I came into this series by reading book sixteen, The Consequences of Fear, and wanted to know more about how Maisie Dobbs became who she is. My solution to that was to read this first book in the series and then decide if I wanted to read all of the others. After reading this really sad, heartbreaking book, I read all of the book blurbs on the remainder of the books in the series and I came to the conclusion that Maisie Dobbs had the darkest, saddest life of anyone I’ve ever read. So, I’m going to skip all of those earlier books and perhaps try number eighteen when it comes out. Maybe that one will be less dark and sad.
I think, for me, this book might have suffered from having the writing be too good. Yes, I know – how can that be? I suppose it really can’t, but what I mean is – the research is so thorough and the writing so well done that you feel as if you are right there in the middle of the battlefield, or that you can actually see that terribly disfigured soldier as he tries to deal with his return to a society who really doesn’t want to see him. It just makes you feel it all – and the ending – it is one of the saddest things I’ve read.
The narrator, Rita Barrington, did a nice enough job, but it didn’t come out as a smooth steady flow of words as you’d picture a conversation. It sounded more like she was reading – which, of course, she was, but I didn’t want to hear it that way. As far as a distinct voice for each character goes – they all sounded like iterations of the narrator’s natural voice. If a character spoke without identifying themselves, I wouldn’t have been able to distinguish which character it was.
The mystery in this book has to do with deaths at a ‘farm’ where returning soldiers with terrible facial disfigurement go to live so they can avoid the stares among the public. However, the mystery doesn’t take up a large portion of the book. It is a good mystery, but still, the largest portion of the book is the set-up for the series. We are introduced to Maisie’s background, family, and friends as well as showing her war experiences.
This book broke my heart and made me very sad. I actually wish I had stopped reading well before the end – maybe just after the mystery was solved – because I honestly didn’t want to see the rest. Was it realistic? Probably. Was it something I wanted to read or know? Absolutely not.
So, I would never read this book a second time, but I am glad I now know Maisie’s background. If you don’t mind gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, grossly sad books, you’ll probably enjoy the read more than I did. Still, it is well written.