** spoiler alert **
This book combines Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie, taking the annoyances of both and the interest of neither.
I practically had to force my way through the book. The writing didn't flow and I felt like I was swimming against a tidal wave while I read it.
Maisie Dobbs is a bland, detached woman. I got so sick of her meditating and communing with the spirits of rooms and people. I think it was somehow supposed to show you her own inner turmoil, but, to be honest, I frankly didn't care about her turmoil or see how it was really anything to be so concerned about. She showed no emotion and any emotion that was inserted was just that...inserted. There's a difference between saying a character is crying and miserable and showing why that character is crying and miserable. Mrs. Winspear tells us that Maisie is sad and thus we are supposed to take it on blind faith, because Maisie herself is not convincingly miserable. Miss Dobbs seemed incapable of showing feeling or extending warmth to anyone.
The plot was thick and almost impenetrable. It focused on everything but the mystery. Maisie was constantly driving here and there and doing this and that but nothing seemed to pertain to anything. There is almost a lack of continuity. I almost had to use a bookmark in this book because I would open the book to a driving scene (of which there are many...) and not even realize it wasn't the one I had left off on.
I also had difficulty remembering the names of characters she introduced and often had to stop reading and recall who was who and what they were.
As for the culprit, it wasn't very ingenious at all. We were hardly introduced to the culprit in the first place (to the point where you practically forgot the person existed) and in the second place every clue as to who it was was cut out of the book. You couldn't figure out who the culprit was until the end of the book because the author practically hid the culprit from view. The person hardly existed. (I did figure it out before the climax, which probably isn't a difficult maneuver). Very ingenious, Mrs. Winspear. Very ingenious.
In a nutshell, this book is heavy, boring and absolutely uninspired.