Review: A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline Winspear

Review: A Sunlit Weapon by Jacqueline WinspearA Sunlit Weapon (Maisie Dobbs #17) by Jacqueline Winspear
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, World War II
Series: Maisie Dobbs #17
Pages: 358
Published by Harper on March 22, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook DepositoryBookshop.org
Goodreads

In the latest installment of the New York Times bestselling series, a series of possible attacks on British pilots leads Jacqueline Winspear's beloved heroine Maisie Dobbs into a mystery involving First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
October 1942. Jo Hardy, a 22-year-old ferry pilot, is delivering a Supermarine Spitfire--the fastest fighter aircraft in the world--to Biggin Hill Aerodrome, when she realizes someone is shooting at her aircraft from the ground. Returning to the location on foot, she finds an American serviceman in a barn, bound and gagged. She rescues the man, who is handed over to the American military police; it quickly emerges that he is considered a suspect in the disappearance of a fellow soldier who is missing.
Tragedy strikes two days later, when another ferry pilot crashes in the same area where Jo's plane was attacked. At the suggestion of one of her colleagues, Jo seeks the help of psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs. Meanwhile, Maisie's husband, a high-ranking political attach� based at the American embassy, is in the thick of ensuring security is tight for the first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, during her visit to the Britain. There's already evidence that German agents have been circling: the wife of a president represents a high value target. Mrs. Roosevelt is clearly in danger, and there may well be a direct connection to the death of the woman ferry pilot and the recent activities of two American servicemen.
To guarantee the safety of the First Lady--and of the soldier being held in police custody--Maisie must uncover that connection. At the same time, she faces difficulties of an entirely different nature with her young daughter, Anna, who is experiencing wartime struggles of her own.

My Review:

I love the Maisie Dobbs series, so I had been saving this book for a time when I needed a reading treat. As yesterday was Memorial Day, I was looking for a book about war and what comes after. Considering the origins of Memorial Day, I probably should have been looking for a book set during the U.S. Civil War, but I remembered I’d been saving this one and today seemed like a perfect time. So here we are.

Part of what makes this series so compelling is the way that Maisie Dobbs as an investigator turns some of the mystery conventions on their pointy little heads. A lot of fictional detectives don’t believe in coincidence, so when there are multiple crimes it usually turns out that there’s a single cause or perpetrator at their roots.

Maisie, as trained by the late and often lamented Maurice Blanche, sees coincidences as guideposts – not necessarily to the crime she’s investigating, but to something in her own life that needs looking into. Which means that in addition to the usual questioning of witnesses and suspects, Maisie is quite often questioning herself. Not that she doubts herself, but that she’s always looking for the lesson that the universe is trying to teach her.

The cases and incidents that she undertakes to resolve in A Sunlit Weapon have huge, potentially world-shattering consequences. They will also change the life of one little girl. And all the aspects of that tangled investigation are wrapped around war. Not just this war, but also the one before. And not just the fighting, but the grief that inevitably follows in its wake.

Maisie begins with one case. A young aviatrix, a member of the Air Transport Auxiliary tasked with repositioning planes from one airbase to another, is nearly shot down over Kent by someone on the ground. When Jo Hardy goes back to check out the scene on the ground, she finds, not the shooter, but Mattias Crittenden, a young black American soldier bound and gagged in a deserted barn. She is determined to make sure that the black GI gets justice and not a lynching, so she turns to Maisie for help.

Maisie also has a much more personal case of her own. Her adopted daughter Anna is being bullied at school because Anna is slightly darker skinned than the typical “English Rose” complexion. The children at her school have suddenly started harassing her and referring to her as an enemy Italian, when in fact she’s English. (Her father was a Maltese sailor. Malta became part of the British Empire in 1814.)

What has Maisie perplexed is that Anna was happy in school and eager to learn – up until the past few weeks. Something at the school has changed – and not for the better.

These two “cases” shouldn’t have anything to do with each other. Or to the third case that falls into Maisie’s lap. Her new husband, Mark Scott, is an American attached to the U.S. Embassy. His current task is to handle security for Eleanor Roosevelt’s imminent visit to Britain. Scott has learned that there are plans to assassinate the First Lady while she’s in Britain.

Maisie’s search of the barn where Private Crittenden was discovered turned up two items. The dog tags of Crittenden’s friend Private Stone, who is missing – and coded plans that reference the First Lady’s codename while she’s traveling.

Somehow, Jo Hardy’s mysterious ground shooter and the plot to assassinate Mrs. Roosevelt are linked – even if Maisie doesn’t yet know how. And all of it, along with the mystery at little Anna’s school, may not all be part of the same series of crimes, but are all part of the same thing – the terrible consequences of war.

Escape Rating A-: We’ve followed Maisie from her childhood apprenticeship with Maurice Blanche through her nursing service in WW1, through her grief at the loss of her fiancé, her eventual wedding and subsequent tragic widowhood, her recovery and now her second marriage to the American Mark Scott who she met in a previous book in this series, The American Agent. What we haven’t seen until now is Maisie as a married woman, as the period in her life when she was married happened between Leaving Everything Most Loved and A Dangerous Place. So for those of us who have followed Maisie through her career, this is the first time we’ve seen her in the position where she’s going to have to negotiate how to balance her work life and personal life in a way that she hasn’t had to before.

Because being an investigator is very much core to who Maisie is as a person. It wasn’t easy giving it up to marry the first time around, but she was younger and less well established. At this point in her life she knows she can’t give up being who she is to become a traditional wife and mother – something that the Headmistress of her daughter’s school throws in her face in their first confrontation.

At the same time, a part of the undercurrent of this story is that Maisie’s job is dangerous, and that no matter what she promises she’s not going to stop doing it. And that her new husband hates the danger she throws herself into – even though that kind of danger is the reason they met in the first place.

But the case, or rather cases, that Maisie looks into exemplify the way that Maisie works. She pulls on one thread because it’s part of her initial remit from her client. The more she pulls, the more she investigates, the more complicated and interwoven the threads seem to be – until they send out branches and tentacles into people and places she never thought they’d go.

It’s not a quick process, so Maisie’s stories aren’t page-turners in a thriller sense. And yet they’re compelling because Maisie makes them so. She’s intelligent and complicated, and the way she works through her cases is the same – no matter where they lead her.

In this case they lead her from a black GI accused of killing his white friend even though no corpse has been found. It’s all too clear that this is a rush to judgment or that he’s a convenient scapegoat because of the color of his skin. There is no part of the way that the US military treats its black soldiers, particularly in the persons of its MPs, that does not grate – not just on 21st century readers but on the British public at large at the time. Because racial segregation doesn’t make sense and that’s all too easy to see through the eyes of people who don’t employ it. (That’s not to say that Britain didn’t and doesn’t have plenty of its own problems in regards to class separation, elitism, etc., just that it didn’t run that way at the time.)

But in doing her best to ensure that Pvt. Crittenden isn’t rushed to a hangman’s noose or the electric chair for the murder of a man who might not even be dead Maisie opens up more cans of worms. As she does.

And in the middle of investigating how Crittenden got to be in that barn – no matter how many roadblocks, literal and figurative, get thrown in her way – Maisie links the barn to the shooting, the shooting to a damaged young man, and the young man all the way back to the Headmistress of her daughter’s school. Not because they have the same beliefs or commit any of the same actions, but because they were all, every single one, damaged by the war that was supposed to have ended all wars.

Not because it didn’t, but because war is hell – both for the ones who fight it and the ones who wait behind.

I am already looking forward to Maisie’s next adventure, and not just because I’m wondering how hard (or if) she’s going to have to hit her husband with a clue-by-four to get it through his head that she’s never going to turn away from doing the right thing no matter how dangerous it might be. As this book took place in the autumn of 1943, I expect the next book to cover some of 1944. If Maisie ends up being involved in the planning of or the misdirection wrapped around D-Day I will not be at all surprised. Riveted, but not surprised. And I can’t wait to read it!

Review: The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear + Giveaway

Review: The Consequences of Fear by Jacqueline Winspear + GiveawayThe Consequences of Fear (Maisie Dobbs #16) by Jacqueline Winspear
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery, mystery, thriller
Series: Maisie Dobbs #16
Pages: 352
Published by Harper on March 23, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

As Europe buckles under Nazi occupation, Maisie Dobbs investigates a possible murder that threatens devastating repercussions for Britain's war efforts in this latest installment in the New York Times bestselling mystery series.
September 1941. While on a delivery, young Freddie Hackett, a message runner for a government office, witnesses an argument that ends in murder. Crouching in the doorway of a bombed-out house, Freddie waits until the coast is clear. But when he arrives at the delivery address, he’s shocked to come face to face with the killer.
Dismissed by the police when he attempts to report the crime, Freddie goes in search of a woman he once met when delivering a message: Maisie Dobbs. While Maisie believes the boy and wants to help, she must maintain extreme caution: she’s working secretly for the Special Operations Executive, assessing candidates for crucial work with the French resistance. Her two worlds collide when she spots the killer in a place she least expects. She soon realizes she’s been pulled into the orbit of a man who has his own reasons to kill—reasons that go back to the last war.
As Maisie becomes entangled in a power struggle between Britain’s intelligence efforts in France and the work of Free French agents operating across Europe, she must also contend with the lingering question of Freddie Hackett’s state of mind. What she uncovers could hold disastrous consequences for all involved in this compelling chapter of the “series that seems to get better with every entry” (Wall Street Journal).

My Review:

In London, in September of 1941, fear was a constant companion. Every person old enough to be aware, including any children past toddlerhood, has to have felt at least some level of fear every waking minute. Fear of bombs, fear of losing someone dear to them – likely because of a bomb, fear of being made homeless and losing everything they owned – due to a bomb.

Fear that Hitler would invade Britain after softening up the target with – yet more bombs. Fear that Britain, standing alone, wouldn’t be able to hold back the tide of Nazi Germany any more than King Canute could hold back the ocean’s tide by ordering it so.

Maisie Dobbs, once upon a time a battlefield nurse in World War I, now serves as part of the checks and balances at the Special Operations Executive, vetting agents who are about to be sent to infiltrate occupied Europe as secret radio operators, saboteurs – and spies.

She did her bit in the first war, and she’s doing it again. Just not quite as near the front lines, although every bit as heartbreaking.

Maisie has spent the years between the wars as a private investigator, trained by her mentor Maurice Blanche, to ferret out the secrets that people have been keeping, sometimes even from themselves, in order to resolve personal issues they bring to her, and crimes brought to her by the police, or, in the case of her interviewing for the SOE, by the government.

The story here is about Maisie attempting, not always successfully, to balance her government work, her private clients, her family out in the country, and her American lover in the Diplomatic Corps of his own country.

It is also a story about the ways in which those responsibilities come into conflict. A country that expects her to drop everything at a moment’s notice in order to send people into situations where death is almost certain. A country that expects her to keep its secrets even from those she loves. A country that expects her to help cover up a murder in order to protect an alliance that it considers strategic.

It’s that last stress that proves to be more than Maisie can live with. The question becomes whether or not she, or anyone else involved, will die for it.

Escape Rating A: This is Mystery & Thriller week on Goodreads, and the image being used looks a lot like a piece of the cover for this book. I fully admit that I had no idea when I was picking out this week’s books that I would be echoing this theme, I just wanted books that I knew would be good and it turned out I struck a theme.

It took me most of the book to get how the title related to this particular story. Everyone is afraid at this point in the war. Things are pretty dark, and in spite of the famous British “stiff upper lip” the situation does not look hopeful.

But the fears that drive this story are not all about the war, even though they circle back to it. There’s a murder in this mystery, and everything about that murder is a result of fear. The murderer fears the loss of his honor, and the exposure of that loss. The witness fears that the killer knows he is a witness, and that the murderer is out to get him as well. And Maisie fears that her emotions are clouding her judgment, and most importantly, fears that the war will rob her of her second chance at happiness.

All three act out because of their fear, and act on their fear at the same time. This entire case and its outcomes are all consequences of those fears.

The ending is not all heartbreak as one might expect from the beginning, although the piper does get paid.

The story closes on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor. The Americans, including Maisie’s lover, are scrambling to prepare America’s response to the attack. The entire war has changed irrevocably, along with Maisie’s life.

I’ve followed Maisie’s adventures from her very first story, fittingly named after this singular character. This is a series that follows the history of both its character and the world she inhabits, and sincerely rewards readers who get involved at the very beginning. This is not a series to pick up in the middle, especially as the last few books in the series, from A Dangerous Place onwards, show the shadows darkening over Europe as Britain prepares for the inevitable that no one wants to see.

This turned out to be a fitting close for the theme of this Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week as well. Both Maisie Dobbs and Sebastian St. Cyr are coincidentally at the 16th book in their respective series, but more importantly, both are atmospheric historical mysteries set in periods of great upheaval featuring compelling and fascinating protagonists.

Maisie also links back to, not Susan Ryeland or Atticus Pünd in Moonflower Murders, but rather to the author of the series, Anthony Horowitz, and the TV character he created, Christopher Foyle of Foyle’s War. Although a police detective rather than a private investigator, Foyle is another compelling character who served in WW1 and is now, in the second war, investigating crimes on the homefront – and occasionally working for the government – just as Maisie is.

I expect Maisie’s war to be every bit as dangerous, and to include every bit as much crime and punishment as her between the wars life has done. And I’m certainly looking forward to reading about Maisie’s war now that it is finally and officially here.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

Today is the final day of my Blogo-Birthday Celebration Week. This is a series that is near and dear to my heart, making it a perfect ending to a week of giveaways. I love this series and am thrilled to share a bit of that love with one lucky winner.

The winner of today’s giveaway will receive their choice of one book by Jacqueline Winspear (up to $25 US to include The Consequences of Fear) whether in the Maisie Dobbs series or her standalone or her nonfiction. If you haven’t met Maisie, I would recommend starting with one of the early books in the series, either the collection of novellas in Maisie Dobbs, or the first complete novel that features her, Birds of a Feather.

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Review: The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear

Review: The American Agent by Jacqueline WinspearThe American Agent (Maisie Dobbs, #15) by Jacqueline Winspear
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: historical fiction, historical mystery
Series: Maisie Dobbs #15
Pages: 384
Published by Harper on March 26, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Beloved heroine Maisie Dobbs, “one of the great fictional heroines” (Parade), investigates the mysterious murder of an American war correspondent in London during the Blitz in a page-turning tale of love and war, terror and survival.

When Catherine Saxon, an American correspondent reporting on the war in Europe, is found murdered in her London digs, news of her death is concealed by British authorities. Serving as a linchpin between Scotland Yard and the Secret Service, Robert MacFarlane pays a visit to Maisie Dobbs, seeking her help. He is accompanied by an agent from the US Department of Justice—Mark Scott, the American who helped Maisie escape Hitler’s Munich in 1938. MacFarlane asks Maisie to work with Scott to uncover the truth about Saxon’s death.

As the Germans unleash the full terror of their blitzkrieg upon the British Isles, raining death and destruction from the skies, Maisie must balance the demands of solving this dangerous case with her need to protect Anna, the young evacuee she has grown to love and wants to adopt. Entangled in an investigation linked to the power of wartime propaganda and American political intrigue being played out in Britain, Maisie will face losing her dearest friend—and the possibility that she might be falling in love again.

My Review:

It’s March, which means it’s time for this year’s Maisie Dobbs adventure. I’m just sorry her publisher isn’t sponsoring the “Month of Maisie” any longer, as that always made for a terrific excuse to pick up one of the earlier books in the series as well as the new one.

For Maisie, the year in 1940, and London is in the middle of the Blitz. And so is Maisie, as she and her best friend Priscilla are doing in London what they did in the Great War so many (and so few) years ago.

They’re driving an ambulance and taking the wounded from the “front” to hospital. It’s just that this time, that “front” is the streets of London. Their roads are better paved this time around, but the shelling is even more deadly.

Just because Maisie is driving an ambulance every night, that doesn’t mean that she isn’t solving cases during the day. Even though she’s “dead on her feet” half the time, victims of murder still need justice.

Her worlds collide. One night, Maisie and Priscilla have an observer on their ambulance run – a female American journalist. Cath Saxon is reporting the war from a woman’s perspective – with the hope of becoming one of the “boys” working for and with Edward R. Murrow.

Just as Cath gets in – she’s out. She’s found murdered in her rented rooms, and both Scotland Yard and the American Embassy call on Maisie to find out who killed her. It might just be a love affair gone wrong. It might have something to do with her reporting. There’s also a chance that her powerful family back in America decided that Cath’s sympathetic reports of the plucky and heroic English response to Hitler’s Blitz might be too embarrassing for their Hitler-sympathizing friends back home.

Maisie is supposed to be working with an American agent on this case. Mark Scott is the same American agent who saved her life during her nearly disastrous Journey to Munich. But as the case progresses it’s clear to Maisie that the man who is supposed to be working WITH her is working on an agenda of his own – and mostly far from Maisie’s inquiries.

And that at least part of his hidden agenda has more to do with Maisie herself than any case either of them might be investigating.

Escape Rating A: This is a series that I absolutely love, and eagerly await the next book. So I’m already on tenterhooks for book 16, hopefully next March. But in the meantime there’s plenty to discuss regarding The American Agent.

One thing that struck me as I read about Maisie and Patricia’s exploits as ambulance drivers was the way that it brought home just how close World War II was to World War I. Both women served in the Great War, Maisie as a nurse and Patricia as an ambulance driver. As this book opens, they are still only in their early 40s, still in their prime. And serving again. Although there are many young people who think that war is glorious, as evidenced by the behavior of Patricia’s son in To Die but Once. At the same time there are plenty of people populating Maisie’s world who served in the first war, are serving in the second, and know from grim experience that war is terrible. And are equally aware that they must fight, that surrender is unthinkable.

However, there are plenty of people who have taken that belief that war is terrible, but either believe that Hitler is unstoppable or don’t care who dies as long as their profits continue. And some who agree with his many and terrible hatreds and prejudices. (If that sounds familiar, it bloody well should as things stand today!)

Ironically, we are re-watching Poirot, and the later episodes of that series also deal with the impending war. The Clocks had been rewritten to take place before the war, and part of the plot revolved around government agents who were giving secrets to the Nazis to make Britain fall faster so that the war would end sooner. The Duke of Windsor was part of this movement, much to the embarrassment of the Royal Family.

There were also plenty of people in America who believed that Hitler’s win was inevitable – or were in at least economic cahoots with Germany. And there was a significant amount of Antisemitism involved, people who believed that Hitler’s plan to kill all the Jews was the right way to go. (Yes, that’s appalling. But true.)

Charles Lindbergh, the aviator, was a prominent member of the America First Committee, which wanted America to stay out of the war and tacitly agreed with the Antisemitic tone of the party. One of the other prominent members of the America First movement was Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy. Joe Kennedy was also the U.S. Ambassador to Britain during this story, and Maisie’s American Agent is using the hunt for Cath Saxon’s killer to poke into Joe Kennedy’s dubious dealings. Because there were plenty to poke into.

It works as a ruse because Cath’s father, a prominent U.S. Senator, is also an America Firster. And he, along with his “friends” were dead set against Cath reporting material that was sympathetic to the British cause. The family was dead set against Cath being a reporter at all.

Maisie has to look into just how dead they were set. And wonders if her investigations will lead her into places that the U.S. Embassy will not want her to go. Or, at least to report.

But Maisie never presumes, never presupposed and never lets herself get dead set on any hypothesis. She follows the clues where they lead her. No matter how much she has to dig, and how many secrets she uncovers along the way.

It’s what makes following her so interesting, and her character so fascinating. I’m looking forward to reading more of Maisie’s war in the next book. And while I wait, I think I’m going to treat myself with a dive into What Would Maisie Do?

Review: To Die but Once by Jacqueline Winspear

Review: To Die but Once by Jacqueline WinspearTo Die but Once (Maisie Dobbs #14) by Jacqueline Winspear
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Series: Maisie Dobbs #14
Pages: 336
Published by Harper on March 27th 2018
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

Spring 1940. With Britons facing what has become known as "the Bore War"—nothing much seems to have happened yet—Maisie Dobbs is asked to investigate the disappearance of a local lad, a young apprentice craftsman working on a "hush-hush" government contract. As Maisie’s inquiry reveals a possible link to the London underworld, another mother is worried about a missing son—but this time the boy in question is one beloved by Maisie.

My Review:

In the earlier books in this series, Maisie reminded me a lot of Bess Crawford, from Charles Todd’s series, or even Mary Russell from Laurie R. King’s Holmes/Russell series. Bess, Mary and Maisie are all contemporaries, and had similar experiences.

But Maisie’s series has moved on, from World War I through the between-the-wars period and now she has reached World War II. And now Maisie, 20 years older and hopefully wiser than she was in her earlier cases, reminds me all too much of Christopher Foyle in Foyle’s War.

While the scenario behind To Die But Once is straight from the movies. One movie in particular, Dunkirk.

The movie was set on the beaches as the men waited desperately for rescue. To Die But Once takes place on the other side of the Channel, on the home front, where Maisie’s friends, and therefore Maisie herself, worry about their hostages to a fortune that they desperately hoped never to see again in their lifetimes. A hope that has been miserably dashed on the rocky shore at Dunkirk.

As with Foyle’s War, while the background of war is ever present, the story revolves around events on the home front. Just because there’s a war on, even if in 1940 it was the “Bore War”, does not mean that human beings have refrained from their usual patterns of crime if not punishment.

The impending war merely provides yet more opportunities for nefarious activity, unfortunately not limited to graft, cheating on government contracts, selling secrets, and that age-old wartime pastime, the black market.

War makes very strange bedfellows, especially when there’s money to be made.

Maisie begins by investigating the disappearance of a young man. She, as well as the entire neighborhood, watched Joe Coombes grow up in his family’s pub. He’s a sweet young man, and at 16 he’s away from home for the first time, apprentice to a painter’s crew doing government work at RAF bases all over Britain.

While Maisie hopes to discover a boy out on a lark, she is prepared for what she does find – Joe’s unidentified body in a morgue. For Maisie, that is never the end of a case – only the beginning.

Maisie isn’t satisfied with the coroner’s ruling of death by misadventure. It is possible that this was the case – but it just doesn’t feel likely. And the more that Maisie looks into Joe’s life, the less likely it seems.

All she has to do is find the one thread to pull that will unravel this case – if the mysterious gentlemen in the black sedan don’t unravel her first.

Escape Rating A: This series is, from beginning to end, marvelous. It is a comfort read for me, having now read the first four books and the last five. I plan to meet myself in the middle sometime soon.

But this is a dense series. While the case in each book is generally singular, or at least all the cases that Maisie turns up are all completed within the volume, each entry requires at least some previous knowledge of Maisie’s background, her professional history, and an acquaintance with Maisie’s friends and associates.

In other words, don’t start here. Particularly as the series has been building towards the war for several books, since A Dangerous Place, if not before. Maisie’s adventures begin in the first book in the series, named for its protagonist, Maisie Dobbs.

Maisie is both a thorough and a thoughtful detective. She is also, as she describes her associate Billy Beale, a terrier. Once she has a case between her teeth, she doesn’t let it go until she has poked her nose into every single one of its dark alleys.

That’s certainly the case here. Joe is dead, but his death was caused as much by the tentacles of corruption that surround his family as it was by the sharp blow to the head that snuffed out his life. And Maisie uncovers a net that reaches from a small-time contractor to a big-time hoodlum to the halls of power and everywhere in between.

The case is twisting and convoluted, and keeps both Maisie and the reader captivated as she follows its turns to the very end.

There is so much going on here, with Maisie, with the case, and with the war. Maisie is often pushed to her limit, and in more than one direction. In the end, it is her willingness to confront the difficult, and her ability to see inside the human heart, that provides the answers – even if those are answers that no one wants to hear.

The Maisie Dobbs series is one of my favorite historical mystery series. I enjoy every entry, to the point where it is difficult to review the book. When I read Maisie, it feels like I am there. And I can’t wait to travel with her again. Even into war.

Review: Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear

Review: Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline WinspearMessenger of Truth (Maisie Dobbs, #4) by Jacqueline Winspear
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, large print, audiobook
Series: Maisie Dobbs #4
Pages: 322
on August 22nd 2006
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

London, 1931. On the night before the opening of his new and much-anticipated exhibition at a famed Mayfair gallery, Nicholas Bassington-Hope falls to his death. The police declare the fall an accident, but the dead man's twin sister, Georgina, isn't convinced. When the authorities refuse to conduct further investigations and close the case, Georgina - a journalist and infamous figure in her own right - takes matters into her own hands, seeking out a fellow graduate from Girton College: Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator.

The case soon takes Maisie to the desolate beaches of Dungeness in Kent, as well as the sinister underbelly of the city's art world. And while navigating her way into the heart of the aristocratic yet bohemian Bassington-Hopes, Maisie is deeply troubled by the tragedy of another, quite different family in need.

In Messenger of Truth, Maisie Dobbs again uncovers the dark legacy of the Great War in a society struggling to recollect itself in difficult times. But to solve the mystery of the artist's death, she will have to remain steady as the forces behind his death come out of the shadows to silence her.

Following on the bestselling Pardonable Lies, Jacqueline Winspear delivers another vivid, thrilling, and utterly unique episode in the life of Maisie Dobbs.

My Review:

I was disappointed to learn that there was no “Month of Maisie” this year. The last couple of years the publisher has toured both the upcoming book in the series (this year it’s To Die But Once) as well as the entire series to date. It’s been my prompt disguised as an opportunity to read one of the earlier books and then treat myself to the new one.

I always look forward to this tour, so I decided to do my own “Month of Maisie” this year. Hence today’s review of Messenger of Truth. Eventually I’ll catch up to myself, as I started reading with Leaving Everything Most Loved (book 10 in the series) and have been reading both forward and backward ever since. (I’m planning to review the new book during its “book birthday” week at the end of the month)

Messenger of Truth is set in 1931, in the depths of the Great Depression. As is usually the case for Maisie, she is somewhat at a crossroads. After the events in Pardonable Lies, she has broken with her mentor, Dr. Maurice Blanche. She did not find his lies all that pardonable.

She has also moved out of her free lodgings at the London house of her “sponsor”, Lady Rowan Compton and into a purchased flat of her own.

Last but not least, she is discovering that she enjoys her freedom, and needs her work, much too much to give it up for marriage to Andrew Dene, the surgeon who has been courting her for the past couple of stories. Andrew is a perfectly nice and respectable man, but also a traditional one. And Maisie has determined that the traditional life of a wife and mother is not what she wants, or at least not what she wants right now. Or possibly just not what she wants with Andrew Dene.

So a case drops into Maisie’s life, one that will focus her energies not just on her work, but on what she wants to do and where she wants to go from here. It is also a case that will help her turn towards the future and finally step out of the shadows of World War I, even though, in the end, the war is what the case is all about.

Georgina Bassington-Hope hires Maisie to discover the truth about how her twin brother Nicholas died. Or was killed. The police have ruled the death of the promising artist a tragic accident, but something in Georgina believes it was murder. When the police are fed up with listening to her, they refer her to Maisie.

Because Maisie will find out the truth. No matter who it might hurt. Even if the person most destroyed turns out to be her client. Or herself.

And no matter how much danger she puts them both into along the way.

Escape Rating B+: This series as a whole are excellent historical mysteries. If you like the genre and haven’t read them yet, start with the first book, Maisie Dobbs. And if you are a fan of either the Bess Crawford series by Charles Todd or the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series by Laurie R. King, you’ll probably also love Maisie. All three series take place in the same WWI and between the wars period, and all feature heroines who would have a lot in common – and would probably enjoy a cuppa together to compare notes but would probably not become besties. They are all fascinating in similar ways, and they all cover some of the same turf, but are not much like each other.

I digress.

One of Maisie’s singular characteristics is her dogged determination to discover the truth, no matter what the cost. While most of her methods are fairly standard detective work in the sense of searching for clues and following the leads, she is also a practicing psychologist.

Another difference is that Maisie in “sensitive” in a way that might be described as psychic, although Maisie herself would never call it that. But she deliberately sets out to sense the vibrations and aura of a place, and will also deliberately put herself into a meditative trance in order to pick up those vibrations. The less one believes in this, the more off putting one finds it.

Messenger of Truth is a story where she does that rather a lot at the beginning, if only because there aren’t many physical clues to work with. Maisie, as she often does, looks deeply into motive to finally figure out “who done it”.

One of the hallmarks of Maisie’s cases is that there is always much more going on than just the case, and the way that Maisie usually discovers something about herself and her own issues as she resolves the case.

There’s a big, well, not exactly a red herring but certainly a bright pink one in this case. Nicholas and several of his painter friends kept studios on the beach at Romney Marsh, and either witnessed, were involved in, or a bit of both, one of the oldest “occupations’ on the English coast – smuggling.

That particular operation creates ties, and clues, in several directions – the past, the future, and the Customs and Excise. The call back to Dr. Syn and a Disney movie I saw as a child, The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, was a trip down memory lane. The look into the future, at the direction Hitler was taking and the desperation of Jews to get their possessions out of the reach of the Nazis was prophetic. The Customs and Excise actually created a bit of comic relief, but also highlighted just how many things the dead artist was stirring up that no one wanted stirred.

In the end, it all circles back to the Great War. As so many things did at that time, and in Maisie’s life.

Maisie herself is always a fascinating character. Her life has made her the ultimate outsider, not part of any of the social classes, but able to operate in all of them. At the same time, this is a case where Maisie herself is working through multiple crossroads, deciding whether she wants a traditional life after all, or to continue down the independent road she has chosen. And just how much of her war it is time to put behind her – even as the next war looms on the horizon.

In the end, it’s not the case, but Maisie that we come to see, and it is her life that we want to read about. The case just provides focus for both her and the reader.

I can’t wait to pick up To Die But Once to see Maisie dealing with her second war, this time from the homefront.

Review: In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear

Review: In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline WinspearIn This Grave Hour (Maisie Dobbs, #13) by Jacqueline Winspear
Formats available: hardcover, large print, ebook, audiobook
Series: Maisie Dobbs #13
Pages: 352
Published by Harper on March 14th 2017
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As Britain becomes engulfed in a second World War, the indomitable Maisie Dobbs is plunged into a treacherous battle of her own when she stumbles on the deaths of refugees who may have been more than ordinary people seeking sanctuary on English soil, in this enthralling chapter in Jacqueline Winspear’s enormously popular New York Times bestselling series
Critics have long sung the praises of Jacqueline Winspear and her bestselling Maisie Dobbs series. In the thirteenth installment, Maisie—“one of the great fictional heroines, equal parts haunted and haunting.” (Parade)—is back with more mystery, adventure, and psychological insight.
When readers last saw Maisie Dobbs, it was 1938 and the world was on the brink of war. Maisie herself was on a dangerous mission inside Nazi Germany, where she encountered an old enemy and the Führer himself. In This Grave Hour, a year has passed and Maisie is back home in England—yet neither she nor her nation is safe. Britain has just declared war on Germany and is mobilizing for the devastating battle ahead. But when she stumbles on the deaths of a group of refugees, Maisie suspects the enemy may be closer than anyone knows.
Old fans will be delighted at Maisie’s return and new readers will be hooked by this thrilling installment in Jacqueline Winspear’s “thoughtful, probing series” (Oprah.com).

My Review:

Welcome to the Sitzkrieg, or as it was better known in Britain, the Phoney War.

As this 13th book in the Maisie Dobbs series opens in the fall of 1939, Britain declares war on Nazi Germany after its invasion of Poland. Then nothing happens. And nothing continues to happen for eight months, until Germany invades France and the Low Countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands) in May of 1940.

But during the period of this book, nothing much happens on the war front. Everyone knows it will come, and many people, including Maisie herself, have known that war was coming for quite some time, but for the moment, there is a pause. Not a peace by any stretch of the imagination. More like a vast inhaling of breath before the six year sigh of loss after loss.

And a murder. A whole series of murders. Deaths that owe their origin, not to the stresses of the upcoming war, but to the unresolved issues of what people are suddenly forced to call “the previous war” – the Great War, the War that unfortunately did not End All Wars, what history came to call World War I.

Murder, unfortunately for the world but fortunately for Maisie, never takes a vacation.

As the story opens, Maisie is dragged away from the war announcement to meet an old colleague. Dr. Francesca Thomas, in her guise as a member of the Secret Service, prepared Maisie for her undercover task in Journey to Munich. Now Dr. Thomas wants to hire Maisie to investigate the murder of a Belgian refugee from the previous war who has been murdered on the eve of this one.

Dr. Thomas is herself a Belgian national, and is now attached to that embassy. The murder of her fellow countryman is a crime that she wants to redress, before it happens again. She is aware of just how good Maisie is at her job, but she still keeps secrets. It is her nature. And almost her undoing.

While Maisie tracks down the patterns of life and causes of death of the late Frederick Addens, more former Belgian refugees turn up dead. By the same method, and most likely by the same hand. But whose? And more important to Maisie, why?

As Maisie begins to close the net around a suspect she also finds herself deep into a problem much closer to home.

Many children were evacuated from London to the countryside at the opening of the war. One such young girl is now boarded with Maisie’s family. But this little girl is a bit different. Not just because her coloring is noticeably darker than English peaches and cream, but because the little girl refuses to speak, and seems to have no documentation whatsoever.

And Maisie can no more resist solving that little puzzle than she can let a murderer go free. No matter the cost to herself.

Escape Rating B+: As World War II begins, this series reminds me more and more of Foyle’s War. (That there are no books for Foyle’s War continues to be a great source of disappointment!) Like Christopher Foyle, Maisie solves her cases with her brains rather than her fists. Also like Foyle, she is solving murders on the homefront, a task that many people think of as less important than the war. But as it so often turns out, those murders are often not divorced from the war, and in some cases are hidden by it until the investigator steps in.

As much as I love this series, this particular entry didn’t grab me by the throat and hang on quite the way that some of the other books have. I still enjoyed it, but it has the feeling of a pause before the storm, much as Britain itself was in during the Phoney War. Pauses, by their nature, just aren’t as dramatic as crises. And so it proves with this book.

There are, as there often are, two mysteries in front of Maisie. They don’t dovetail as well as they sometimes do. The murder of Frederick Addens, and the ones that follow, are one case, and while important, it feels like merely a case. The little girl’s missing identity is the part of the story that strikes Maisie’s heart, and it is the one that felt most important, even if the string of murders was obviously deadlier and had larger implications, or should have.

And that’s part of what fell just a bit flat for me. The serial murders of Belgian refugees and the people who assisted them felt like it was building up to something bigger. The resolution actually turned out to be small and rather close to home. Also frustrating as regards that particular case, both for Maisie and the reader, is just how much and how obvious it was that Dr. Thomas was, if not telling actual lies, certainly lying by omission every time she spoke. And yet she never seriously emerges as a possible candidate to be the murderer.

On that other hand, the case of the little girl was heartbreaking, particularly for Maisie. She sees herself in the child, as well as the child she lost when her husband was killed. Her heart is engaged with someone who will eventually have to go home. Perhaps. That piece of the story has yet to be resolved.

And I’m very much looking forward to Maisie’s further adventures, to discover just how she resolves it. Or doesn’t. I expect to find out next year during the 2018 Month of Maisie Readalong!

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Review: Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear

Review: Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline WinspearPardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs, #3) by Jacqueline Winspear
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Maisie Dobbs #3
Pages: 342
Published by Picador on June 27th 2006
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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London 1930, psychologist investigator Maisie Dobbs must prove Sir Cedric's aviator son Ralph Lawton died when shot down in 1917. In former battlefields of France, she re-unites with Priscilla Evernden, one of whose three brothers lost in the War is somehow connected. The case tests Maisie's spiritual strength and her regard for mentor Maurice Blanche.

My Review:

As part of the lead in to March’s Month of Maisie Readalong I get to dip into the earlier tales of Maisie’s adventures in preparation for reading her newest story, In This Grave Hour, in the middle of Maisie month.

Pardonable Lies was Maisie’s third outing, and even though it is set in 1930, the clouds of World War II are already looming over the horizon. And even though the meat of her case here concerns the Great War now over a decade in the past, it is the oncoming storm that adds the element of danger to her current affairs.

This is also a story about secrets and lies. Not just the kind of military secrets that dog Maisie through this investigation, but also the secrets that we keep in the belief that they protect others, and the lies that we tell ourselves, in the hope that we can prevent more pain.

It is also a story about growing up. Because part of growing up is seeing our elders, our parents and teachers and mentors, as fallible human beings just like ourselves. We reach that point where we see them less as above us and more as our equals. And often, as in Maisie’s case in Pardonable Lies, we come to that point when we discover that our trust in them has been betrayed.

As is frequently the case with Maisie, she is actually working on more than one case during this story. Two of those cases have definite similarities, as they are both missing persons cases leftover from the late war. And Maisie makes the third case tie into one of the other two. There are no coincidences in Maisie’s worldview. When things seem coincidental, as in the two missing persons cases, she views it as the cosmos telling her that she has unresolved issues that will be illuminated in the investigations.

And so it goes. Two families want her to find the final resting place of their lost soldier boys. Actually, flyer boys, as both young men were in the fledgling RAF. A respected barrister made his wife a deathbed promise that he would determine, once and for all, whether their lost son truly died in his plane crash or whether he survived, as his mother always believed.

Maisie’s friend Phyllis Evernden wants Maisie to find out how and where her brother Patrick died. She knows that he’s dead, but now that her own sons are growing up and starting to resemble her lost brothers, she feels the need for closure. She remembers that her parents were notified of his death, but nothing about the circumstances. And now she needs to know.

The cases both lead Maisie back to France. She served as a battlefield nurse, and left too many friends and loved ones behind. She’s worked hard to put it all behind her, but mostly she has just been running as fast as she can to evade the grief and the memories. She knows that returning to the scene of her own devastation is going to bring up things she would rather stayed buried.

Much as both of these cases will resurrect things that other people would prefer she left buried. Especially her now elderly mentor, Maurice Blanche, who returns with Maisie to France with his own hidden agenda.

And someone is trying to kill her. But due to which case? What rock has she turned over that someone will kill to leave unturned?

Escape Rating A: I always look forward to March and Maisie Month. It gives me a terrific excuse to dive into the archives of this series as well as look forward at the latest book. As always, the early book is a treat, as I get to discover where some of the later events took root.

In this particular case, that root is Maisie’s reluctant involvement with the British Secret Service in Journey to Munich. In Pardonable Lies, two of her cases have delved into national secrets that would be better left buried, and the Secret Service as well as her mentor try to divert her attention and make her take the easy way out.

The problem is that the secrets aren’t really buried. They aren’t even dead yet. The spies see the war coming and are all too aware that they will have to mobilize as many of their assets from the last war as are still available (i.e. alive). Maisie’s investigation jeopardizes past, present and future secrets.

The title of this story is very apropos. Maisie normally tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth to her clients. In these cases she is caught on the horns of a terrible dilemma. Because of official secrets, she cannot tell her friend Phyllis the whole, entire truth about her brother.

In the case of her other client, the barrister, Maisie discovers the truth that he fears, and that he does not want to hear at any cost. And it is a truth that hurts much less than the lie he wants to believe.

And Maisie herself discovers that the many pardonable lies that her mentor has told her over the years of her apprenticeship may not be pardonable after all. The revelations that arise during this case make Maisie re-think both their past and their future association.

Only one case gets Maisie’s usual whole truth; the case of a young prostitute accused of murdering her pimp. The rush to justice on the part of the police, and their willingness to ignore any and all mitigating or contradictory evidence in order to punish this young woman makes readers see both how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go as a society. Only Maisie, is willing to believe that this woman might be innocent. And only Maisie is willing to delve into the truth to see that justice is actually done.

But in the process of these investigations, we finally see Maisie lay her own ghosts to their deserved rest. It’s an important part of the development of her character, and it is time for her to move on.

As do we. The latest book in the Maisie Dobbs series is In This Grave Hour. I am very much looking forward to reading and reviewing it next month.

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Review: Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear + Giveaway

Review: Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear + GiveawayJourney to Munich (Maisie Dobbs, #12) by Jacqueline Winspear
Formats available: hardcover, ebook, large print, audiobook
Series: Maisie Dobbs #12
Pages: 233
Published by Harper on March 29th 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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Working with the British Secret Service on an undercover mission, Maisie Dobbs is sent to Hitler’s Germany in this thrilling tale of danger and intrigue—the twelfth novel in Jacqueline Winspear’s New York Times bestselling “series that seems to get better with each entry” (Wall Street Journal).
It’s early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs is back in England. On a fine yet chilly morning, as she walks towards Fitzroy Square—a place of many memories—she is intercepted by Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to release a British subject from prison, but only if he is handed over to a family member. Because the man’s wife is bedridden and his daughter has been killed in an accident, the Secret Service wants Maisie—who bears a striking resemblance to the daughter—to retrieve the man from Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich.
The British government is not alone in its interest in Maisie’s travel plans. Her nemesis—the man she holds responsible for her husband’s death—has learned of her journey, and is also desperate for her help.
Traveling into the heart of Nazi Germany, Maisie encounters unexpected dangers—and finds herself questioning whether it’s time to return to the work she loved. But the Secret Service may have other ideas. . . .

My Review:

It seems very fitting that I’m reviewing Journey to Munich right after The Murder of Mary Russell. If you take a look at the “Readers Also Enjoyed” sidebar for each book on Goodreads, they are effectively listed as “read-alikes” for each other.

And they are. Both feature young women as investigators in the post-World War I era. However, there are a couple of key differences. One is that Mary Russell always has her seemingly immortal partner and husband, Sherlock Holmes, at her side.

leaving everything most loved by jacqueline winspearMaisie Dobbs is singularly alone. She lost her first love to a bomb that exploded in the aid station they were working in. While he physically survived, mentally he was gone. In the interstitial period between Leaving Everything Most Loved and A Dangerous Place, Maisie married her second love, and he was killed while flying an experimental plane, causing Maisie to miscarry their only child.

Now Maisie is seemingly without hostages to fortune, which is one of the reasons why the British Secret Service is more than willing to recruit this indomitable and seemingly undauntable young woman. They have a specific job for her.

One of Britain’s most inventive engineering minds has been imprisoned by the Nazis at Dachau. Her mission is to pose as his daughter and bring him home. The diplomatic arrangements have already been made, or so everyone thinks.

But if things were that simple, the Secret Service wouldn’t need Maisie. And if there weren’t wheels within wheels, Maisie wouldn’t also be tasked with the sidejob of rescuing the woman who should have been piloting Maisie’s husband’s fatal plane from one too many errors of her own selfish making.

As Maisie dodges well-meaning British officials, secretive American agents, and brutal Nazi officers, she finally discovers something that has eluded her since the death of her husband and child. Now that she is in fear for her life, she comes to the dawning realization that she truly does want to live.

If she survives.

Escape Rating A: This is a hard review to write. The book is excellent, but the background of this story is frightening – as it should be.

This case takes Maisie to Nazi Germany in the late 1930s, just before World War II breaks into a hot war. Two of the framing events are the Anschluss, when Nazi Germany annexed Austria, and Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s infamous “peace for our time” speech. It seems so obvious in retrospect that the peace he thought he had secured was utterly impossible. What is more, at least in this story that was obvious to many people at the time, people who gave warnings that were not heeded.

In the context of the story, both the British Secret Service and those agents who would form the OSS, the forerunner of the American C.I.A. were not only aware that war was coming, but were actively preparing for it. As were at least the power brokers in the British Army.

As were the industrialists, which in the end provides the motives for many of the events on the British side of this story.

At the same time, the background seems to be a human version of the old story about the frog and the pan of boiling water. It is clear that there is an increasingly fearful and oppressive atmosphere in Germany, but most people have managed to adjust most of the time. The water has risen in temperature so slowly that they are able to pretend they haven’t noticed it. Except for the two little girls that Maisie spies playing together in a back alley. If they want to remain friends and play together, they have to hide. One of those little girls is Jewish, and as we know now, will probably be taken to the camps and killed long before the end of the war.

It is also clear from the story that the British Secret Service at least knew perfectly well exactly what the already infamous Dachau was, and that more concentration camps were being built. It is also clear that they already knew that Jews were being systematically turned into “nonpersons” in preparation for the atrocities yet to come, and that there were many organizations working to get people out before the worst happened. As it did.

Ironically, in the midst of the death and darkness, Maisie’s story finally turns toward the light. She is able to forgive the family that caused so much of her grief and pain, and as she lives under constant threat of death, she finally realizes that she wants to live, and to have the chance to use her skills and talents for the greater good, and because working makes her feel alive. She has much to do and is finally ready to do it.

But seeing Nazi Germany through Maisie’s eyes, watching as a sensitive, intelligent, thinking, feeling person experiences some of the worst of humanity or its utter lack, gave this reader chills.

Reviewer’s Note: Considering publication schedules, this book was probably completed a year or so ago. However, for this reader at least, there is a tremendous resonance between the political climate related in this story and the current U.S. presidential campaigns. Your reading may be different, but for this reader, the parallels are difficult to miss.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

As part of this week’s Blogo-Birthday Celebration, I am giving away the winner’s choice a copy of any book in the Maisie Dobbs series, including today’s review book, Journey to Munich. Books will be shipped by The Book Depository, so this giveaway is open to anyone who lives anyplace they ship. For those in the U.S., if you prefer an ebook, you can choose an ebook copy from either Amazon or B&N.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Review: Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear

Review: Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline WinspearBirds of a Feather (Maisie Dobbs #2) by Jacqueline Winspear
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Maisie Dobbs #2
Pages: 320
Published by Penguin on January 1st 1970
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
Goodreads

It is the spring of 1930, and Maisie has been hired to find a runaway heiress. When three of the heiress's old friends are found dead, Maisie must race to find out who would want to kill these seemingly respectable young women before it's too late. As Maisie investigates, she discovers that the answers lie in the unforgettable agony of the Great War.

My Review:

After feeling somewhat equivocal about the latest book in this series, A Dangerous Place, it was a real treat to go back to the “original” Maisie in this second book in the series, Birds of a Feather. This feels like the Maisie we first met in Maisie Dobbs  and who set off on a grand adventure in Leaving Everything Most Loved. It was good to spend time with her again, as part of this year’s Month of Maisie Readalong. After returning to Maisie’s roots, now I’m eager for Journey to Munich at the end of the month.

Birds of a Feather follows about a year after the contemporaneous events in Maisie Dobbs. It has been a successful year for Maisie, and she has been able to afford a better office and upgrade her wardrobe. As her client list grows, she needs to be able to appear as well-to-do as some of her clients, while never forgetting where she came from, a costermonger’s daughter who had some very lucky educational breaks.

This story, like the stories in Maisie Dobbs, is about Maisie discovering more about herself through solving the case that has come to her. Her mentor, Maurice Blanche, never believed in coincidences, and neither does Maisie. While searching for Charlotte Waite, Maisie will also be searching for something in her own life that she has been avoiding – until it confronts her with a crash.

As with the earlier book, Maisie is still very much in the post-WW1 era, and both this case and the surrounding events in Maisie’s life reflect this. The case itself revolves around actions during the war, and her assistant’s difficulties are the result of his war injuries. Maisie herself is still trying to move on from the loss of her lover during the late War – not directly to death, but to brain-damaging injuries. His body is still alive, but the man he was is locked inside his head, never to return. And her visits to Simon also become part of her case.

So this story begins, as so many mysteries do, with a case. Charlotte Waite is missing. Again. Her wealthy father wants her found, again. There are no signs of foul play, and no one is asking for ransom. Charlotte seems to have merely bolted. Again.

It’s only as Maisie begins to investigate the “whys”, not just of Charlotte’s current disappearance but of Charlotte’s life as a whole, that Maisie discovers that Charlotte may have run, not just from her overbearing father, but in very real fear for her life. And that like it does for so many others, what is wrong with Charlotte is still, very much, part of the war.

Escape Rating B+: I enjoyed returning to this second entry in the series, but not quite as much as either the first book or Leaving Everything Most Loved. I’m also not sure whether to say it is best to read the series in order or not. Obviously, I haven’t and have still enjoyed them so far. I do think one needs to read the first book in order for the rest to make sense.

However, some readers who seem to be reading the series in order were frustrated by the inclusions of Billy Beale’s problems and Maisie’s agonized decisions about her relationship with her father. Because I’ve read the later books, I saw these seeming digressions as necessary to her future story, but that can’t be obvious to people reading the series in order.

At first, it seems as if the case that Maisie is involved in is pretty simple. Most 21st century readers probably sympathize with Charlotte’s situation, and would have bolted long ago from the household of her overbearing father. In the story, he is so dictatorial as to border on abusive – Charlotte is in her early to mid 30s at this point, and should be living her own life, whether that’s independently or with a husband and children. Something is obviously wrong here.

But as Maisie begins to dig into the case, she discovers connections to the war that illuminate a bit of World War I history that may or may not be familiar to readers. The Order of the White Feather really did exist portrayed in the book. Women really did shame men into enlisting by publicly giving them a white feather, which had long been held as a symbol of cowardice in Britain and the Empire.

Whether or not groups of socialites competed to see how many feathers they could give away, and how many of those men they later saw in enlistments lines they got “points” for, is anyone’s guess. But it is certainly plausible. And the results have to have been tragic. A generation of young British men died in World War I. Some of the dead have to have been prompted by that white feather.

So, even though the War is now a decade in the past, its shadow still looms over Charlotte Waite, her father, a desperate killer…and Maisie Dobbs.

If you like historical mysteries set in the WW1 and post WW1 era, take a look at Charles Todd’s two historical mystery series, Bess Crawford and Inspector Ian Rutledge. Bess is a WW1 nurse who often stumbled on old fashioned murder in the midst of the trenches. Rutledge is a war veteran still suffering from shell-shock who is also a police detective. His experiences during the war often inform or aid his post-war criminal investigations. And for a real treat, dive into the adventures of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, as related by Laurie R. King.

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