Finalist for the Inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award
Maisie Dobbs—one of the most complex and admirable characters in contemporary fiction (Richmond Times Dispatch)—faces danger and intrigue on the home front during World War II.
During the months following Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, Maisie Dobbs investigates the disappearance of a young apprentice working on a hush-hush government contract. As news of the plight of thousands of soldiers stranded on the beaches of France is gradually revealed to the general public, and the threat of invasion rises, another young man beloved by Maisie makes a terrible decision that will change his life forever.
Maisie’s investigation leads her from the countryside of rural Hampshire to the web of wartime opportunism exploited by one of the London underworld’s most powerful men, in a case that serves as a reminder of the inextricable link between money and war. Yet when a final confrontation approaches, she must acknowledge the potential cost to her future—and the risk of destroying a dream she wants very much to become reality.
The possible disappearance of a teenage boy drives bestseller Winspear's so-so novel set in 1940 Britain, her 14th featuring London investigator and psychologist Maisie Dobbs (after 2017's In This Grave Hour). Before the war, 15-year-old Joe Coombes worked as an apprentice for a painting and decorating company that the British government retained to paint RAF facilities with a new kind of fire-retardant. When Joe's family doesn't hear from him for several days, his father, publican Phil Coombes, asks Maisie to trace the boy. His son seemed different during their last visits, Phil tells her. Maisie soon learns that Joe took a fatal fall onto a railway track, but the reader already knows, via the prologue, that he was bludgeoned to death. The whodunit story line is often secondary to the larger historical picture in particular, the British response to the retreat from Dunkirk and the threat of German invasion and to developments in Maisie's private life. A gratuitous closing contrivance doesn't help. Still, Winspear fans will find much to like.