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The Mapping of Love and Death

Winner of the 2011 Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award!

The Mapping of Love and Death

The Story

The Mapping of Love and Death opens in August 1914 in the Santa Ynez Valley in California. Michael Clifton—youngest son of an Englishman who had emigrated to America when he was in his late teens, in search of his fortune—has just purchased a tract of land which he believes is rich with one of the state's most valuable resources—oil. A cartographer and surveyor, Michael is sure of his quest, and anticipates his father's pride in his acquisition. Fate steps in when the young Bostonian begins his journey home, and learns that Britain is going to war in Europe, so in a moment of loyalty to his father's homeland, he decides to travel to England to enlist for service. Michael is listed as "missing" in 1916.

In the spring of 1932, after Michael's remains are discovered in France, along with other members of his cartography unit. His wealthy parents hire Maisie Dobbs to find the woman who wrote a series of love letters discovered among Michael's belongings. The lover identifies herself only as "The English Nurse."

While tracking down the elusive woman in an investigation that ventures from London's most exclusive drawing rooms to its most downtrodden neighborhoods, Maisie must also wrestle with memories of serving as a nurse in the Great War—memories that she has tried so hard to conquer—and of the passionate wartime romance that ended in tragedy. But as she delves more deeply into what she discovers to be a long-hidden crime, the investigator realizes that unearthing buried secrets can lead to present-day danger—just as events from the past send her own life in a surprising and not unpleasant direction.


Visiting the World War One battlefields of The Somme & Ypres is a very moving experience. The landscape still bears the scars of the miles upon miles of trenches from which hundreds of thousands of men went "over the top" into no man's land—and, for many, certain death. I have visited most of the battlefield cemeteries in this region, reading the names on the markers, and stopping often to wonder about those young men who were buried with no name, soldiers unidentified in the aftermath of battle. For them the marker reads, "A Soldier of the Great War, Known Unto God." At the same time, I have read the endless lists of the missing at the Menin Gate in Ypres, at Vimy, and at Thiepval. Where did they fall, these young men who were never found? I knew that one day I would write about the Great War's missing, but I wasn't quite sure how I might shape that story and incorporate it into the series featuring Maisie Dobbs.

It was in 2005 that I saw a letter published in the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper that intrigued me. The writer, David Bartlett, is a British man, an expert on the region who is also deeply involved in identifying the remains of British soldiers. He had been called in to help identify the recently discovered remains of a young man who had been serving with a British regiment. Among his possessions was a collection of rather expensive colored pens, and a wallet with the name of a bank embossed into the leather—it was the Central Bank of Santa Barbara. Now, of course, the soldier could have been given the wallet, could have won it playing cards, or obtained it by other means—but there was always the chance that he had been in California before the war. Was he an Englishman who had followed his dream to come to America? Might he have been an American who had, perhaps, lied to enlist in the British army?

I thought long and hard about the young man, and suspected he might have been a cartographer—those pens must have been used for something. He might have been a journalist, or an artist. The story led me to create Michael Clifton, a young American who, in August 1914 goes to the land of his father to fight for the old country in her hour of need. Of course, he expects to be home by Christmas, for surely the war would have been brought to an end by then. But the war doesn't end, and Michael will never see America again.

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Also available in ebook and audio formats

Harper, Hardcover (April 2010), ISBN-13: 978-0061727665
Harper Perennial (February 2011), ISBN-13: 978-0061727689


"Mapping the human heart is more art than science. Winspear's seventh Maisie Dobbs novel (after Among the Mad) finds the detective employed by the parents of a soldier and cartographer, Michael Clifton, who fought during World War I. Missing for 16 years, the bodies of Clifton and his unit are discovered in France. The postmortem reveals that while the unit perished during a shelling attack, Clifton was already dead from a crushed skull. The only clues found with the body are Clifton's deteriorated journal and love letters to an unnamed nurse. There's also the dilemma of the California land purchase, potentially lucrative, that Clifton made just before he enlisted. With no deed of sale or will apparent, the land is mired in legal entanglements. This case has long grown cold, but Maisie is too relentless an investigator to let it prevent her from bringing a murderer to justice. Verdict: An engaging plot coupled with captivating characters makes this the best Dobbs novel to date. Highly recommended for historical mystery aficionados who enjoy intriguing whodunits wrapped in a wartime love story."
   —Library Journal, Starred Review

"The sixth Maisie Dobbs mystery, set in England between the wars, is based on a true story about the discovery of a collapsed dugout from World War I containing the bodies of a cartography team and their equipment. The American parents of the dead cartographer hire Maisie to find "the English Nurse," the young man's mysterious lover—and possibly his killer, as the autopsy evidence points to his having been murdered shortly before the dugout collapsed. Only a few hours after having hired Maisie, the Americans are attacked and badly beaten, prompting Maisie to take it upon herself to discover their attacker. Maisie and her assistant, Billy, take on the case in their usual careful and contemplative style, even as difficulties in Maisie's personal life challenge her concentration. Readers who preferred the earlier novels in the series will be pleased with this entry and those waiting for Maisie to finally find a love interest will have something to cheer about. A must read for series fans, especially because the ending hints that big changes are on the way for Maisie."

"Deep in the minds of all mystery readers exists characters, settings and storylines that are not forgotten and that find a permanent place in their hearts. Readers always know when they come across an author who has created one of these experiences for them. Jacqueline Winspear has written a series that does just that with her heroine, Maisie Dobbs.
The Mapping of Love and Death is the seventh book in the series, which is set in England between the two world wars. Maisie receives a letter from Dr. Charles Hayden, an American surgeon who she met during World War I. He has referred Mr. and Mrs. Clifton to her. Mr. Clifton, who grew up in England but left in his teens to work in America, is very successful in his business and has married into an important American family. Their meeting with Maisie involves their son, Michael, a cartographer and surveyor for the Royal Engineers in WWI who suddenly disappeared in 1916. Sixteen years have passed, and his remains were discovered recently in a field in France. When his journal, personal affects and letters are returned to his loved ones, they find personal correspondence from a mysterious lady who simply signed her letters as "the English nurse." The family asks for Maisie's help in locating this woman so that they can learn more about Michael's life during the war.
Maisie looks through the documents she receives and reads the French coroner's report, which declares that Michael and his unit died from a shelling attack. But Maisie ascertains—as does the American surgeon and Michael's father—that the young man died from a different kind of attack: a blunt object to his skull. Was he murdered? And, if so, why?
As Maisie undertakes the case, her investigation uncovers how cartography was used in the war and who had knowledge of an American cartographer. With the help of her friend, Priscilla, Maisie learns of Lady Petronella Casterman, a former suffragist who founded a medical unit staffed by women who were sent to France in 1915. Could the English nurse have been on her staff?
When the Cliftons are attacked in their hotel room and their place is ransacked, the case becomes more puzzling for Maisie, who herself is attacked and stripped of her briefcase. How are all of these threads of Michael's life intertwined, and do they create a reason for his murder? Could the catalyst for all of this have been the land he bought in California before enlisting in the Royal Engineers, or was it something that happened during the war? Because of Maisie's indomitable abilities to analyze human behavior, she is able to piece together facts that will solve the case, including the discovery of the English nurse's identity. There is also the usual cast of characters who support every Maisie Dobbs mystery: her father; her assistant, Billy Beale; the Comptons; and her mentors, Maurice and Khan.
Jacqueline Winspear's mystery series keeps me coming back for more because of her delightful heroine. Maisie solves the puzzles of each case through her understanding of human nature and uncovers the truth about herself and her characters. She is complex in her outlook, yet hopes to find closure and peace as she closes each case. I respect Maisie for her knowledge of human nature and all that it encompasses in her search for truth and justice."

"To an outsider, the journey from the west end of London to the east end might have seemed like leaving a full buffet dinner with the finest china, for bread and water at a rough-hewn table. The houses on many streets were still without running water, so women gathered at the communal pump to fill their buckets and kettles, then huffed and puffed their way home carrying their burden.
Details such as this season Winspear's tale with just the right amount of grit. Maisie herself is a child of the working class, and early in life served as a maid for Lord and Lady Rowan, who were sufficiently impressed by how bright she was to pay for her education. Maisie's assistant, Billy, was a patient of hers in the war. His wife has suffered a breakdown after their young daughter's illness and death, and Billy plaintively dreams of emigrating to Canada.
In other words, there is more here than just nostalgia for a simpler time when most people's manners were better and everyone knew his place and kept to it. There is charm and heartbreak as well. And a nice little network of mystery to tie it all together."
   —Frank Wilson, The Philadelphia Inquirer

"The aftershocks of war can last for years for those who fight and for the people who love them.
Jacqueline Winspear's novels featuring psychologist/private detective Maisie Dobbs, who served as a nurse in World War I, brim with that truth, and the seventh, The Mapping of Love and Death (352 pages, Harper, $25.99), continues her compassionate approach to the art of storytelling.
Winspear's plot, as always, is a compelling and moving one, her characters are drawn with empathy, and her writing is the essence of understated elegance. But her trump card is Maisie herself, an endlessly fascinating sleuth who with each book further endears herself to the reader.
Like all of Winspear's work, The Mapping of Love and Death engages the mind and enriches the heart. A novel of profound humanity, with a heroine who lives up to that word in every way, it leaves the reader marveling at Winspear's flair for literate and absorbing fiction."
   —Jay Strafford, The Richmond-Times Dispatch