Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear is my 12th. book for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge, covering the April category of 'Author's birth month'.
The daughter of wealthy businessman, Joseph Waite, has gone missing. Charlotte Waite saw something in the paper one morning which alarmed her and subsequently disappeared off the face of the Earth. Waite doesn't want a lot of publicity so instead of calling the police he hires Maisie Dobbs to look into the matter. She's not very taken with the man but acknowledges that he's a good businessman and looks after the staff of his grocery chain well.
It doesn't take Maisie and her war veteran assistant, Billy Beale, long to discover that this is not the first time Charlotte has done a runner. Is she merely trying to escape her father's suffocating shackles once again or is there something more sinister going on? It seems it's the latter. Maisie discovers links between Charlotte and two women recently murdered by poisoning, and another who committed suicide. It seems the four women were close friends during World War One and it falls to Maisie and Billy to discover who and why someone wants them dead.
Yet another series I've done a complete reversal on, from not being that impressed with the first book some years ago, to rereading it, liking it a lot and moving on to this, book two, and loving it to bits. Why? Well, this time around I find I really love the relationships in it. There's Maisie and her father, Frankie, a man of humble origins, who can't understand why there's something preventing the two from being very close. Then there's Maisie's relationship with her two mentors, Lady Rowan who supported her financially through university, and Maurice Blanche her investigating mentor. Wouldn't we all like someone like these two in our lives?
Billy Beale is such an interesting character too, badly wounded in the war he's in constant pain and there's a secret he's keeping which is really worrying Maisie. She has a couple of suitors too, Chief Inspector Stratton whom Daisy helps sometimes, but he blots his copybook somewhat in this book, and a new chap, a Dr. Dene who runs a clinic for war veterans and is a friend of Maurice's. Interesting to see how that will pan out.
As to the mystery, well, if I'm honest, it wasn't rocket-science to guess who the culprit was quite early on. The interest for me was in why. And that aspect and discussions about it were beautifully handled and extremely interesting. And not a little heart-breaking really. I often think there's a lot more to be learnt about all kinds of subjects from a fictional book like this than from a non-fiction book... excellent though those can be. I've already reserved books three and four from the library and am hoping they'll arrive soon.