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    Q&A | August 26, 2015

    Christopher Moore: IMG Powell’s Q&A: Christopher Moore

    Describe your latest book. Secondhand Souls is the sequel to my bestselling novel A Dirty Job, which was about a single dad in San Francisco who... Continue »
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      Secondhand Souls

      Christopher Moore 9780061779787

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6 Hawthorne Mystery- A to Z
13 Local Warehouse Mystery- A to Z

Maisie Dobbs


Maisie Dobbs Cover

ISBN13: 9780142004333
ISBN10: 0142004332
Condition: Standard
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They gathered in the dark long before the train arrived

at the small station. It was mostly women: young

mothers holding tightly wrapped infants, elderly women in

shawls, black-coated middle-aged matrons alongside grown

children. There were men too, of course, some already holding

their hats self-consciously at their sides, and a cluster of

soldiers stood to one end of the platform near the bearded

stationmaster. Even so, the men were outnumbered by the

women as they always were these days.

 Occasionally the station buffet sign creaked or a baby wailed

and the isolated murmur of one woman to another was almost

indistinguishable from the faint sigh of wind, but mostly there

was quiet as they waited. Still others stood a little further away.

In the houses on either side of the line, behind lighted windows,

silhouetted occupants held back curtains. Below them,

at rail-side garden fences or on the banks, stood a handful

more. On the far platform, almost out of reach of the lights,

it was just possible to pick out one individual, swathed in a

dark coat and hat, who stood at a distance from the rest. The

stationmaster looked across the rails with some apprehension.

In a long career he had never had a suicide, but tonight was different;

this trains freight was despair and sorrow. However, the

watcher seemed calm, standing at a reasonable distance from

the platforms edge, with the width of the down track separating

his stiffly upright figure from the expected train.

 They felt it before they heard it. A faint vibration in the rails

seemed to transmit itself to the people waiting, and a shiver

trembled through them, followed by a more audible hum and

finally a crescendo of noise as the train, pulled by its great dark

engine, appeared around the bend. Tiny points of fire danced

red in its smoke and singed the grass. The last hats were

removed hurriedly and one young woman buried her face in

her companions chest. The soldiers stood to attention and, as

the train thundered by without stopping, its compartments

brilliantly illuminated, they saluted. A wave ran through the

crowd as several of the spectators craned forward, desperate to

catch a momentary glimpse of the red, blue and white flag,

draped over the coffin of English oak, before its passing left

them to the dark loneliness of their changed world.

 As the crowd slowly dispersed, almost as silently as they had

assembled, the stationmaster looked along his platform once

more. Now quite alone on the far side of the track, one figure

stayed immobile. Hours after the stationmaster had gone to his

bed, reassured in the knowledge that it was six hours until the

milk train, the last watcher remained solitary and now invisible

in the darkness, waiting for dawn and the last battle to



In years to come, Laurence Bartram would look back and

think that the event that really changed everything was

not the war, nor the attack at Rosières, nor even the loss of his

wife, but the return of John Emmett into his life. Before then,

Laurence had been trying to develop a routine around the writing

of a book on London churches. Astonishingly, a mere six

or so years earlier when he came down from Oxford, he had

taught, briefly and happily, but on marrying he had been persuaded

that teaching was not a means of supporting Louise

and the large family she had planned. After only token resistance

he had joined her familys long-established coffee

importing business. It all seemed so long ago, now. There was

no coffee, no business - or not for him - and Louise and his

only child were dead.

 When his wife and son lay dying in Bristol, Laurence was

crouched in the colourless light of dawn, waiting to move

towards the German guns and praying fervently to a God he

no longer believed in. He had long been indifferent to which

side won; he wished only that one or the other would do so

decisively while he was still alive. It would be days before the

news of Louise and their babys death reached him. It was not

until he was home, with his grief-stricken mother-in-law endlessly

supplying unwanted details, that he realised that Louise

had died at precisely the moment he was giving the order to

advance. When he finally got leave, he had stood by the grave

with its thin, new grass while his father-in-law hovered near by,

embarrassed. When the older man had withdrawn, Laurence

crouched down. He could smell the damp earth but there was

nothing of her here. Later, he chose the granite and spelled out

both names and the dates to the stonemason. He wanted to

mourn, yet his emotions seemed unreachable. Indeed, after a

few days shut up with his parents-in-law, desolate and aged by

loss, he was soon searching for an excuse to return to London

and escape the intensity of their misery.

 As he sat on the train, returning to close up his London

house, he had felt a brief but shocking wave of elation. Louise

was gone, so many were gone, but he had made it through -

he was still quite young and with a life ahead of him. The

mood passed as quickly as it always did, to be replaced by

emptiness. The house felt airless and stale. He started packing

everything himself but after opening a small chest to find a

soft whiteness of matinée jackets, bootees, embroidered baby

gowns and tiny bonnets, all carefully folded in tissue paper, he

had recoiled from the task and paid someone to make sure he

never saw any of it again.

 Louise had left him money and so he was free to follow a

new career. It did not make him a man of substantial means,

but it was enough for him to tell Louises father that he wouldnt

be returning to the business. Even if Louise had survived

and he were now the father of a lively son, he doubted he

would have continued buying and selling coffee beans. The war

had changed things; for him life before 1914 was a closed world

he could never reach back and touch. He could recall banal

fragments of people but not the whole. His mothers long

fingers stabbing embroidery silks into her petit point. His

father snipping and smoothing his moustache as he grimaced

in the looking-glass. He could even remember the smell of

his fathers pomade, yet the rest of the face never quite came

into focus. His memories were just a series of tableaux, dis -

connected from the present. Louise, and the small hopes and

plans that went with her, were simply part of these everyday


 Hed rented a small flat, a quarter the size of the town

house he and Louise had lived in for their eighteen months of

marriage before he was sent to France. It was in Great Ormond

Street and on the top floor, with windows facing in three

directions so that the small rooms were filled with light. There

he could lie in bed listening to the wind and the pigeons

cooing on the roof. He rarely went out socially these days but

when he did it was usually to see his friend Charles Carfax who

had been at the same school and had served in France. Charles

was someone to whom nothing need be explained.

 Sometimes as he gazed out across the rooftops Laurence

tried to picture where he might be in a years time - five years,

ten - but he couldnt imagine a life other than this. At Oxford

he had been teased about his enthusiasms: for long walks,

architecture, even dancing. That excitement was a curiosity now

and he had stopped worrying that he had drifted away from

friends. He no longer had any imagined future different from

the present.

 Where he felt most alive was sitting in the chapel of

Thomas More inside Chelsea Old Church, wondering at the

mans courage, or in All Hallows by the Tower where bodies,

including Mores, had been brought after beheading at the

Tower. Somehow horror was blunted by thirteen centuries.

Churches, he thought, werent buildings but stories; even their

names fascinated him. However, when he tried to re-create that

excitement for his own book, he was reduced to stone and

floor plans and architectural terms. For St Bartholomew the

Great, his notes read: billet moulding, cloister, twelfth-century

transept. Yet when he was sitting, resting his eyes, he had

sometimes sensed the monks brushing by him on their way to

Compline, or stumbling bewildered through the teeming

streets after Henry VIII had evicted them, while the building

survived as best it could: as stable, forge, factory or inn, before

it returned to what it was meant to be.

 He had had a happy childhood, adored by parents who had

produced him quite late in life, but both had died unexpectedly

before he was sixteen. His much older married sister,

Millicent, had been like a second mother, but she had moved

to India before their parents died, remaining there with her

large family and a husband who was part of the colonial

administration. She had tried her hardest to persuade her

young brother to join them and, when Laurence turned out to

be surprisingly stubborn in refusal, sent him stories by

Rudyard Kipling, which revealed India as a magical and dangerous

place. He still kept one book near his bed, unable to

imagine his sensible sister amid the gold elephants, turbaned

elephant boys and rearing rattlesnakes on the cover. A distant

aunt agreed to be his guardian and this satisfied Millicent, if

not his need for love and comfort. In due course he went up

to Oxford where his tutor had been something of a father to

him from the day he arrived at Merton College as an undergraduate.

Shortly before his death a year or so ago, this kind,

unworldly man had introduced him to a publisher who had

shown surprising interest in Laurences diffidently proposed


 Meanwhile his sister wrote regularly with an innocent

assumption of his love for Wilfred, Sally, Bumble, James and

Ted, his unknown, unimagined nephews and nieces. Given her

determination never to speak of anything unpleasant, her letters

only increased his feeling that Louise and the war were

something hed dreamed up.

 For a while young widows, or girls who had once been

engaged to officers in his regiment who hadnt made it through,

made it fairly clear that his attentions would be welcome. He

was nice-looking rather than conventionally handsome, with

thick dark hair, pale skin, brown eyes and strong nose, a combination

that sometimes led people to assume a non-existent

Scottish ancestry. Unable to cope with the possibilities on offer,

he invariably withdrew with the excuse that he needed to focus

on his research. His married friends had been kind after

Louises death but he felt uncomfortable in their houses, watching

their family life unfold. He had tried it once. He had

journeyed down to Hampshire for a perfectly undemanding

weekend of tennis and cocktails, country walks and chatter,

then found himself in the grip of overwhelming anxiety. As

they trudged through waist-high bracken and followed earth

tracks through thickets of dense flowering gorse, he found himself

jumping at every rustle or crack of a branch. He made his

excuses straight after Sunday lunch.

 Sometimes now he could go a week or more without revisiting

the smells and tremors of the war, and a whole month

without dreaming of Louise: that unknown Louise, ever pliant,

ever accommodating. It was an irony that he thought about the

dead Louise a great deal more intensely than he ever had the

living woman, and with real physical longing.

 Just once he had weakened. He was walking alone late when

a woman stepped from a doorway.

 ‘On your own? she said.

 He thought she had a slight west country accent.

 ‘I say, youre a quiet one. You on your own?

 Inadequately dressed even for a mild winters evening, she

smiled hopefully.

 ‘Do you want to get warm?

 His first thought had been that he didnt feel cold. His

second, that she looked nothing like Louise.

 Her back curved away from him as she took off her clothes,

folding them carefully on a chair. Then she turned to him.

Standing there, in just her stockings, her body thin and white

and her bush of hair shocking and black, he was simultaneously

aroused and appalled. She watched him incuriously as he

took off his shirt and trousers. Then she lay back and opened

her legs. Yet when he tried to enter her she was quite dry and

he had to spit on his hand to wet her before he pushed hard

against her resistance. He couldnt bear to look at her. As he

took her he wished he had removed his socks. When he had

finished she got up, went over to a bowl on a stool in the

corner, half hidden behind a papier-mâché screen, and wiped

herself with a bit of cloth. He paid, noticing she wore a wedding

ring, and went briskly downstairs into the dark where he

drew mouthfuls of night air, with its smell of cinders and

drains, deep into his lungs. He was lost. Too much had gone.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 13 comments:

Linkmeister, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Linkmeister)
This was a spectacular book about a period in history which has been overshadowed by the two wars surrounding it, and about the efforts of an intelligent young woman to make her way upward in a class-conscious English society. It's ostensibly a mystery, but the book is as much sociological as it is about a crime. Spectacular, and better yet, it's the first of a series of nine or ten books.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Linkmeister, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by Linkmeister)
This was a spectacular book about a period in history which has been overshadowed by the two wars surrounding it, and about the efforts of an intelligent young woman to make her way upward in a class-conscious English society. It's ostensibly a mystery, but the book is as much sociological as it is about a crime. Spectacular, and better yet, it's the first of a series of nine or ten books.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
JHenry, August 26, 2012 (view all comments by JHenry)
I recently picked this book up to bring to the beach and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I don't normally read mysteries but I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I especially liked the history lesson that is interwoven into the story. It's been a long time since I read a book where the ending wasn't pretty obvious. I am addicted, I already went and bought the next two books in the series.
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Product Details

Winspear, Jacqueline
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Speller, Elizabeth
Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths
Mystery & Detective - Historical
Children s All Ages - Fiction - General
Mystery & Detective - General
World War, 1914-1918
Historical fiction
Mystery fiction
Mystery Historical
Captain John Emmett;murder;mystery;London;1920;Great War;England;Western Front;W
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Maisie Dobbs Mysteries
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
8.25 x 5.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:
from 18

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » General
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Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
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Maisie Dobbs Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 448 pages Penguin Books - English 9780142004333 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Winspear rarely attempts to elevate her prose past the common romance, and what might have been a journey through a strata of England between the wars is instead just simple, convenient and contrived. Prime candidate for a TV movie."
"Review" by , "[An] inspired debut novel, a delightful mix of mystery, war story and romance set in WWI-era England...Winspear [is] a new writer to watch."
"Review" by , "Deft...Prepare to be astonished at the sensitivity and wisdom with which Maisie resolves her first professional assignment...Winspear takes her through her ordeal with great compassion."
"Review" by , "From its dedication to the author's paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother...to its powerful conclusion, this is a poignant and compelling story....Winspear writes in simple, effective prose...handling human drama with compassionate sensitivity while skillfully avoiding cloying sentimentality. At the end, the reader is left yearning for more....Highly recommended."
"Synopsis" by ,
Damaged but not broken by his service in the Great War, and living a solitary widower's life in a London attic, accidental detective Laurence Bartram looks into the suspicious death of an old friend and discovers much more than he wishes to.
"Synopsis" by ,
London, 1920. In the aftermath of the Great War and a devastating family tragedy, Laurence Bartram has turned his back on the world. But with a well-timed letter, an old flame manages to draw him back in. Mary Emmetts brother John—like Laurence, an officer during the war—has apparently killed himself while in the care of a remote veterans hospital, and Mary needs to know why. 

Aided by his friend Charles—a dauntless gentleman with detective skills cadged from mystery novels—Laurence begins asking difficult questions. What connects a group of war poets, a bitter feud within Emmetts regiment, and a hidden love affair? Was Emmetts death really a suicide, or the missing piece in a puzzling series of murders? As veterans tied to Emmett continue to turn up dead, and Laurence is forced to face the darkest corners of his own war experiences, his own survival may depend on uncovering the truth. 

At once a compelling mystery and an elegant literary debut, The Return of Captain John Emmett blends the psychological depth of Pat Barkers Regeneration trilogy with lively storytelling from the golden age of British crime fiction.

"Synopsis" by ,

Hailed by NPR’s Fresh Air as part Testament of Youth, part Dorothy Sayers, and part Upstairs, Downstairs, this astonishing debut has already won fans from coast to coast and is poised to add Maisie Dobbs to the ranks of literature’s favorite sleuths.

Maisie Dobbs isn’t just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence—and the patronage of her benevolent employers—she works her way into college at Cambridge. When World War I breaks out, Maisie goes to the front as a nurse. It is there that she learns that coincidences are meaningful and the truth elusive. After the War, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind.

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