Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear’s An Incomplete Revenge

Posted September 13, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear’s An Incomplete Revenge

An Incomplete Revenge


Jacqueline Winspear

historical mystery that was published by Hodder Murray on June 5, 2008 and has 288 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Maisie Dobbs, Birds of a Feather, Pardonable Lies, Messenger of Truth, A Lesson in Secrets, The Mapping of Love and Death, Among the Mad, A Dangerous Place, Journey to Munich, In This Grave Hour

Fifth in the Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series set in 1930s England and revolving around Maisie, a costermonger’s daughter who becomes a psychological detective. The setting for this particular story is Kent, just outside Tunbridge Wells.

My Take

It’s a time of coming to terms. With Simon, with Maurice. With Billy and Doreen needing that escape. With color! For our Maisie is stepping out — she needs the distraction.

This one is an odd one. It seemed as though Winspear leapt too easily to the truth. God knows it was crazy enough! It’s also incredibly sad in so many ways. Read this one when you’re ready for the sadness.

To fill things out, we have interactions with gypsies and a peek into their culture, the demands of picking hops — my ex remembered picking hops in Sussex when he was a boy, Doreen’s anger with Billy over her own interactions with the gypsies as well as their grief over Lizzie, and Beattie’s frustrations in her career. There’s also Maurice and the forgiveness he craves while Simon is another matter.

I do love Maisie’s independence, but I miss the more overt aspects of how she used to investigate. It’s as though she’s losing that part of her thought processes. I don’t know if it’s intentional and part of Maisie moving away from what Maurice taught her or if it’s subconscious.

I did enjoy learning more about Maisie’s genetic background and the new tricks she learns. Very cool!

Oh, you will cry and cry. It needs to happen. In so many ways it’s horrible that he’s held on this long, but, oh I cried for what was lost.

The central focus is on why the village accepts these disasters with resignation. No police. No firemen. It’s almost as if there never was a fire. The insane cruelty that can arise. But they haven’t a chance of holding out against Maisie Dobbs.

For Maisie Dobbs is their nemesis.

The Story

James Compton is back from Canada and needing Maisie’s help to investigate a brickworks in Kent he wants to buy. Seems the owner is cheesy, and there are issues of vandalism, arson, and theft in the area, and James wants to know that everything will be kosher.

But it’s a mess that our Maisie stumbles into. There’s a cloud hanging over the village and its inhabitants. A punishment they believe they deserve.

The Characters

Maisie Dobbs is enjoying her flat in Pimlico, although she misses Sandra, a former maid at Ebury Place, who has now married Eric. Maisie’s mother’s father was a lockkeeper on the Thames. When he retired, he and his wife, Bekka, went to live on the waterways in a canal boat. Simon Lynch is Maisie’s first and, so far, only real love. Wounded during the war, Simon has been in a living coma ever since, and Maisie can’t move on. Margaret Lynch is Simon’s mother; she had greatly disapproved of Maisie. That was before.

Billy Beale is Maisie’s righthand man and a connection to Simon. He, his wife Doreen, and their family are heading down to Kent to pick hops. It’ll be a blessing for the family to get away as they’re still grieving Lizzie. It’s Tom Dickon‘s farm where the Beales will be picking. George‘s boys have been arrested for a theft they did not commit.

Priscilla Partridge has been Maisie’s friend since their college days; she’s the one who introduced Maisie to Simon. Seems her and Douglas‘ boys are old enough for school — St. Anselm’s (conveniently) — and desperately in need of the discipline. Timothy Peter, Thomas Philip, and Tarquin Patrick, however, are just too different. Elinor is their Welsh nanny.

Maisie is still angry with her mentor, Dr. Maurice Blanche, a supposedly retired expert in forensic science, a noted psychologist, and philosopher who’s living in a cottage on the Comptons’ country estate. Maisie’s father, Francis Dobbs, has been working as Lady Compton’s head groom on their country estate since the war began in Birds of a Feather, 2. Lady Rowan Compton has been Maisie’s sponsor and supporter from the very start with the acquiescence of her husband, Lord Julian Compton. James, Viscount Compton, the son and heir, will be taking over the helm of the Compton Corporation; his engagement’s off; and, he’s had it drummed into him for years to turn to Maisie for investigative questions. Mrs. Crawford, the family cook, has retired, and the new cook is rather put out with the household’s manners. Carter is still the butler.

The Roma
Aunt Beulah Webb is an older gypsy woman; Webb is her suspicious son. Paishey is his wife and together they have Boosul, beautiful, their daughter. Esther is another of the Roma.

Marta Jones is an artist and a weaver. With the economy the way it is, she’s started taking in students. The Andersons make and repair musical instruments.

The village of Heronsdene
Alfred Sandermere, a bad egg, was a younger son, but inherited when his brother, Henry, was killed in the war. You’d’a thought he’d have picked up something on how to treat the people who look to him. Pete Bracegirdle is the foreman at the brickworks.

Fred and Mary Yeoman run the local inn. Mr. and Mrs. Whyte had a fire in their summer house; Mrs. Marchant is their forgetful housekeeper. Old Reverend Staples, the retired vicar, has some secrets to hide; his wife, Jane, is complicit. Phyllis Mansell Wheeler was best friends with Anna Martin. George Chambers and Mrs. Pendle showed up at the accounting after the fire.

Jacob, Bettin, and Anna Martin, a very musical Dutch family who had a thriving bakery in the village, have a gravestone hidden away in the village churchyard. Pim, Willem Martin, is the brother lost in World War I.

Beattie Drummond is a woman reporter, who knows all about Maisie’s work. It’s also a wee insight into a woman journalist’s struggles in 1931.

Dr. Cottingham is the headmaster at St. Anselm. Oswald Mosley‘s particular brand of fascism is gaining followers.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a 1930-ish woodcut in blacks, grays, brown, golds, and oranges with Maisie, one hand shading her eyes from the sun, looking out from the hill over a small village with a church and oast houses.

The title is a foreshadowing of the story, for it will always be An Incomplete Revenge.