyman assistant, Billy Beale and his family. Beale's family has been attending the hop picking for many years and the extra income is very helpful. Maisie therefore asks Beale to see what the hop-pickers have to say about the community and the landowners in the area. Maisie will meanwhile question Alfred Sandermere, who owns the estate Compton wants to purchase.

While seemingly straightforward, this case proves more complicated than Maisie had anticipated. The Rom, or the gypsies, participate in the hops picking and many of the villagers do not approve of their presence in the community. They are accused of any criminal act that occurs in the neighborhood including crimes where the real criminal is apparent and not Rom. Yet the tribe of gypsies, under the leadership of Beulah Webb, will be able to provide Maisie with the most valuable information about Sandermere's personality, his estate and the village in general. Beulah will also be able to provide Maisie with information about her own family history and its earth medicine practices.

In addition the community has secrets that they do not want Maisie to learn. During the Great War, a zeppelin raid resulted in the death of a family. While this was a tragic event, and Maisie can understand the fact that the villagers do not want to dredge up old memories, she does not understand the hostility her questions raise. Until Maisie discovers the truth about the zeppelin raid, she will not be able to resolve James Compton's case.

AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE is the fifth book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Dobbs had a lot of freedom as a war nurse and insists on retaining much of of that freedom now regardless of what society wants. She is an independent character, and a well-developed one. The only problem is that I do not find her very appealing. While she is occasionally empathetic to the people she deals with, she sometimes does not understand their motivations. At times she is so smug and pleased with herself that she is condescending to those around her. While there is no reason for her to appear humble, there is also no reason for her to be so assertive and superior.

Long time fans will most likely enjoy this book, but I would not recommend it to readers approaching this series for the first time. AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE does not show any of the long-standing characters in their best light.

Reviewed by Sarah Dudley, September 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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