This week, I’m posting a book review, something I haven’t done in a while. The book is A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline Winspear.
I give this novel five stars. It is the 17th in the Maisie Dobbs series. Once again, Ms. Winspear does not disappoint us.
The story opens with a strange incident: someone on the ground is shooting at Allied planes being ferried across England by the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), a group of pilots who fly the planes to their new assignments and return repaired planes to active service. Several of the pilots are women, including some Americans.
One such pilot is Jo Hardy. When the plane she is ferrying is shot at, she investigates. In doing so, she finds a black American soldier bound and gagged in a derelict barn. She rescues the soldier and connects him with the American military, where she learns the soldier’s white friend is missing and the black soldier is suspected of having something to do with it.
A fellow pilot advises Jo to seek Maisie Dobbs. The pilot knows Maisie from Canada where Maisie’s first husband died testing a new plane.
And we’re off into the story.
One of Winspear’s consistent strengths across the entire series is the creation of story worlds that are unique to the primary characters, but set in the larger backdrop of the world at that time in history. In A Sunlit Weapon, the story world is England in October 1942. World War II is raging, and the Americans are in now in England.
Winspear weaves several plotlines together and doesn’t lose any of them. In fact, some plots focus on the same themes from different perspectives. She deals with racism, war, prejudice, PTSD in soldiers and civilians, class, rationing, attitudes, and mental illness.
And she does them all with her usual excellence.
Maisie’s investigation leads to discovering the perpetrators in a plot to assassinate Eleanor Roosevelt. She traces down red herrings and false leads before finding the thread to the plot. The question hangs over the story of will she pull it all together in time.
In this novel, we also experience racism with Maisie as she discovers her adopted daughter, Anna, is being bullied in school because her skin is darker than her fellow students.
We learn through the characters what was is like for soldiers and civilians. Her assistant, Billy Beale’s oldest is captured by the Japanese. Another son, a member of a bombing crew, is severally wounded. Rationing strains everyone. Refuges from London clash with the mindsets and ways of the country folk.
These plots and subplots flow naturally and organically through the story. None feel forced or contrived.
Another factor I appreciate about this series is the growth in the characters. Physically, the characters age. Maisie is now in her forties. She faces the fact her father is aging and not as agile as he once was. Maisie is also growing as a person. She is now a mother and a wife. She recognizes her limitations and her multiple roles now as an investigator, a wife, a mother, a friend, and a daughter. In all these areas, she watches people change and changes herself.
This is one of the best stories in the series and Winspear plants plenty of seeds for more Maisie Dobbs tales.
I highly recommend this intriguing and engaging book.
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