April 29, 2010

Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
Mystery - Audio Book
2005 Sound Library, Unabridged Edition
Finished on 4/16/10
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Product Description

Jacqueline Winspear’s marvelous and inspired debut, Maisie Dobbs, won her fans from coast to coast and raised her intuitive, intelligent, and resourceful heroine to the ranks of literature’s favorite sleuths. Birds of a Feather finds Maisie Dobbs on another dangerously intriguing adventure in London "between the wars." It is the spring of 1930, and Maisie has been hired to find a runaway heiress. But what seems a simple case at the outset soon becomes increasingly complicated when three of the heiress’s old friends are found dead. Is there a connection between the woman’s mysterious disappearance and the murders? Who would want to kill three seemingly respectable young women? As Maisie investigates, she discovers that the answers lie in the unforgettable agony of the Great War.

What a thoroughly enjoyable sequel! I was so entertained, listening in my car over an entire month, that the minute I finished (while out and about, running errands), I made a special trip to the library to get the third installment in the Maisie Dobbs series, Pardonable Lies. The reader for Birds of a Feather (Kim Hicks) is not the same as the reader for Maisie Dobbs (Rita Barrington) and I wasn't sure I was going to like her as much as Barrington. However, after listening to a couple of chapters, I forgot there was a difference in voice and style and wound up enjoying Hicks just as well as Barrington.

Here's a bit more from Winspear's website:

An eventful year has passed for Maisie Dobbs. Since starting a one-woman private investigation agency in 1929 London, she now has a professional office in Fitzroy Square and an assistant, the happy-go-lucky Billy Beale. She has proven herself as a psychologist and investigator, and has even won over Detective Inspector Stratton of Scotland Yard's Murder Squad—an admirable achievement for a woman who worked her way from servant to scholar to sleuth, and who also served as a battlefield nurse in the Great War.

It's now the early Spring of 1930. Stratton is investigating a murder case in Coulsden, while Maisie has been summoned to Dulwich to find a runaway heiress. The woman is the daughter of Joseph Waite, a wealthy self-made man who has lavished her with privilege but kept her in a gilded cage. His domineering ways have driven her off before, and now she's bolted again.

Waite's instructions are to find his daughter and bring her home. When Maisie looks into the disappearance she finds a chilling link to Stratton's murder case, and to the terrible legacy of The Great War.

I love listening to these books! The setting, the time period, the details of clothing and make of vehicles, all come to life as I listen on my drive to and from work. The characters stay with me, invading my thoughts throughout the day. I find that, unlike when I read a printed book, I can recall all of the characters' names (including those in secondary roles) after listening to the audio version. I am completely immersed in Maisie's world. What a treat!

One of the downfalls of listening to an audio book is that it's difficult to share any of my favorite passages. I need to keep a small notepad handy in order to jot down a point of reference in order to look-up a special quote from the book. Until then, here's another quote from the author's website:

Jacqueline's grandfather was severely wounded and shell-shocked at The Battle of the Somme in 1916, and it was as she understood the extent of his suffering that, even in childhood, Jacqueline became deeply interested in the "war to end all wars" and its aftereffects. As an adult her interest deepened to the extent that, though she did not set out to write a "war" novel, it came as no surprise that this part of history formed the backdrop of Maisie Dobbs and other books in the series. The unique and engaging character of Maisie Dobbs is very much a woman of her generation. She has come of age at a time when women took on the toil of men and claimed independence that was difficult to relinquish. It was a time when many women remained unmarried, simply because a generation of men had gone to war and not come home.

"The war and its aftermath provide fertile ground for a mystery. Such great social upheaval allows for the strange and unusual to emerge and a time of intense emotions can, to the writer of fiction, provide ample fodder for a compelling story, especially one concerning criminal acts and issues of guilt and innocence. After all, a generation is said to have lost its innocence in The Great War. The mystery genre provides a wonderful vehicle for exploring such a time," explains Ms. Winspear.

I've already finished Pardonable Lies and I'm anxious to pay the library another visit. I hope they have a copy of Messenger of Truth!


  1. I went and immediately added book one to my wish list. This sounds exactly what I am in the mood for now.

  2. Anonymous4:34 AM

    I've been wanting to read this! Maybe I should try it on audio like you did, although I listened to Hotel on The Corner of Bitter and Sweet and it's easier for me read it myself. Or, faster anyway.

    Have a good day, my friend!

  3. I keep reading good things about the Maisie Dobbs books and really want to try one soon.

  4. I listened to Maisie Dobbs earlier this year and loved it! Need to get to the next installment soon. Thanks for reminding me.
    Audiobooks are really hard to review...not sure you should be jotting down notes while you're driving though ;-)

  5. I must read book one in this series. It is on my bookshelf...what am I waiting for????

  6. I've read tons of gushy reviews on the books in this series and when I tried to read the first, I just couldn't get through it. So, I swapped it away. I think I have at least 2 more and I'm just going to ditch them, as well. I'm kind of disappointed in myself for not enjoying them!!

  7. We are certainly on common ground with these books, Les! The Maisie books are among my all-time favorites. Just now I'm reading the latest in the series. I have a friend going through a divorce and I've loaned her all the M. books. She is getting great solace and pleasure and wisdom from them. A truly great series. I wrote about the 4th, 5th, and 6th on the blog. If you'd like to read them after you've read the books yourself, just type in the author's name and they'll come up.

  8. I have one of her books on the shelf so someday I will be able to share in the enjoyment. I'll have to look for an audio version. Sounds great.

  9. Apologies to all of you for my delay in responding to your wonderful comments. Honestly, I don't know where the days go. OK, that's a lie. They disappear while I'm busting my butt working out at the gym. But I'm not going to give that up! I just need to find the balance in my life once again. Perhaps an iPad would help. ;) But on to your comments...

    Pam - I hope it brings you great enjoyment, dear friend. You've been in my thoughts a lot this past week and I hope tomorrow goes well. I wish I could bring you something delicious to eat along with a great bottle of wine. Or at least one with a charming label. ;) Hugs to you.

    Bellezza - I think the audio version of this series is perfect. Maybe listening to the first book will be enough to get you hooked so you can read the rest in the printed format. I've listened to three, have one more to listen to and then I'll read the fifth (which has been on my shelf for quite some time now). I've grown to love Maisie and her companions and can't wait to see what's in store for her in the coming installments. I don't mind listening over the course of several weeks, but now that I'm walking outdoors more frequently, I can easily get an hour or more in every day. Let me know what you think, if you do start reading these.

    Kathy - I enjoyed the first, but I think by listening to it again (much later), and subsequently the next two in the series, I've found a greater appreciation for the writing and characters. I'll keep listening, but I plan to go back (sometime in the future) and read all the actual books. Maisie is such a wonderful character and I've enjoyed seeing how she develops in each book.

    JoAnn - I think the books getter better and better. Maybe because I've come to know the characters and have grown to care about them. Definitely keep going with the series! You won't be sorry!

    No worries. I won't jot notes while driving. Just while waiting at stoplights! ;)

    Staci - If the book doesn't grab you, give the audio a listen. I'm learning that this alternate format makes a huge difference. I just finished listening to The Art of Racing in the Rain and absolutely loved it! I tried the book sometime last year and couldn't stand it. Go figure.

    Nancy - See my note to Staci (above). Sometimes the audio version is enough to get you hooked. It did me. Both with this series and Garth Stein's novel.

    Nan - Yay! Another book/series we agree on. ;) They are becoming my favorites, too. I'm so enjoying Maisie's story and can't wait to get to the next book in the series. I could've checked it out at the library, but decided to take a short break so each novel would stand alone in my memory. Once I finish World Without End (quite a chunkster!!), I'll get back to Maisie and Billy Beale.

    I hope these books continue to bring great comfort to your friend. You're a dear to lend them to her.

    Yes, I know you've written about #4, #5 and #6. I mentioned them in an earlier post. :)

    Framed - You're in for a treat. I think the series gets better and better with each book.

  10. I read the first Maisie Dobbs and loved it. I've got the second and third in my TBR pile now :)

  11. I love this series! Every book absorbs all my attention. I love getting drawn deeply into a book where you notice nothing around you. This series does that for me. I'm so glad to see that you are enjoying it, too!

  12. Kirsten - I'm listening to the 4th in the series and it's good, but not as good as the previous books. I hear the most recent release is wonderful, so I'll keep going. I love listening to them on audio. The reader is wonderful!

  13. Joy - I do, too, although #4 isn't quite as riveting as the first three. Having said that, I was listening on my way home from work and found myself close to tears. I do so enjoy Maisie (and Billy Beale)...


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