As Europe buckles under Nazi occupation, Maisie Dobbs investigates a possible murder that threatens devastating repercussions for Britain’s war efforts in this latest installment in the New York Times bestselling mystery series.
October 1941. While on a delivery, young Freddie Hackett, a message runner for a government office, witnesses an argument that ends in murder. Crouching in the doorway of a bombed-out house, Freddie waits until the coast is clear. But when he arrives at the delivery address, he’s shocked to come face to face with the killer.
Dismissed by the police when he attempts to report the crime, Freddie goes in search of a woman he once met when delivering a message: Maisie Dobbs. While Maisie believes the boy and wants to help, she must maintain extreme caution: she’s working secretly for the Special Operations Executive, assessing candidates for crucial work with the French resistance. Her two worlds collide when she spots the killer in a place she least expects. She soon realizes she’s been pulled into the orbit of a man who has his own reasons to kill—reasons that go back to the last war.
As Maisie becomes entangled in a power struggle between Britain’s intelligence efforts in France and the work of Free French agents operating across Europe, she must also contend with the lingering question of Freddie Hackett’s state of mind. What she uncovers could hold disastrous consequences for all involved in this compelling chapter of the “series that seems to get better with every entry” (Wall Street Journal).
The Maisie Dobbs series has to be one of the best historical mystery series ever written. Jacqueline Winspear has built a solid-as-stone world around Maisie, with people, places and things so detailed and well-researched that the reader is enveloped by it all.
Fans of the series will find a much-tested, more mature Maisie who is finally figuring out what really matters. She has made her peace with the past and laid to rest old ghosts while preparing to launch herself into a whole new chapter of life. This Maisie is a little less brittle, a little less compliant, and a lot more sure of herself and of what’s right. There is an interesting narrative thread throughout about fear and balancing it, as evident in the title. Fear is a balance beam – stay in the middle and you stay alive; go too far one way and you become reckless while too far the other way is paralysis. This was especially poignant given that the story occurs in Great Britain during the days leading up to the entry of the United States into World War II when Allied leaders were most definitely walking a balance beam.
We see a few peripheral characters turn up in new roles, and see some old favorites in a new light as Maisie “does her bit” for the war effort while trying to help a young lad who witnessed a murder during an air raid in London. The story moves along at a good clip and keeps the reader invested.
Series fans will slurp this up in one sitting. If you haven’t read Maisie Dobbs, get you to a library right now and start with number one!