An Incomplete Revenge: A Maisie Dobbs Novel (Maisie Dobbs Novels)

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With the country in the grip of economic malaise, Maisie Dobbs is relieved to accept an apparently straightforward assignment to investigate a potential land purchase. Her inquiries take her to a picturesque village in Kent during the hop-picking season, but beneath its pastoral surface she finds evidence that something is amiss. Mysterious fires erupt in the village with alarming regularity, and a series of petty crimes suggest a darker criminal element at work. A peculiar secrecy shrouds the village, and ultimately Maisie must draw on her finely-honed skills of detection to solve one of her most intriguing cases yet.

Customer Reviews:

  • Well-developed characters give this book great strength
    An Incomplete Revenge: A Maise Dobbs Novel is author Jacqueline Winspear's fifth Maise Dobbs historical mystery. Each novel is better than the one before and An Incomplete Revenge is simply delicious.

    Maisie Dobbs is an independent young British woman. She's a psychologist and private investigator who went into business after WWI with the help of her former employer. Now her benefactor's son wants to buy some property in a small rural community and needs Maisie's help. There is some strange goings on in the area and before James Compton purchases the property, he wants to know everything is fine.

    It's hop-picking time and Billy Beale and his family travel every year to the area to work the harvest. Maisie sends Billy ahead to see what is happening, and when she receives word that two young lads have been arrested, she heads out to meet Billy.

    There are fires, theft, other petty crimes, war history and gypsies who add to the intrigue. You'll learn more about Maise in this outing, and once again can immerse yourself in the rich British period that Winspear has claimed as her own.

    Jacqueline Winspear has become one of my favorite mystery authors. Her rich plots, earthy and well-developed characters make it difficult to put down her books once you've begun reading one.

    Armchair Interviews says: Start at the beginning and read all the Maisie Dobbs mysteries....more info
  • clean, tasty, sentimental, and classic
    Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series is written from a lovely point of view. During this period between the world wars the women of England found themselves in a surplus situation of millions compared to the men who had been obliterated upon the killing fields of France. This problem was also an opportunity.

    In this fifth book of the series we find Maisie trying to solve the mystery of some mysterious arson cases in a tiny village during the hop harvest. The village is a strange place, filled with an ominous sense of dread.

    Maisie has been liberated in a sense occupationally by the war. Many women found new careers because there were so few men left. She also finds another form of liberation in this book, the freedom to love again.

    Winspear evokes a much gentler place where discourse was less profane, crimes were less explicit, and the carnage was a tragic memory of war. Violence is implied. Language is muted. Emotions drizzle across the page like an English rain. Exquisite!...more info
  • Very disappointing!
    Having read all of the previous Maisie Dobbs books I was really looking forward to this one. I was, however, very disappointed with a certain part which immediately made me think of another story, a similar but not the same plot. It has been interesting to read of Maisie's own life and the references to WW1 which attracted my attention in the first place. She certainly has friends in all the right places. I am not saying I would not buy Maisie Dobbs books in the future. I would be interested to read what happens to her and to Billy Beale etc. It is just that the twist in this book upset me. ...more info
  • "And once more she came to Beulah, walking out from the very heart of the inferno"
    In An Incomplete Revenge the plucky and inimitable Maisie Dobbs' investigation begins in London when she meets the dashing James Compton, head of the wealthy and lucrative Compton Corporation who informs her there's some "funny business" going on down at the Sandermere Estate. The Compton Corporation wishes to place a purchase offer on the estate, but James is hearing doubts about the landowner, a man called Alfred Sandermere, the younger son of Lord Sandermere, who became heir to the estate when his older brother Henry was killed in the Great War.

    Apparently, Alfred has done nothing but draw funds from the estate, leaving it on the verge of bankruptcy. "It's essentially a fire sale," James tells Maisie, and there's nothing more than the Compton Corporation likes than "a clean transaction." A center for the summer season of hop picking, Heronsdene proves to anything but bucolic for Maisie, the initial drive through the village causing her to shiver with the hair on her back bristling with uncertainty.

    Soon enough, her fears are confirmed, and she soon develops a portrait of an area that is filled with a bitter dissent between James Sandermere, the local villagers, the incoming workers from London, and the gypsies who have come for the hop-picking season while they live in their whitewashed hopper huts on the edges of the estate. When Maisie and Billy learn that two young London boys have recently been arrested, apparently for stealing from the Sandermere Estate, the case seems to be a forgone conclusion.

    Soon Maisie finds herself caught up in a race against time to locate the stolen goods and find out who might have conducted the burglaries and the fires in the first place. Author Jacqueline Winspear embeds her vividly rendered depression era story with a veritable witches brew of half-truths that have hidden from view since the end of the Great War, with the townsfolk of Heronsdene constantly haunted and looking over their shoulders waiting for the ghosts to see them in the form of the three members of the Martin family, apparently killed in a sudden zeppelin raid in 1916. It is this event as much as the loss of the town's young men to the War that seems to have been a catalyst for a change of heart.

    Even the chills of prejudice and the scars of battle can't escape the fiercely independent Maisie who in the course of the story must come to terms with her gypsy ancestry while also grappling with the tragic circumstances of her beloved beau Simon, whom she eternally holds within her heart, the wounds from the Great War taking his mind

    With the clues eventually hanging on the origin of a rare violin, the surprising Dutch ancestry of the Martin family, and the insufferable Sandermere, who holds enormous power over the community and may even be embezzling his insurance company, the events of the novel twist and turn, time and again moving from London to Kent and then back to London as the path is eventually cleared for absolution by the villagers. Mike Leonard March 08
    ...more info
  • An Incomplete Revenge is a great next book in the series
    This book picks up where the last left off, and welcomes the reader right back into the cast of characters that readers have followed throughout the series (and have come to love!) Time continues to pass, and although links to WWI are central to this book, there is some foreshadowing of trouble brewing in the future/Germany. This book is just as interesting and readable as the other Maisie Dobb's novel. Fans of previous books will not be disappointed with this novel!...more info
  • Good Detective Story
    A good detective story that is equal to previous works of this author. I recommend it....more info
  • "There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness."
    Reviewing Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs books is an interesting experience. It's kind of like reviewing the Charles Todd Inspector Rutledge books. These books are full of such unique characters with such special angles on human relations that they carry their own readership along with them. If you "get" Maisie Dobbs, then you completely understand my affection. And if you don't, the best review I can write won't change your mind. So I figure I'm writing for the people who maybe haven't tried this series yet. In which case, go find a copy of the 2004 book that started it all, "Maisie Dobbs", because even as she has grown and evolved, so have we as readers.

    "An Incomplete Revenge" is very much a continuation of previous books. Maisie has been affected by the downturn in the post-WWI economy and accepts a job investigating a land purchase in Kent. She finds a nifty way to settle her assistant, Billy, nearby and his work on the ground is helpful, as always. The story progresses uneventfully but something is rotten with the land deal and the village where it is located. Not only are the village people insular and surly, but there is palpable antagonism between the villagers and the local band of gypsies who are camped nearby for the seasonal picking of the hops harvest. Tensions escalate and fatal cracks appear in the veneer of the community.

    One of the joys of the Maisie Dobbs series is the complete immersion in life after WWI and the inevitable way in which nobody really escaped the war unscathed. It is there in every subtext and every memory.

    This book is especially well plotted with a small-but-effective dose of Maisie's spirituality. She has grown so much from the girl who returned from the war and this book ties up some of the ragged elements of that journey. A thoroughly worthwhile read....more info
  • Winspear is in a slump
    I have read a few other Maisie Dobbs novels written by Jacqueline Winspear, and I was very much looking forward to this one, her latest. I don't know if Ms. Winspear is under too much pressure because of a book contract or if she was too eager to do an homage for her parents...or what...but this one missed the mark.

    Set outside London in the country village of Kent, Maisie investigates some strange events for a client. Her writing is often maudlin, sentimental, and simplistic this time. There were a couple of good plot twists, but they aren't enough. This novel was drudgery to get through. I still like the Maisie character and think she has great potential for future novels. Hopefully Winspear will rise to the occasion next time....more info
  • An Early Reviewer
    I received this book as an early reviewer. I really liked the way the mysteries were drawn out and solved as the story developed.

    I like her characters very much and I think Winspear does an excellent job of hinting at and then revealing the hidden secrets that make up the great mystery of this novel. I will be reading more of her work....more info
  • Book Five is a hit!
    An Incomplete Revenge is the fifth book in the Maisie Dobbs series of mysteries. The books are set in post-WWI England, as the country hurtles toward another conflict in mainland Europe. Maisie Dobbs is a psychologist/investigator , which would at first call to mind one Sherlock Holmes. But Maisie's talents aren't the purely rational ones that Holmes used. Maisie works through intuition, and (some would say) a bit of psychic ability that lies just below the surface.

    The Depression is in full swing, and Maisie is struggling to keep her business going when she's offered a case by James Compton, the son of her biggest patron, the Lady Rowan Compton. It's a simple assignment -- investigate a piece of property that Compton is considering purchasing that has been the target of some vandalism recently. But it's never a simple case when Maisie Dobbs is involved. Mysterious fires, a WWI dirigible attack that scars a village, and a band of gypsies conspire to make the case much more than it would seem.

    Winspear seems more intent in this book to hit on a certain theme: the idea of persecution, especially of people who are different ethnically. Three different plot threads wind throughout the book -- the main case for James Compton, the death of Maisie's one-time love Simon, and the struggle of Beattie Drummond to succeed in the newspaper business in spite of a "glass ceiling" that keeps her from realizing her full potential. All touch on the unfairness of various prejudices. Even a side-plot involving Maisie's friend Georgina and her sons touches on discrimination and intolerance of people who are different.

    A lesser author would have mangled the job. The book would have turned preachy rather quickly, and turned many people (myself included) off. But Winspear manages to weave this theme into the book without beating the reader over the head with it; in fact, I didn't really notice the number of times the theme appeared in the book until I finished it, and began thinking about the book in preparation for writing this review.

    Maisie began a maturation process in the last book, Messenger of Truth, by confronting the demons that still haunted her from the war. In An Incomplete Revenge, she buries one element of her past in the person of Simon Lynch. That's not really a spoiler -- Simon's been dieing for five books now, and his presence has influenced Maisie all the way along. Her interaction with Simon's mother, and her realization that she would not have been Mrs. Simon Lynch after the war, both serve to help her grow. Her interactions with a band of gypsies, and the revelation of her own gypsy blood, expand the character.

    We are learning more and more about Maisie Dobbs with each book, which is much better than learning everything about a character in the very first book of a series. Winspear continues to grow Maisie Dobbs, letting us see her warts and all, and that is the epitome of proper characterization.

    There are questions left unanswered, which only makes me eager for book six. An Incomplete Revenge was a satisfying read, and is highly recommended....more info
  • Fantastic book, part of fantastic series!
    I thoroughly enjoy all the Maisie Dobbs books. I have read them all and they are all well worth the read. The mysteries are great and the people likable. There is also the added element of World War I history. I hope this series keeps on coming!...more info
  • Great addition to this series
    This Maise Dobbs book is a very enjoyable and interesting addition to this series. Very good characters, interesting location and, as always, some good emotional twists and turns. ...more info
  • *An Incomplete Review* . . .
    . . . OR, a culling of different points of view ?

    Don't you sometimes wonder what book reviews should be? Reader response to Jacqueline Winspear's fine novel "An Incomplete Revenge" has inspired these thoughts:

    1. Pare down your synopsis (of plot & characters). They have been covered quite deftly by Publisher's Weekly & top reviewers. If your review contains more words than the book itself I will find an abbreviated version that suits my needs. (You can't believe how STINGY with TIME you become when you are among the Aged!)

    2. DOWSING has located sources of water for ten houses in our area, Prof. Calvin. Therefore, I am a True Believer. (I am sure you don't need to 'google' the subject but some other readers might benefit)? You doubtless know that in the backwoods we call it well-witching.

    3. Consider whether your review will add real substance for on-line readers to mull over - - or whether you are perhaps satisfying your own ego? Julia M., isn't writing for the ultimate in 'vanity press'? After reading your response & those by several others I can do some weighing & come up with my own smattering of opinion.

    4. SAVE repetition for conversations with the hard-of-hearing, YES, but scatter (especially foreign) words to good effect - possibly drawing readers to more open attitudes about language. Our eyes are practiced at playing leapfrog with words on the printed page and don't you do some skimming yourself?

    5. Coincidences are to be cherished!

    6. BE OBJECTIVE (as I am not). Now that you have scanned a few of my cherished prejudices I suggest that others NOT make the same mistake.

    Jacqueline Winspear pleases many readers and has developed Maisie as a most fetching character. It is especially interesting to learn of the detective's Roma ancestry. I have in the past wondered about the gypsies in Britain and the author has blended a great amount of information with an engaging story of losses and gains. The well-drawn personalities are a bonus, as always. James Compton is a lucky employer and he may even be found helping Maisie weather some of the future changes that are hinted.

    ...more info
  • An Incomplete Revenge
    Jacqueline Winspear's portrayal of an unusually complicated woman was the best yet of any of the Masie Dobbs mysteries. taking place in post war England. Maisie is caught up in a mystery surrounding a country village, and what seemed like planned arson.

    The complexity of Winspear's characters provided a many-faceted tale of suspence. Maisie's asistant, a war vereran and young father who was shattered both physically and mentally was hired by Maisie, and proved his worth in many instances.

    Maisie grew up motherless, became a nurse, and with a knowledge of human nature gleaned from her service, along with a natural curiosity, became a detective with the tutelage of her mentor.

    Each one of the Maisie Dobbs stories stands on its own but I have benefitted by beginning from the first of its series and reading each of the books from the first to the last.

    I haven't overlooked the historical value of all her books, which is one of their most interesting aspects. ...more info
  • An Incomplete Revenge

    "An Incomplete Revenge" is an old-fashioned book reminiscent of very early Agatha Christie--there are lots of coincidences, a complicated plot with a gather-them-altogether ending, and rather stereotypical characters. And in spite of all that, the novel does have, like Christie's, a certain narrative power.

    The book is centered on two puzzles: Maisie must find out who is behind the thefts at the manor house of an estate which her friend James wishes to buy, and she must determine who is causing the annual fires in the village where the estate is located. The novel is certainly not a mystery--the identity and rationale of the first criminal is obvious from the first. The "twist," the solution of the second problem, is also not very difficult to anticipate. Whether the reader enjoys the book hinges on what we make of the heroine and her dealings with the other characters and the atmosphere the author establishes.

    Maisie is still too much of a superwoman for me--she rarely puts a foot wrong. Her reaction to a grave personal loss which she experiences lacks conviction, though some of the individual scenes concerning it are poignant and moving. I have come to dislike her bossy friend Priscilla, and wonder that Maisie is able to tolerate her. The conversations Maisie has with Maurice Blanche, her mentor, are full of pretension and fraudulent psychology; I haven't missed them.

    Which brings us to the Rom, the "gypsies." The Rom customarily assist at the hop-picking which forms such an interesting background to this book. Other Londoners habitually travel to Kent at this time to pick as well, and a good deal of the novel focuses on the prejudices between these two groups, as well as the hostility between the inhabitants of the village near the hop gardens toward both parties, and vice versa. Ironically, though Winspear tries to teach us (clumsily) about the life of the Rom, and the unfairness with which they are treated, she reinforces some of these prejudices by focusing on using their reputation for "second sight" and other "magical" powers. (Maisie, who shares in these mystic powers by virtue of her Romany grandmother, uses dowsing to make a discover central to part of the case's solution.) What are we left thinking about this long-persecuted group?

    Winspear's setting, the village in which the hop-picking is carried out, and the hop-picking customs were really interesting and well thought out. This part of her writing is what makes the book worth reading. A vanished world is re-established for our pleasure.

    If you are a Maisie fan you will find all the usual entertainments in "An Incomplete Revenge" in addition to further developments in her personal life. If you aren't particularly a fan, you may well enjoy the picture of post-World-War-I life sufficiently to overlook some of the book's flaws....more info
  • Jacqueline Winspear An Incomplette Revenge
    I love this author. I try to read everything she writes. The book came in excellent condition . Will shop with you again....more info
  • speaking coincidently, speaking in tongues
    The Maisie Dobbs series is exquisitely researched and sensitively written, with the nuances of the British class system - in radical flux between the Great War and the Hitler War - embodied by the characters and their interactions. Winspear is careful to set her plots in a way that allows her to address social issues and politics while solving mysteries, and the reader always learns a great deal while having a grand read.

    If there's a flaw in this jewel of a series, it's Winspear's dependence coincidence. More accurately, it's her addiction to it and her almost morbid sensitivity about the same. Not only do the plots bristle with coincidences big and small, but the narrator feels the need to explain/accommodate/apologize for these devices, even as Winspear strews them round her characters' feet. Indeed, the title of the fourth book in the series, Messenger of Truth, is part of a quote attributed to Maisie Dobbs' mentor: "Coincidence is the messenger of truth." In An Incomplete Revenge, Maisie's assistant quotes it back at her.

    If coincidence were really the messenger of truth, Maisie would be the Delphic Oracle, not merely a hardworking and insightful detective. Winspear's multiple coincidences diminish the talents of the wonderful character she has created.

    All readers of mysteries are prepared to accept some coincidences. They are part of the genre, and only the greatest luminaries in the field can fashion a plot without them. Winspear would do well to acknowledge this, to acknowledge it tacitly, and let us get on with our reading. Between the coincidental events and her need to make them acceptable, it sets a reader's teeth on edge.

    One of the things we learn about in An Incomplete Revenge is the life and culture of the gypsies, or Roma people. Winspear has taken the trouble to acquire quite a few words of their language, and she sprinkles them liberally through the text. Sadly, the results are not felicitous. Rather than letting readers acquire meaning from context or from a quick appositive, Winspear uses repetition, writing phrases and clauses twice: "A Roma would trust anyone before a diddakio - before the half-bred people who were born of gypsy and gorja. . . . Beulah brought four tin bowls from underneath the caravan - underneath the vardo in the gypsy tongue." (2)

    This becomes MASSIVELY irritating very very quickly, and it goes on and on. Furthermore, the since the repetition functions as translation, it raises the question of why Winspear uses only nouns. If we have to read through translations, it would at least be fair to give us some syntax and grammar in Anglo-Romani.

    But keep reading. While the Roma discourse makes the first part of the book irritating, once the plot gets firing on all cylinders, Winspear sticks with the vocab she's already introduced, and the gypsies become an intriguing part of the multifaceted mystery.

    This is a story about calling things by their right names. Things and people. The people in Winspear's books are fabulously drawn, unusual without being quaint, all of them the sort of characters who must surely have lives they keep on living once we've turned the final page. We see Pris and her pack of wild sons again in this novel, even as we lose the lost-boy, lost-love Simon. Billy and his family engage in the Londoner's working vacation, hop-picking in Kent just as Maisie has a meaty mystery to investigate there. Lots of solid background details make the countryside's beauty pull the reader into the pages, while the ever-solid Frankie Dobbs is nearby to offer Maisie (and the reader) comfort and support when things get dark.

    One of the best things about the series is that things change. Maisie moves from one place to another, from one case to another, out of some relationships and on with some more. It's a sadness to end such a book, but there's comfort in knowing that we will see Billy and Pris again, while the gypsy connection looks ripe for many future tales....more info
  • the new Maisie Dobbs novel
    I have enjoyed reading Jacqueline Winspear's novels featuring Maisie Dobbs. I thought the first one ("Maisie Dobbs")was the best until I read the latest, "An Incomplete Revenge." This one seems to have the best plotting as well as showing more and more of the personality of Miss Dobbs. I will look forward to her future novels.

    Esther Baran...more info
  • Amazing Masie
    The element of fascination for the fan of Jacqueline Winspear is her attention to detail. Not the kind that slows a book or that bogs the reader down in detail. It is the kind of detail that makes the reader admire the writing and complete the story to a final degree.

    Winspear's characters, particularly Masie Dobbs, are challenging, interesting and most particularly, captivating. Dobbs unique approach to solving the case is riveting. Her ability to communicate on all levels with people from an array of backgrounds and status is rewarding. She is fiercely loyal, flawed in some understandable ways, but always rises above the fray to be the best she can be. The accompanying characters, her assistant Billy Beale and family, her friend, Priscilla, Masie's father and of course, her mentor who has helped make Masie the complete person she has become, add to the depth of the book. There are stormy times in some of her relationships, which only makes the reader appreciate the quality of Winspear's writing, to present the dilemma and solve it with grace and style.

    I have loved all the Masie Dobbs books in this now five book series. And with each writing, Winspear has developed her characte(s) and the growth has been a fascinating melodrama to observe. When you finish this and the other books, you will feel that readers glow of time well spent....more info
  • Masterful
    Over the course of four previous novels, Jacqueline Winspear's heroine, Maisie Dobbs, has developed into one of the most complex and compelling female sleuths in current mystery fiction. A former World War I nurse simultaneously struggling to cope with the ongoing legacy of what she saw and experienced in that horrible war while trying to get her fledgling investigation business off the ground in London, Maisie has emerged as a fully developed, intriguing character. Appealingly contemporary in her personality, credibly part of her time and place (thanks in no small part to Winspear's impeccable historical research), Maisie Dobbs's fans read these books as much for insights into this absorbing heroine as for the engaging mystery plots the author constructs.

    AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE, Winspear's fifth outing, will not disappoint readers, with its skillful intersection of character development, historical detail and intricate plotting. The novel opens with Maisie seemingly making a fresh start after the tumultuous events of her previous investigation (recounted in MESSENGER OF TRUTH), a deeply personal case that forced her to confront events of the war but left her estranged from her longtime friend and mentor.

    Maisie's newfound happiness, though, is tempered by economic pressures, as the worldwide depression of the early 1930s affects her business prospects in London. When an old family friend asks for her help in investigating some potential business acquisitions in Kent, Maisie leaps at the opportunity to enhance her personal financial situation while visiting with her beloved father. By coincidence, Maisie's long-time assistant Billy is also in the area, participating in the annual hop-picking with his family. It turns out, however, that Maisie will need every bit of Billy's help, her own ingenuity and even the assistance of some most unlikely allies --- the gypsies who also make annual pilgrimages to the region for the hop-picking --- to solve the multi-layered mysteries that haunt this small Kentish village.

    During her investigation of a series of petty crimes, including arson, that plague the village and the brickworks her friend is interested in acquiring, Maisie soon suspects that the events are hardly the work of small-time thieves or petty vandals. Instead, as she delves into the inhabitants' history of heartbreak, loss and suspicion, she begins to suspect a much more widespread, and sinister, force is at work --- one that, like her own heartbreak, dates back to the catastrophic events of the Great War.

    Set during the turbulent, evocative years between the wars, the Maisie Dobbs series delves into the gaping holes left by one war while exploring the roots of another on the horizon. AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE does a particularly masterful job of this, as Winspear explores how the prejudice inspired by one conflict leads to the insularity, fear and prejudice that can spark another. As for Maisie, the character who readers will eagerly return to again and again, this latest installment will not disappoint. Rather, as she closes the book on one particularly painful chapter of her past, Maisie seems poised, in future installments, to finally pursue the contentment she so richly deserves. Will she uncover this potential happiness with the same aplomb with which she tackles her toughest cases? Readers will wait with bated breath to find out.

    --- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
    ...more info