Series: #5 in the Maisie Dobbs series
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Publication Date: 2008
The Short Version:
This is a bit more of a mystery than some of the earlier books in the series, but still primarily a story of the time and place that is England between the two world wars.
Why I Read It:
I’m trying to get caught up with the series before the newest one comes out this summer.
This is the 5th in a series so if you’re concerned about spoilers for earlier books skip on down to the My Thoughts section although I really don’t think there are any spoilers in this summary.
In the midst of the continuing tough economic times, Maisie is happy to accept what appears to be a fairly simple assignment from an old friend. He’s working out a deal to buy some property and a brickworks in a small village in the countryside, but is concerned about reports of vandalism and petty crime in the area and whether this is enough of a concern to his purchase plans.
Hop picking season brings many people to the area on a temporary basis. Both gypsies and Londoners seek out the wages and the escape from the city that the hop harvest provides. The permanent residents of the village are quick to blame both the gypsies and Londoners for any and all of their seasonal troubles, but Maisie senses an undercurrent as she investigates. It’s apparent that the villagers are keeping secrets, but Maisie can’t figure out what it has to do with a wartime zeppelin raid on the village that no one seems to want to talk about. In the meantime, petty thefts and apparent arson incidents are shrugged off as either accidents or the work of the outsiders in town for the hop-picking.
Maisie’s assistant Billy and his family are using their holiday time to earn some money picking hops in the area and this works out well for Maisie. While Billy checks out what’s going on and being said in he hop fields, Maisie can spend time in the village and also with the gypsies in the area to try to find out what is really going on and what all the secrecy is about.
As with the previous Maisie Dobbs books, this one is a bit light on the mystery and more a portrayal of England between the two World Wars. The people and the country are still trying to recover from the devastation of World War 1 and the economic depression that followed it. While there are signs of recovery and hope for the future, there is still much healing that needs to happen for individuals touched by the horrors of the war as well as the country and its economic health.
I enjoyed the storyline with the gypsies and Maisie’s interactions with them. Perhaps it is a little too coincidental in places, but still an interesting storyline of the society within a society (or on the fringe). The recurring characters of Maisie’s father and friends and the storylines that continue throughout the series are interesting, enjoyable and at times a bit heartbreaking.