A Maisie Dobbs Novel, #13
SPOILER ALERT: If you are reading this series of books in order, please know that the blog post contains plot-line spoilers.
Overview of the series (originally written by me in this post http://wp.me/p6N6mT-5n )
If you are not familiar with Jacqueline Winspear’s wonderful series of mysteries, the Maisie Dobbs novels, you really ought to consider reading all of the books in order. They represent a truly unique take on the British detective story: historically rich in fact and detail, narrated by a modern and refreshing heroine.
The first of the novels begins at the start of the twentieth century where we meet Maisie Dobbs, a servant in a manner house in London who — when caught sneaking into the house library to read at night — is not fired but rather taken under the wing of a wise mentor, the forensic scientist and investigator Maurice Branche. In the first book we see the bright, dedicated, young Maisie rise up from being in service to heading off to college. However, World War I sweeps across Europe and soon Maisie abandons her studies to serve as nurse on the front lines. There she gains an education that she could never have prepared herself for and becomes a young nurse with intimate knowledge of death, injury, and mental anguish.
After the war Maisie returns to England to continue her very, very unique education. By the start of the second novel, we meet the fully educated Maisie who has just started her private investigation agency. However, Maisie is not your run-of-the-mill investigator. Not only are her clients surprised that M. Dobbs is a woman, a self-employed one at that, but that her background includes forensics, psychology, nursing (with special training focusing on the mental injuries of war), as well as private investigative techniques. What makes her even more shockingly modern are both her embrace of eastern techniques, such as meditation, and her use of her psychic abilities to help her solve cases.
Maisie Dobbs believes very strongly that her clients have stories to tell her — stories that are both truth and lies — but also that that the missing and the dead have their own stories to tell as well. As the books progress, readers have become familiar with Maisie Dobbs as a very accomplished investigator who brings her unique style to closing cases in ways that heal the psychological wounds of her clients, as well as solving their more immediate dilemmas.
“Who am I? Where do I belong?” These are the questions that Maisie Dobbs is asking herself as Journey to Munich opens. Adrift, Maisie finds that she no longer fits into any of the roles she has previously held: she is no longer a nurse, no longer a business woman, no longer a wife, no longer a mother-to-be. Although she is surrounded by loved ones, she deeply feels as if she has nowhere to call home, feeling too emotional ravaged to return to the home she shared with her beloved husband, “it was as if through grief and having traveled so long, she had changed shape and no longer fit in anywhere.” While traveling she felt safe, back “in England there was so much to fear. The past, her happiness, her memories brushed against her skin like gossamer shadows, alive but not alive, ghosts standing sentinel.”
Rather than face these emotionally charged questions about who and what she will become now that her life has changed irrevocable, Maisie agrees to a dangerous mission for the British Secret Service — she will travel to Munich, and under the very watchful eye of the Third Reich, attempt to bring back to London a British inventor being held in Dachau Concentration Camp. With just one week’s worth of training as an agent of the Secret Service, she in on her way.
Immediately upon her arrival, it becomes clear that the British have far underestimated the power and violence of the Reich. Maisie and her support team are in danger almost at once. As she rushes to secure safe return on the inventor, she must also confront her own personal demons including overcoming her anger and grief in order to work with two people whom she holds responsible for her husband’s death.
In the face of the Nazi’s campaign of torture and terror against foreigners and its own German citizens — and the chilling knowledge that England will not be able to stay out of a war with Germany for long — Maisie comes to see that see that now is the time for her to move past her grief and again make a life. As she is told by the inventor, for now “we have our freedom, we have our lives. We are very, very lucky. Make sure you use yours well.”
Winspear, once again, presents us with a touching, elegantly written story that is both historically factual and personally compelling. As with her first twelve Maisie Dobbs books, this one is a gem that is well worth a read.
A full review of Book #12 can be found here http://wp.me/p6N6mT-5n
Also by Winspear, but not part of the Dobbs Series, is this novel http://wp.me/p6N6mT-am