As a reviewer, I read many books, many very good books, but it isn’t often that I am completely blown away with a story. Such was a case with Jacqueline Winspear’s “Elegy For Eddie”. I’m not surprised that the book has been nominated for The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award and for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel.
“Elegy for Eddie” is the 9th book in the Maisie Dobbs Mystery Series. Jacqueline's first novel, “Maisie Dobbs”, was a National Bestseller and highly acclaimed. This includes in 2003 being named a New York Times Notable Book, a Publishers Weekly Top Ten Mystery and a BookSense Top Ten selection. The novel was nominated for 7 awards, including the Edgar for Best Novel—only the second time a first novel was nominated in this category. “Maisie Dobbs” won the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First novel, the Macavity Award for Best First Novel and the Alex Award, which is presented annually by the American Library Association in conjunction with the Margaret Alexander Edwards Trust.
“Elegy for Eddie” is set in England after World War I. As the story opens, a group of costermongers, sellers of fruits and vegetables, come to see Maisie Dobbs, an investigator to look into the alleged accidental death of Eddie Pettit, a simple, but gentle soul with a magical gift for dealing with horses.
If the novel was simply a mystery it would have been enjoyable, but that is only one layer of the book. There is also a fascinating look at the issues facing England in the period between World War I and World War II. The book also details the English impressions of Hitler’s coming to power in Germany, especially in light of a country weary of war.
In the P.S. of the book Jacqueline is interviewed by Lee Child, a fellow British writer. He asks what drew her to the period between the wars. Jacqueline discusses the she is interested in what happens to people after a war is done. She quotes a character from her book “Birds of a Feather” and points out “That is the trouble with war; it lives on inside the living.” Obviously the topic of a country weary from war can be applied to many countries and times including our own.
I especially was drawn to the philosophical elements in the book, which in my opinion is the strength. The realization that life is not black and white but full of shades of gray. The book examines this from both a historical and a philosophical point of view.
Maise Dobbs has achieved her success in life in large part due to the generosity of others. Now having achieved a level of comfort, she is giving back as well. But Maisie finds that some recipients of the help resent it. Her friend, Pricilla, points out “Everything good has a dark side, even generosity. It can become overbearing, intimidating even humiliating- and no one likes to think someone else is pulling the strings, do they?” This is an interesting theme that is examined throughout the book.
The other main theme, in addition to the shades of gray, concerns living in the moment. Eddie the title character was a gentle soul that lived in the moment. The author speculates that one of the many reasons he related so well to horses is because they also live in the moment. Maisie at one point confesses to her friend “I want to learn how to let things happen sometimes. I think I want to find out what it’s like to approach a corner without constantly trying to be prepared for what I might encounter when I round it.
I strongly recommend this book and I know I want to go back and read the other books in this series.
Five stars out of five.
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In accordance with FTC guidelines for reviewers, I would like to clarify that this book was provided to me by the publisher free of charge. I am not compensated by the author or publisher for my review. All they expect is an honest review of the work.