Birds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs Series #2)by Jacqueline Winspear
"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… See more details below
"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 battlefield nurse in The Great War." It's now 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.
The New York Times
Winner of the Agatha Award for Best Novel
“Haunting . . . What makes Maisie such a remarkable operative is the holistic philosophy that informs her humane methods . . . A heroine to cherish.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Birds of a Feather succeeds both as a suspenseful mystery and as a picture of a time and place . . . Maisie’s liveliness of mind, good sense, and kind nature make her a heroine a reader can enjoy spending time with.”
—The Boston Globe
“If you like classic mysteries . . . you’ll love Winspear’s Birds of a Feather.”
—The Denver Post
“The eponymous heroine of Winspear’s promising debut, Maisie Dobbs (2003), continues to beguile in this chilling, suspenseful sequel . . . As in her first novel, the author gives an intelligent and absorbing picture of the period, providing plentiful details for the history buff without detracting from the riveting mystery. Readers will be eager to see more of the spunky Maisie.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
Praise for Maisie Dobbs
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Agatha Award Winner for Best First Novel
Macavity Award Winner for Best First Novel
Alex Award Winner
“Compelling . . . powerful. [Maisie Dobbs] testifies to the enduring allure of the traditional mystery . . . even though I knew what was coming this second time 'round, its final scene is still a punch in the gut.”
—Maureen Corrigan for NPR’s Fresh Air, speaking on the 10th Anniversary edition of Maisie Dobbs
"[A] deft debut novel . . . Romantic readers sensing a story-within-a-story won't be disappointed. But first they must be prepared to be astonished at the sensitivity and wisdom with which Maisie resolves her first professional assignment."
—The New York Times
"The reader familiar with Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency . . . might think of Maisie Dobbs as its British counterpart . . . [Winspear] has created a winning character about whom readers will want to read more."
—The Associated Press
"[Maisie Dobbs] catches the sorrow of a lost generation in the character of one exceptional woman."
“A fine new sleuth for the twenty-first century. Simultaneously self-reliant and vulnerable, Maisie isn't a character I'll easily forget.”
—Elizabeth George, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of the Inspector Lynley series
Read an Excerpt
Birds of a Feather
By Jaqueline Winspear
Soho PressCopyright © 2004 Jacqueline Winspear
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMaisie Dobbs shuffled the papers on her desk into a neat pile and placed them in a plain manila folder. She took up green marble W.H. Smith fountain pen and inscribed the cover with the name of her new clients: Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Johnson, who were concerned that their son's fiancée might have misled them regarding her past. It was the sort of case that was easily attended to, that would provide a useful reference, and that could be closed with presentation of a timely report and accompanying account for her services. But for Maisie the case notes would not be filed away until those whose lives were touched by her investigation had reached a certain peace with her findings, with themselves, and with one another - as far as that might be possible. As she wrote, a tendril of jet black hair tumbled down into her eyes. Sighing, she quickly pushed it back into the chignon at the nape of her neck. Suddenly, Maisie set her pen on the blotting pad, pulled the troublesome wisp of hair free so that it hung down again, and walked to the large mirror hanging on the wall above the fireplace. She unpinned her long hair and tucked it inside the collar of her white silk blouse, pulling out just an inch or so around her chin-line. Would shorter hair suit her?
"Perhaps Lady Rowan is right," said Maisie to her reflection in the mirror. "Perhaps it would look better in a bob."
She turned from side to side several times, and lifted her hair just slightly. Shorter hair might save a few minutes of precious time each morning, and it would no longer come free of the chignon and fall into her eyes. But one thing held her back. She lifted her hair and turned her head. Was the scar visible? Would shorter hair fall in such a way as to reveal the purple weal that etched a line from her neck into the sensitive flesh of her scalp? If her hair was cut, would she lean forward over her notes one day and unwittingly allow a client to see the damage inflicted by the German shell that had ripped into the casualty clearing station where she was working, in France, in 1917?
Looking at the room reflected in the mirror, Maisie considered how far she had come-not only from the dark dingy office in Warren Street that was all she had been able to afford just over a year ago, but from that first meeting with Maurice Blanche, her mentor and teacher, when she had been a maid in the household of Lord Julian Compton and his wife, Lady Rowan. It was Maurice and Lady Rowan who had noted Maisie's intellect and ensured that she had every opportunity to pursue her hunger for education. They had made it possible for the former tweeny maid to gain admission to Girton College, Cambridge.
Maisie quickly pulled her hair into a neat chignon again, and as she pinned the twist into place, she glanced out of the floor-to-ceiling window that overlooked Fitzroy Square. Her assistant, Billy Beale, had just turned in to the square and was crossing the rain-damp gray flagstones toward the office. Her scar began to throb. As she watched Billy, Maisie began to assume his posture. She moved toward the window with shoulders dropped, hands thrust into imaginary pockets, and her gait mimicking the awkwardness caused by Billy's still-troublesome war wounds. Her disposition began to change, and she realized that the occasional malaise she had sensed several weeks ago was now a constant in Billy's life.
As she looked down at him from what had once been the drawing room window of the Georgian building, he stretched the cuff of his overcoat over the palm of his hand and polished the brass nameplate informing visitors that the office of M. Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator, was situated within. Satisfied, Billy straightened, drew back his shoulders, stretched his spine, ran his fingers through his tousled shock of wheaten hair, and took out his key to the main door. Maisie watched as he corrected his posture. You can't fool me, Billy Beale, she said to herself. The front door closed with a heavy thud, and the stairs creaked as Billy ascended to the office. "Morning, Miss. I picked up the records you wanted." Billy placed a plain brown envelope on Maisie's desk. "Oh, and another thing, Miss, I bought a Daily Express for you to 'ave a butcher's 'ook at." He took a newspaper from the inside pocket of his overcoat. "That woman what was found murdered in 'er own 'ome a week or two ago down in Surrey-you remember, in Coulsden-well, there's more details 'ere, of who she was, and the state she was in when she was found."
"Thank you, Billy," said Maisie, taking the newspaper.
"She was only your age, Miss. Terrible, innit?"
"It certainly is." Maisie quickly scanned the story.
"I wonder if our friend ... well, your friend, really-Detective Inspector Stratton-is involved?"
"Most likely. Since the murder took place outside London, it's a Murder Squad case."
Billy looked thoughtful. "Fancy 'avin' to say you work for the Murder Squad, eh, Miss? Don't exactly warm folk to you, does it?"
Maisie scanned the newspaper quickly. "Oh, that's a newspaper invention to sell more papers. I think they started to use it when the Crippen case became big news. It used to be called the Reserve Squad, but that didn't sound ominous enough. And Criminal Investigation Department is a bit of a mouthful." Maisie looked up at Billy, "And by the way, Billy, what do you mean by my 'friend,' eh?"
"Aw, nuffin' really, Miss. It's just that-"
Billy was interrupted by the ringing of the black telephone on Maisie's desk. He raised his eyebrows and reached for the receiver.
"Fitzroy five-six-double-0. Good afternoon, Detective Inspector Stratton. Yes, she's 'ere. I'll put her on." he smiled broadly, covering the receiver with his palm as Maisie, blushing slightly, held out her hand to take it.
"Now, Miss, what was it that Doctor Blanche used to say about coincidence being a-what was it? Oh yes, a messenger of truth?"
"That's enough, Billy," Maisie took the receiver and waved him away. "Inspector Stratton, how very nice to hear from you. I expect you're busy with the murder case in Coulsden."
"And how did you know that, Miss Dobbs? No, don't tell me. It's probably best that I don't know."
Maisie laughed. "To what do I owe this call, Inspector?"
"Purely social, Miss Dobbs. I thought I'd ask if you might care to dine with me."
Maisie hesitated, tapped the desk with her pen, and then replied,
"Thank you for the invitation, Inspector Stratton. It really is most kind of you ... but perhaps we can lunch together instead."
There was a pause. "Certainly, Miss Dobbs. Will you be free on Friday?"
"Indeed. Yes, Friday would be excellent."
"Good. I'll meet you at your office at noon, and we can go from there to Bertorelli's."
Maisie hesitated. "May I meet you at Bertorelli's? At noon?"
Again the line was quiet. Why does this have to be so difficult? Maisie thought.
"Of course. Friday, noon at Bertorelli's."
"I'll see you then. Good-bye." She replaced the receiver thoughtfully.
"Aye-oop, 'ere's a nice cuppa for you, Miss." Billy placed the tea tray on his desk, poured milk and tea into a large enamel mug for Maisie, and placed it in front of her.
"Don't mind me askin', Miss-and I know it ain't none of my business, like-but why don't you take 'im up on the offer of a dinner? I mean, gettin' the odd dinner fer nuffin' ain't such a bad thing"
"Lunch and dinner are two entirely different things, and going out for luncheon with a gentleman is definitely not the same as going out to dine in the evening."
"You get more grub at dinner, for a start-"
Billy was interrupted by the doorbell. As he moved to the window to see who might be calling, Maisie noticed him rub his thigh and wince. The war wound, earned almost thirteen years before, during the Battle of Messines in 1917, was nipping at him again. Billy left to answer the doorbell, and as he did so, Maisie heard him negotiate the stairs with difficulty as he descended to the front door.
"Message for M. Dobbs. Urgent. Sign 'ere, please."
"Thanks, mate." As Billy signed for the envelope he reached into his pocket for some change to hand the messenger. He closed the door and sighed before mounting the stairs again. As he returned to the office he held out the envelope to Maisie.
"That leg giving you trouble?" she asked.
"Just a bit more than usual. Mind you, I'm not as young as I was."
"Have you been back to the doctor?"
"Not lately. There ain't much they can do, is there? I'm a lucky fella-got a nice job when there's 'undreds and 'undreds of blokes linin' up fer work. Can't be feelin' sorry for meself, can I?"
"We're fortunate, Billy. There seems to be more business for us, what with people going missing after losing all their money, and others getting up to no good at all." She turned the envelope in her hands.
"Well, well, well...."
"What is it, Miss?"
"Did you notice the return address on the envelope? This letter's from Joseph Waite."
"You mean the Joseph Waite? Moneybags Joseph Waite? The one they call the Banker's Butcher?"
"He's requested that I come to his residence-'soonest,' he says-to receive instructions for an investigation."
"I suppose 'e's used to orderin' folk around and getting' 'is own way-"
Billy was interrupted once more by the ringing telephone. "Gawd, Miss, there goes the dog-and-bone again!"
Excerpted from Birds of a Feather by Jaqueline Winspear Copyright © 2004 by Jacqueline Winspear. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in Kent, in the south of England. In 1990, after a career in publishing in London, she moved to California.
- Ojai, California
- Date of Birth:
- April 30, 1955
- Place of Birth:
- Weald of Kent, England
- The University of London¿s Institute of Education
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This was my second Maisie Dobbs book and I couldn't put it down. Ms. Winspear's research is very good. You get a feeling for the history and life of the time in which the book is set. The characters are well portrayed and the story keeps your interest. I've now read the whole series and am thoroughly hooked on Maisie Dobbs.
Although it is set in 1930, and World War I had been over for little more than a decade, the effects of the war are still being felt. Maisie's assistant Billy, who was badly injured during the war, has become addicted to pain killers. His wife comes to Maisie concerned about her husband, and confirming Maisie's own suspicions that something is wrong with Billy. The main mystery concerns the disappearance of a young woman whose wealthy father owns many grocery stores. Her disappearance comes on the heels of the deaths of three other women, women whom Maisie discovers were friends of the missing woman. There are many possible suspects, but when the police narrow it down to one of the dead women's husbands, Maisie believes they have the wrong man. She uses the methods taught to her by her mentor Dr. Blanche, both scientific and intuitive, to find the killer. (Again, it could be a forerunner of the popular TV series CSI crossed with The Mentalist.) My favorite line in the book is one of Dr. Blanche's teachings to Maisie: "Coincidence is a messenger sent by truth. (That) there are no accidents of fate." Maisie still visits Simon, the doctor she fell in love with during the war, at the hospital where he will never recover. Her compassion is touching, but in this book it appears that Maisie is ready to move on to having a romantic relationship with another man. She has two possible suitors: Dr. Dene and Inspector Stratton. It will be interesting to see in future books which man may win her heart, and whether either man can stand up to the memory of Simon. Again, I loved the description of Maisie's clothes. I would love to see illustrations in the book of Maisie's outfits. I also found the characters in this book more rounded out. Joseph Waite, the wealthy father of the missing girl, is intriguing. He is overbearing with his daughter, but he is kind to his customers and to the families who lost sons and husbands during the war. Joseph's relationship with his daughter caused Maisie to reflect more on her own relationship with her father, which seems more distant as the years go by. The Order of the White Feather was something I had never heard of before this book, and it was incorporated well into the story. Young women tend to be dramatic, and the way in which these young ladies thought they were helping the war effort caused more pain than they could have ever imagined. And in the end, it caused them much pain too. I'd like to see Maisie become more emotionally open, and hope that in future books in the series, we see her find some happiness. Perhaps in the next novel in the series, Pardonable Lies. If you enjoy historical fiction and female protagonists, Maisie is the lady for you.
As a young girl over 60 years ago, I fell in love with the Nancy Drew books and as fast as I read one, I couldn't wait to get my hands on the next. I feel the same way about Maisie Dobbs all these years later. Anyone who enjoys a good mystery including some historical facts on life in England between WWI and the depression, should read this series.
We Americans have so much to learn about the realities of war. This series by Jacqueline Winspear gives us marvelous insight into British WW1 history through the unique perspective of Masie Dobbs, psycologist and investigator.
Personally I enjoy Winspear and her style of writing. The time period, post WWI is an interesting time and she reflects this quite well. Her characters are flushed out even further in this second book and we begin to see and appreciate them more fully. I find her plots to be intriguing and not forced or manipulated. She leads us as if she doesn't know what is going to happen next - and I like that methodology. It always appears that we have the same facts as the writer, that she's not holding something back to spring on us. I'm looking forward to the next installment. This is a series that definitely doesn't disappoint.
I am hooked on maisie dobbs. If you are in the mood foro gentle story telling in a historical setting,( and sometimes i am), you will enjoy this series.
I discovered Maisie Dobbs stories recently and have devoured all in the series without pause! After working as a servant in the home of aristocrats, Maisie Dobbs later serves as a nurse in World War 1 and goes on to become a highly respected psychologist and investigator. The plots of these stories are complex and exciting with a wonderful, endearing cast of characters. Start by reading "Maisie Dobbs", followed by "Birds of a Feather" and hopefully you will be as hooked on this great character as I was. Some of the paperback editions have discussion questions at the back so you and your friends (who of course will be reading Maisie Dobbs books by now as well!) can have a "Maisie Day" together. No kidding, the series is just that good!
I just finished this book and liked it even more than the first. It simultaneously manages to keep from being simplistic and deliver a classic mystery. The series is a little new-agey for me but I like the questions and themes that reoccur.
Just begun reading . 4 stars so far
Birds of a Feather is the second book in the Maisie Dobbs series by British-born American author, Jacqueline Winspear. Now in a new office in Fitzroy Square with Billy Beale as her permanent assistant, Maisie Dobbs is still under the generous patronage of Lady Rowan Compton, living at the Compton's Ebery Street house and in the process of buying Lady Rowan's crimson MG. Maisie is engaged by a wealthy and highly respected self-made businessman and philanthropist, Joseph Waite, to find his daughter Charlotte, who has, once again, run away from home. A woman in her early thirties, the reason for Charlotte's disappearance is not entirely apparent, although it is obvious that neither her father nor the household staff have a good relationship with her. But is this rather unhappy young woman in hiding (and if so, where?), has she met with foul play or an accident, or has she taken her own life? Following up with Charlotte's very sparsely-populated address book, Billy and Maisie discover a link with a young woman recently murdered, and soon, in exactly the same manner, the same fate befalls another of Charlotte’s contacts. When Maisie tracks down a third contact, a weeks-old suicide also begins to look suspicious. Joseph Waite has not been entirely forthcoming with information, and it seems that Billy Beale also has a problem he is not sharing with Maisie. DI Stratton makes a premature arrest and dismisses Maisie's misgivings; he continues his pursuit of Maisie socially, but his are not the only attentions Maisie has to handle. As well as expanding on Maisie's support cast, this installment illustrates further what life was like in 1930's England in rich and poor households alike, describing clothing and accoutrements, customs and behaviours, attitudes and beliefs. It also touches on the themes of remembrance and reminders, guilt, resentment and forgiveness, shame and coercion. Maisie demonstrates the value of following one’s intuition, of listening to service personnel, of re-enacting certain situations and of empathy with witnesses and victims; she uses trace evidence and, as usual, gets valuable advice from her mentor, Maurice Blanche. Yoga, Pilates, a convent, chronic pain and narcotic abuse, and a decoy stand-in all feature. Another historical mystery with an intriguing plot and an exciting climax.
Love this series - cannot wait to read of it.
I enjoy English mysteries and this one is excellent. A good summer beach book.
I have read 2 books from this series, I like them. Easy reads, but I do feel like they are not really mysteries the reader can solve. I do like how the main character approaches solving mysteries, but we are missing the ability to do it ourselves. I'd keep looking into the series to see if this changes at all. I do like the people, the commentray on the time period and the mystery solving approach put forth by the author.
It is more than fifteen years after the Great War ended and England is recovering even though the depression makes the division between the classes more noticeable. Masie Dobbs was lucky to find a patron who funded her studies in nursing and psychology. She served as a nurse in France where she was injured and her great love Simon came back from the war in a catatonic state that has not lifted since his return. Masie works as a private investigator, who uses meditation as a way of opening up her senses to the world around her. Although her methods of combining investigation with psychology are unusual, it always works........................... . Rich supermarket magnate Joseph Waite hires Masie to find his daughter Charlotte who has a habit of running away from home even if she is thirty-seven years of age. Masie deduces that she left the day she saw in the newspaper that one of her old friends from boarding school was murdered. Two more of charlotte¿s former friends die and a white feather is found on or near each murder victim. Masie must find a way to keep Charlotte safe and bait a trap to catch the killer......................... Readers will thoroughly enjoy this delightful and charming mystery and find themselves interested in the historical details of England between the wars. The protagonist is not a radical feminist but an independent person who believes that she is as capable as any man in her chosen profession. Although she has known much sorrow, she is a kind-hearted and generous person who cares about people, especially those who are suffering the aftereffects of WWI. BIRDS OF A FEATHERwill definitely appeal to fans of great mysteries........................... Harriet Klausner
The books about Maisie Dobbs are definitely not to be judged by their covers. There is nothing simplified about them. They are well-plotted and full of details about the period in which they are set: the years following WWI. Maisie is intelligent, caring and independent and I'm looking forward to learning more about her and the characters who surround her.
Good characters and intriguing mystery. Clean for those who want to avoid smut and dirty language, but still enjoy a good read. The Maisie Dobbs Series was recommended to me and I heartily recommend it to others.
Maisy is one of my favorite characters! There is just the right balance with character depth, plot development, intellect, and more. You gotta check her out! In this book, the second in the series, Maisey delves into her latest case with her usual gusto and charm, while using the skills she learned from her mentor, and having her faithful assistant at her side.