We were quite thrilled to have all the seats around the table filled for this month’s meeting of the Mystery Book Club.  Pam introduced the group to Joan, a volunteer with the library who will be taking the lead for the group in the future.  Joan has been volunteering at the Spanish Springs Library since 2006 and due to budget cuts, Pam’s role with the Club will be reduced, though she will still play an important part, albeit behind the scenes.

Several handouts were provided to the group, namely a printout from a reading guide that included discussion questions, a biography of Jacqueline Winspear, the author, and a copy of an essay Ms. Winspear wrote after visiting a number of World War I battlefields.

Maisie Dobbs is Jacqueline Winspear’s first novel and the first in a series featuring a female sleuth named Maisie Dobbs.

Our discussion initially focused on the many changes wrought by World War I, known in Britain as the Great War.  Most particularly, how class lines and the divisions between the sexes were erased under the overwhelming needs of the country and its men in the battlefields.  Maisie was able to break out of her socio-economic strata due to both her intelligence and the very lucky circumstances of her employment by a known suffragette.  Of course, it didn’t hurt to get caught reading Latin in the family’s library!

The horrors of war in general was something the group discussed at length and while the American experience in World War I was different from the British experience, most members of the group were able to relate to the horrors described in the novel because a family member had been in the war.  It was agreed that the author’s portrayal of that time was quite accurate and enthralling. 

Structurally, however, the novel was found to be a bit clunky, with the first section transitioning to a flashback, leaving the reader wanting more of the story told at the beginning.  But patience on the part of the reader paid off in the end and most questions were answered, while others were offered up, which, of course, is the basis of an interesting series.

Initally,the mystery itself wasn’t terribly gripping, probably because of the aforementioned clunky transitions.  The whole middle section of the book doesn’t really deal with the mystery of where Mrs. Davenham goes and who Vincent is, but it does lay the groundwork for the psychological aspects of the mystery as addressed in the third section. 

On the whole, the group enjoyed the book and were not adverse to reading similar type stories in the future.  The group found the history of the era, as lived by the heroine, to be very interesting.

Pam had two book suggestions for the members – “Cold Dish” by Craig Johnson and “Suspect” by L.R. Wright.  Please see the sidebar for additional information. 

Pam and Joan also requested that the members come to the next meeting with suggestions for next year’s reading list.  Or they can be posted in the comments section.