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by Jacqueline Winspear
Harper, March 2017
352 pages
ISBN: 0062436600

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Jacqueline Winspear's IN THIS GRAVE HOUR is the latest novel in her captivating Maisie Dobbs series. This book marks the thirteenth time readers will have encountered Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. From this character's humble beginnings through her experiences as a nurse in WWII, through her education, her successful career, her deeply felt romances and personal losses, the books follow her life's adventures and investigations. The first book begins after WWI, but includes information about Dobbs' early life and how she got to be who she is.

Maisie Dobbs is strong, insightful, fearless—and possessed of certain unique qualities not often found in detectives. We learn that her brilliant teacher, Maurice Blanche, had taught Maisie Dobbs to use her intuition as well as her more conscious faculties. She learned the value of meditation and following her breath, techniques she uses in pursuit of truth and as ways to maintain her own sense of self.

Now, with this latest book, we are at the start of WWII. Maisie Dobbs is approached by an old acquaintance, Dr. Francesca Thomas, who works covertly with the Belgian Embassy. Thomas wants Dobbs to investigate the death of a Belgian refugee from the first war. He was forced to kneel and was shot in the back of the head. The police, overwhelmed by preparations for war, have decided that it was a case of robbery gone wrong. But Thomas believes that this may not be the case, and that other murders may ensue.

Dobbs begins to investigate, and then another man, with a similar background, is found murdered in the same fashion. Meanwhile, all around her, London is preparing for war. Bomb shelters are built, barrage balloons fill the skies, and children are being evacuated from the city. A small girl who will not speak is billeted at Dobb's country home, and the mystery of who she is becomes another thread in this story. As Dobbs interviews relatives and friends of the murdered men, she discovers links to the past and to a terrible secret shared by a group of young men who fled the Germans.

Jacqueline Winspear is a master of period research, presenting us with details of the lives of people in the historical eras covered in her books. She shows us the aftermath of WWI, the years between the world wars when injured veterans were still dealing with the pain and debility of wounds and gas, and how the loss of loved ones affected a whole generation. She also includes specifics of life in Britain as WWII begins. Such a small thing as the necessity for everyone to carry a gas mask in a box hanging from a shoulder at all times helps give the reader a sense of the tangible presence of danger in ordinary life.

Although some exposition is necessary to understand who Maisie Dobbs is and what people and events mean to her, the author does not overpower us with retellings of the past. This book can be read alone, but will most certainly inspire readers to go back and discover the details of Maisie's life and the background of the characters who surround her. And after catching up with these previous books, I am sure that readers will join me in waiting impatiently for the 14th Maisie Dobbs.

§ Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, March 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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