I don't often get to make this claim despite having many mystery series I like to follow, but once again I've read them all and now I have none to look forward to until a new book is published. Maisie Dobbs, of course. She is the only fictional sleuth whose books I have read (and savored) each and every one of. I must admit this latest installment, A Dangerous Place, was a little slower going for me. When I really like a character, I tend to get very wrapped up in their lives. While Maisie can be a little formidable and even a little bit prickly on occasion, she is one of my favorite fictional heroines. Strange as it sounds I feel like I have gone through quite a lot with her. From the battlefields of WWI as a nurse to, with this latest book, the middle of the Spanish Civil War. It's been quite a journey and of late, a tumultuous one, too.
I won't give spoilers away in terms of the mystery at the heart of the novel, but it is hard to not to give away a few things when it comes to how Maisie has ended up in Gibraltar. I won't go into detail, but Maisie's life has taken quite a lot of surprising and difficult turns in the last few years. In Leaving Everything Most Loved Maisie had come to a turning point in her life. Finally able to put the war years and her losses behind her and open up to the possibility of a permanent romantic relationship, Maisie had set off for India at the end of the previous novel. It was time to give her relationship with James Compton some serious thought.
When the story picks up in A Dangerous Place, it is now 1937. Four years have passed and Maisie has traveled long distances both literally as well as mentally and psychologically. In many respects the distances were long and life altering and now her life once again takes on an entirely new trajectory. Maisie has, after years abroad, decided it is time to return to England. Nearly there, however, she finds she is not quite ready to set foot on English soil. Certain emotions must be dealt with and put to rest. What happens in Gibraltar will again change her perceptibly, in good ways, but also in ways that continue to challenge her. Darker years are on the horizon, but in some ways she will return to her roots and that in turn helps heal her many wounds.
Her stop in Gibraltar is meant to be only a short stay, to fortify herself for her return home. The last thing she expects is to get entangled in a murder investigation. It's a tricky one. The death of a local man, a photographer, is assumed to be a cut and dry case. Gibraltar has been overrun by refugees from Spain, which is in the middle of a messy civil war. Sebastian Babayoff, a member of Gibraltar's Shephardic Jewish community, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and was murdered by one of those refugees. When Maisie returns to the path where she found the murdered man, she discovers a small camera, which had been thrown aside--perhaps with the intention of hiding it--and overlooked by the local police. Did he see, and worse photograph, something he shouldn't have?
But with a war going on in Spain, refugees milling about, and an obvious British presence, Maisie begins to wonder how much is chance and whether she is, herself, being manipulated in some way. Some of her more recent investigations had begun seeping over to the realm of political intrigue rather than simple inquiries using her knowledge of psychology. Perhaps it was not so surprising considering her beloved mentor, Maurice Blanche, was himself involved in clandestine business with the British Secret Service. Maisie is no fool and she knows she is being followed.
Always concerned with getting to the truth of the matter, the real truth, Maisie's questions and her search for the murderer will take her into Gibraltar's Jewish community and even so very far into the heart of Spain. What she had left behind so very long ago, bombs and wounded men, once again make a vivid and palpable presence in her life.
What a long way she has come from her years as a servant in the Compton household. On to the Great War and then Girten College. Finally an inquiry agent working with her good friend and former soldier Billy Beale. And now she is on yet another path. She finds answers, rather she finds truths that have been shaped by circumstance and chance and what is happening in Spain. Maisie maintains her independence, but once an agent--however reluctant on her part--of the British Secret Service, she may never again be fully her own woman. Things get sorted, mysteries resolved and Maisie is ready to undertake yet another adventure. I suspect it might take place off stage--even now she might be doing something related to the war in Spain. I think she is going to be returning to her investigative roots, but only time will tell.
A character like Maisie, who has gone through so many stories is bound to change over time, and Maisie has certainly never stagnated. It's been interesting to see how she grows and changes, to see her opinions form according to her life experiences. This was a slow going read for me not because of the plot but simply to see how much Maisie has endured. I wonder where her life will take her next. I only hope that Jacqueline Winspear is even now at work on the next chapter of Maisie's life.
Until then, I still have Winspear's standalone novel, The Care and Management of Lies, a WWI novel, to look forward to finally reading. The 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 and Leaving Everything Most Loved. I've linked the titles to my own reviews. Now, once again, the long wait for a new Maisie Dobbs novel begins.