Elegy for Eddie

Eddie Pettit is a simple man, gentle and kind though considered “slow”, born with a powerful skill to calm horses. His sudden violent death is viewed with suspicion in his poor neighbourhood. A group of hard-working men come to talk to Maisie Dobbs, private investigator.
Maisie knows these men. They were friends of her father. She knew Eddie too, although not well. She goes to visit his mother, an admirable woman who worked 3 jobs and gave birth in a stable in order to raise herself out of the abject poverty of the workhouse.
Elegy for Eddie is set in London in 1933, and captures a world that has disappeared; costermongers (peddlers) with their horse-drawn carts, horses and motor cars mingling in the streets still crowded with those who had access to neither; people leading horses through their narrow homes to a strip of garden in the back, where the horse is bedded down for the night. Eddie gets semi-regular work being called in to calm horses, but lately, people tell Maisie, he’s been preoccupied.
As Maisie begins to investigate, she discovers a string of seemingly-unrelated and coincidental deaths that sort of circle around Eddie. Her employee is beaten up and left nearly dead. Her investigation leads her to a powerful press baron, owner of the factory where Eddie was killed, and to national secrets that seem a far cry from a simple man from a desperately poor neighbourhood.
Maisie meanwhile is struggling with personal issues, including her relationship to rich James Compton, who would like to make their relationship more official. Although Maisie was born into poverty herself, and went “into service” at age 13 in the Compton house, she can now meet James as an equal, thanks to an inheritance from a psychologist and forensic scientist who trained her and came to regard her as a daughter.
England is being inexorably drawn towards WWII. As Maisie discovers what it was that Eddie was learning, she too has to decide between personal responsibility and national secrets that could jeopardize the lives of many. Elegy for Eddie is poignant, coming face to face with the human cost of such decisions. This is the ninth book in the Maisie Dobbs series. It’s possible to read this book as a stand-alone, which is what I did. I must admit that I’m planning to go back and read the previous 8 books–I enjoyed this one very much.

One small fun thing that Elizabeth loved about this book is that it mentioned St. Thomas’s Hospital in London, where her mother trained as a midwife in the 1950s. Learn about her British mother and more at her blog Planet Nomad.


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