Mystery Review – An Incomplete Revenge

An Incomplete Revenge
by Jacqueline Winspear
Picador – Trade Paperback – $14
Historical Mystery

An Incomplete Revenge is Ms. Winspear’s fifth installment in her excellent Maisie Dobbs series. I read this novel because the sixth novel, Among the Mad, came out in paperback in November, and I intended to review it during that timeframe. That plan went awry — I read it in plenty of time, but I’ve needed to write this review for a month now.

This is one of the more interesting installments. In it, Ms. Winspear resolves a long-term stymied love affair and takes the reader on a fascinating journey into Rom subculture.

I’m afraid I can’t write this review without referring to events in previous novels. So I have some mild spoilers, which I will confine to this paragraph. The long-stymied love affair is, of course, Simon. Ms. Winspear finally puts this storyline to an end, in a way that I really didn’t think was necessary, but turned out to be welcome. A tragic love-affair that can’t go anywhere can only be played out for so long. It was high time — in fact, it was beyond time — that the author moved on. The Ever Romance plot device that plagues the mystery genre is probably worth a post in itself, and Ms. Winspear is as guilty of this as any author I read. It works like this: two people are interested in each other, but certain things keep them eternally apart. Therefore, the romance progresses at an absolute crawl. In book one, they touch. In book two, they must enter each other’s social distance for some reason or another. In book six, they kiss, but both pretend it never happens. In this book, Maisie and Simon do everything but the Deed in book one (which is called Maisie Dobbs), but then, tragedy strikes. Maisie Dobbs (the novel) really is excellent and it rightfully won Ms. Winspear a laundry list of mystery awards. It was subsequent novels that occasionally got annoying.

I understand that it is hard to keep a romance interesting once they’ve had their happily ever after. But this is a mystery series, not a romance. The romance is like icing. Tasty, but not necessary. If you’re going to have one, resolve SOMETHING in every book, please.

Rant over.

This really was a very good book. I loved the glimpse into Rom life.  Maisie softens up a bit in this novel, even if she expects Billy to work through his vacation (don’t worry–he gets paid for it, and he still gets to go on vacation).  It had a very twisty plot. Maisie must investigate a land sale transaction, and she mainly needs to find out if there is anything undesirable about the property that her patron, James Compton, is to purchase.

What she finds is a long-unsolved mystery. During the Great War, a zepplin fired upon this sleepy England town and a family perished. Except things didn’t quite work out according to how they ended up in the history books.

One critique — Ms. Dobbs resolved a potentially troublesome plotline by having most of the people in the town do a sort of mass confession. It felt a trifle convenient to the plot. At the risk of another spoiler, the entire lot of them should have been hauled off to jail. With prejudice.

Overall, An Inconvenient Revenge comes close to the height that Ms. Winspear never quite achieved again after Maisie Dobbs. In my opinion, the other books have not been as good because they are more plot-oriented than character-oriented. And I do love character development novels. Maisie Dobbs was equal plot and character development. None of the other novels since has had this ratio, and although I enjoy them, I do end up wishing there had been more character development.

If you’re a historical mystery fan, then this is a series you ought to be reading. Back in November, in anticipation of writing this review, I wrote an overview of the Maisie Dobbs series that might help you decide if it’s your cup of tea.

3 Thoughts to “Mystery Review – An Incomplete Revenge”

  1. Chicory

    Thinking about your comment on resolving SOMETHING (of your romantic subplot) in each book. I wonder if it ever happen that authors assume they’ve resolved more than they have because they know their overarching plot and see how the pieces connect. Actually, what I’m really wondering is how one handles overarching plots and subplots in a long series. Maybe that would be a good topic sometime?

    I love mysteries. I shall have to check this series out sometime. (I have a lot of books that I need to check out sometime, but I keep loosing the list and having to start over- and the list of titles looks different every time I write it. Drat my non-photographic memory!)

  2. Tia Nevitt

    I tried to respond to this from my Ipod last night but it wouldn’t post. I’ll have to check out my Iphone theme and see if it has a commenting bug.

    Anyway, here’s ready-made list for you: this series, the Gaslight Mysteries, No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency are all very fun mysteries. I’ve also heard good things of the William Monk series by Anne Perry.

  3. I picked up an omnibus edition of the first two books in this series at my local library book sale and I can’t wait to start them! Thanks for this review, Tia! I think it will be my cup of tea.

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