The Maisie Dobbs Series, book #14
World War II has begun and is casting a pall over all of Europe. England’s position of neutrality has come to an end and now tens of thousands of young men (and women) are heading over to fight in yet another war. Maisie, her colleagues and friends, are in shock that they are living through yet another war with Germany. All of their old wounds, and their old fears, are resurfacing as they watch one young person after another enlist to fight…and to face horrors they cannot even imagine.
Maisie Dobbs is still investigating cases for her London PI firm and regularly returning to the country-side to look in on her family; including its newest member, a little orphaned girl named Anna, who Maisie is working to adopt. Work is becoming more difficult as the war rages on. Maisie is still more than able to solve her cases, but movement around the country is increasingly limited and danger more imminent. Now, with German troops marching across France and English soldiers retreating back to boats they hope will take them across the Channel and home, the threat of attack on London is growing. Should Maisie keep asking her staff to come into the office (away from their families) when an air attack could happen at any time? Should she be with her parents and little Anna, not racing around looking for criminals?
Into this unsettled situation, Maisie agrees to help two neighbors search for their missing son. Young Joe Coombes, a boy Maisie has known for years, has taken an apprenticeship for a military contractor and had not been heard from in quite some time. Maisie heads out into the country-side — which is quickly being covered over in air fields, barracks, and training grounds for the military — to find the young boy. Maisie follows Joe’s trail across Hampshire from one military base to another, collecting pieces of information about the young man that grow increasingly troubling.
Joe — young and naive — has been in the company of much older, and gruffer, men who might not be watching out for a 15-year-old boy. He has been complaining to anyone who will listen that he is struggling with debilitating migraines since beginning his work painting military buildings. His employer is a man whose business dealings are focused on the money to be made during war-time and not on the safety or well-being of his employees…if young Joe wants to complain, there are a hundred men who would eagerly take his job, if just to stay off the battle fields.
As Maisie looks into Joe’s disappearance, racing across the countryside and throughout London, she knows time is running out. Her chances of finding Joe alive growing slim. Too much is happening and few are interested in helping find one missing boy. As the rural coast is flooded with soldiers retreating from Germany and even more soldiers being sent to fight in their place, and as the bombings reach the waters of the Channel, Maisie knows soon many, many boys will be missing or dead; not just Joe.