First Line: Arturo Kenyon stood in the shadows of a whitewashed building opposite a small guesthouse known locally as Mrs. Bishop's, though it had no sign to advertise the fact.
Four long eventful years have passed since Maisie Dobbs left England at the end of Leaving Everything Most Loved. Although she's not quite ready, she is finally returning home to all those who love and miss her.
During a stop in Gibraltar, Maisie finds the body of a murdered Jewish photographer. Against the advice of the ship's captain, Maisie stays. The police have written off the young man's death as being at the hands of one of the desperate refugees who have fled the civil war in Spain. Maisie wants to uncover the truth for his family, believing that a return to work will improve her spirits and make her ready to go home. What she's really done is put herself in the middle of a very dangerous place filled with political intrigue. If Maisie takes a wrong turning at this crossroads in her life, she could very well not return home at all.
Maisie isn't the only person at a crossroads. As concerns this series, I am, too. Longtime fans will probably be as stunned as I over the first few pages of A Dangerous Place. In a series of letters, Winspear deals with four momentous years in Maisie's life with what can only be described as brisk efficiency. I can understand her desire not to bog down the narrative, but since Maisie is already constantly harking back to time spent with her mentor or her service in World War I or her college days or what her best friend would say to her, what's a little more time spent on telling readers about those four years?
Winspear does her usual marvelous job in giving readers a real feel for the setting. With the Spanish Civil War raging just over the border, with the build-up to World War II, Gibraltar's strategic position makes it extremely valuable to many countries, and it seems that they all have representatives in place, lurking around the corners of buildings and following Maisie wherever she goes.
The author has also created a strong secondary cast-- Salazar the café owner, Mrs. Bishop the owner of the guesthouse, and the dead man's sister among them. The more the story unfolds, the more it seems that no one is whom they first appear to be, and with the number of people spying on others it's a miracle they don't start tripping over each other. This is a presentiment of another problem I'm beginning to have with a series I've loved since its inception.
The closer to World War II the series becomes, the more the storylines are delving into the shadowy world of spies and double-dealing. I've never cared for spy novels, so I'm definitely not enjoying this foray into that world. But as a character told Maisie in a previous book, once those spy organizations get their hooks into you, they don't let you go. I really don't want to see Maisie go down that road.
Although the mystery is rather slow to unfold, it does pick up speed and becomes quite intriguing. I enjoyed watching Maisie solve a complex case, just as I enjoyed the author's depiction of Gibraltar at this very tumultuous time. I'm deeply invested in Winspear's character. Maisie's story has grown from being a rags-to-riches tale to something deeper and much more meaningful. But for the past few books, Maisie has seemed to take two steps back to every three steps forward. Her experiences during World War I have left an indelible mark upon her of which she seems unwilling or unable to let go. With her constant musing on the past, I just can't quite see her as a successful spy in the next calamitous war to come. I am at a crossroads, and I am actually wondering if I'll be continuing with this series-- something that would have been completely unthinkable in the past.
A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear
Harper © 2015
Hardcover, 320 pages
Historical Mystery, #11 Maisie Dobbs mystery
Source: Amazon Vine