This installment finds the investigator/psychologist trying to determine if Eddie Pettit—a mentally-challenged man from Maisie’s old Lambeth neighborhood—died accidentally or was murdered. The case provides its twists and turns, in true detective-novel fashion, but, like all the books in this series, there is a corresponding emphasis both on Maisie’s personal life and on the shifting moods of public and political life in post-World War I England.
Set in spring 1933, Elegy for Eddie is also an elegy—a mournful reflection—on the fragile European peace that was established following the “war to end all wars.” With the election of Hitler as chancellor of Germany, there is quietly mounting fear that the peace will not last. Winspear creates a tremendous tension between what the reader knows will happen next, historically, and what her characters can only surmise.
Maisie’s own sense of personal calm is also fragile; she’s uneasy in her current relationship and is having difficulties coping with being wealthy. (The daughter of a poor London costermonger, or fruit vendor, she inherited a considerable estate from her patron and teacher when he died. We should all have such troubles.)
I wonder if anyone reading this book as their first experience of the series would be able to appreciate the by-now considerable back story which is fairly intrinsic to the narrative. Winspear makes every attempt to bring new readers up to speed (and remind returning readers of past highlights) without dragging down the plot too much. With Elegy, I felt that she’s also preparing readers for a major shift in Maisie’s activities as war looms. Will Maisie be tapped for more espionage work? Champion a more central role for British women in protecting and fighting for their country? Find a new love?
This satisfying series continues…