A Sunlit Weapon
In the latest installment of the New York Times bestselling series, a series of possible attacks on British pilots leads Jacqueline Winspear's beloved heroine Maisie Dobbs into a mystery involving First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
October 1942. Jo Hardy, a 22-year-old ferry pilot, is delivering a Supermarine Spitfire—the fastest fighter aircraft in the world—to Biggin Hill Aerodrome, when she realizes someone is shooting at her aircraft from the ground. Returning to the location on foot, she finds an American serviceman in a barn, bound and gagged. She rescues the man, who is handed over to the American military police; it quickly emerges that he is considered a suspect in the disappearance of a fellow soldier who is missing.
Tragedy strikes two days later, when another ferry pilot crashes in the same area where Jo’s plane was attacked. At the suggestion of one of her colleagues, Jo seeks the help of psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs. Meanwhile, Maisie’s husband, a high-ranking political attaché based at the American embassy, is in the thick of ensuring security is tight for the first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, during her visit to the Britain. There’s already evidence that German agents have been circling: the wife of a president represents a high value target. Mrs. Roosevelt is clearly in danger, and there may well be a direct connection to the death of the woman ferry pilot and the recent activities of two American servicemen.
To guarantee the safety of the First Lady—and of the soldier being held in police custody—Maisie must uncover that connection. At the same time, she faces difficulties of an entirely different nature with her young daughter, Anna, who is experiencing wartime struggles of her own.
Agatha Award winner Winspear ups the ante for Maisie Dobbs in her suspenseful if flawed 17th mystery featuring the British psychologist/investigator (after 2021's The Consequences of Fear). In 1942, ferry pilot Jo Hardy consults Maisie after the plane she was flying over southeastern England was shot at by someone on the ground. The unidentified shooter was at a farm, and when Jo visits the scene, she finds a Black American private, Matthias Crittenden, bound and gagged in one of the buildings. Despite that condition, Crittenden is suspected of being involved in the disappearance of a fellow private and is taken into military custody. Maisie's probing uncovers some coded messages at the spot where Crittenden was held captive, which her husband, Mark Scott, an American political attach , discloses relate to a German plot to kill Eleanor Roosevelt on her goodwill tour of Britain. Meanwhile, Dobbs must also address her adopted daughter Anna's disturbing clingy behavior. The plot has more than its fair share of contrivances, including one involving the headmistress of Anna's school that almost drags down the entire book. Series fans will find the characters' personal development gratifying.
A Sunlit Weapon
Like all the Maisie Dobbs books this is a treat. However, for the first time in my reading of the series, I think the author made a mistake in Chapter 5 when Hardy says she didn’t understand the words of the 23rd psalm as mumbled by Crittenden. We know she attended a British girls school. Even if she never went to church she would have had prayers every morning because almost all such schools were C of E. In addition she would have been exposed to the psalms as part of her literature class. Other than that quibble I enjoyed the book.