Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear

Spring 1937. In the four years since she left England, Maisie Dobbs has experienced love, contentment, stability—and the deepest tragedy a woman can endure. Now, all she wants is the peace she believes she might find by returning to India. But her sojourn in the hills of Darjeeling is cut short when her stepmother summons her home to England; her aging father Frankie Dobbs is not getting any younger.

But on a ship bound for England, Maisie realizes she isn’t ready to return. Against the wishes of the captain who warns her, “You will be alone in a most dangerous place,” she disembarks in Gibraltar. Though she is on her own, Maisie is far from alone: the British garrison town is teeming with refugees fleeing a brutal civil war across the border in Spain.

Yet the danger is very real. Days after Maisie’s arrival, a photographer and member of Gibraltar’s Sephardic Jewish community, Sebastian Babayoff, is murdered, and Maisie becomes entangled in the case, drawing the attention of the British Secret Service. Under the suspicious eye of a British agent, Maisie is pulled deeper into political intrigue on “the Rock”—arguably Britain’s most important strategic territory—and renews an uneasy acquaintance in the process. At a crossroads between her past and her future, Maisie must choose a direction, knowing that England is, for her, an equally dangerous place, but in quite a different way.

After a long wait, I was delighted to see a new Maisie Dobbs book on offer- I did miss her. As always, Winspear has written a powerful book about war and its aftermath, though the mystery here wasn't really very engaging. I never felt any connection to the victim or the family he left behind- it was all about Maisie and the impact the case has on her. To be clear, I'm fine with a focus on Maisie- she is the reason I read the books and I love watching her character unfold.

That said, this book was just so very sad. After all the buildup to her finding happiness with James, it was devastating to have it snuffed out so abruptly- hasn't this poor woman been through enough? I was also sad we as readers didn't actually get to experience happy, contented Maisie- it is clear from the opening that her life has once again been marred by tragedy. I was hoping she was going to catch a break- I think she deserves one. A good book, and a must read for those following the series, but I wouldn't recommend reading this as a standalone.

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