I've just turned to the last few pages of Jacqueline Winspear's Journey to Munich, read the last page and then skimmed the rest of the chapter. Are you worried I have cheated and read ahead? While I have been known to flip to the last few pages of a book out of fear (for a character's life) or curiosity (will the ending be a happy one) . . . I would never do that with a Maisie Dobbs story.
Did you know there are currently twelve mysteries featuring Maisie, and this series is the only one I can boast having read all of? Journey to Munich was one of the first books I read this year, but as it was an ebook I never managed to write about it. I was fortunate to have access to a galley copy and so could not post a review of it before it was published, and then so many weeks passed by the time I could write about it that I lost that thread.
But now a new Maisie novel looms on the horizon; In This Grave Hour is due out in March 2017, and as I like things as tidy as possible I have to write something about my reading experience. I'm going to go about this slightly in reverse, however. How do I tell you about the story when so very much has happened to Maisie since I first met her. In so many ways she has been through the wringer and had veered off the path she had been on for so long. I hesitate to call Jacqueline Winspear's books mysteries, though of course they are. The last few books have made a leap, naturally so I think, from traditional mysteries to a hybrid kind of story that is part mystery and part spy novel. For me, I think the two genres almost go hand in hand and I do love a good spy story.
I was happy when Maisie was approached to do a little secret government work, and being Maurice Blanche's protegé it was not surprising she would be asked. I won't say it was entirely coercion, but I think she was somewhat trapped into doing the work. It seemed a very natural progression, however. I won't give away any major spoilers, but I will say that after several books' worth of very difficult times and a path not previously trodden with her spying, I think the next book will see Maisie back in London with her friends and family and I do hope back with Billy Beale and finally back at work as an inquiry agent. I'm ready (and I think Maisie is, too) for the 'normalcy' that detective work will bring.
I won't go into Maisie's personal life, which has been a series of upheavals over the last few years, but last time around saw her returning from Canada to England by way of Gibraltar. Gibraltar had been flooded by refugees fleeing the Spanish Civil War (signs of things to come) and Maisie stumbled upon the body of a man who had been murdered. The twist being that he had been involved in photographing things he should not have. In a sense her adventures in Gibraltar had been somewhat therapeutic as Maisie was able to put her nursing skills to work at a time when she really needed an important distraction. It was a light at the end of what had been a dark tunnel. She was needed.
Now it's 1938 and she is called upon by the British Secret Service to travel into Nazi Germany where she will pose as the daughter of a British scientist imprisoned at Dachau. It's risky since she has never met him and must not only convince the German government that she is his daughter, but that the man will not give the game away when he first sees her and possibly realize she is not who she says she is. Things turn even more complicated when she's asked by a wealthy countryman to do a side job, to make contact with his errant daughter who has been living in Germany and refuses to come home. Things become dangerously tangled up as Maisie tries bring not just one British subject home but two, the young woman not being especially responsive to her father's wishes.
This Maisie Dobbs story is something of a heart stopper since it includes one of those mad dashes at the end with is fraught with peril. Maisie mysteries are often matters of life or death, but going into Nazi Germany, a country hostile to British citizens is particularly so. Not only is the British government depending on her but she is risking her life for not just one other person but two. It's all a bit dark and page-turny, but as you already know there is another Maisie adventure coming, you can rest assured that Journey to Munich ends on a mostly happy note. And Maisie deserves more than a little happiness and normalcy.
I can't wait to see what happens in the next book. Here is a little tiny teaser from the forthcoming book's description: "Sunday September 3rd 1939. At the moment Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcasts to the nation Britain’s declaration of war with Germany, a senior Secret Service agent breaks into Maisie Dobbs' flat to await her return. Dr. Francesca Thomas has an urgent assignment for Maisie: to find the killer of a man who escaped occupied Belgium as a boy, some twenty-three years earlier during the Great War." Hmm. So maybe a transition from international spying to a more traditional mystery?
I still have Winspear's standalone novel, The Care and Management of Lies, a WWI novel, sitting and waiting for me. Maybe it is time to pull it out and get a little dose of Jacqueline Winspear's storytelling while I wait. The Maisie Dobbs series in order consists of: Maisie Dobbs, Birds of a Feather, Pardonable Lies, Messenger of Truth, An Incomplete Revenge, Among the Mad, The Mapping of Love and Death, A Lesson in Secrets, Elegy for Eddie, Leaving Everything Most Loved, and A Dangerous Place. I've linked the titles to my own reviews. And the wait for the next book continues, but now it is only just around the corner. Something good to look forward to.