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by Jacqueline Winspear
Soho Crime, June 2024
360 pages
ISBN: 1641296062

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE COMFORT OF GHOSTS is author Jacqueline Winspear's 18th and--sadly--final Maisie Dobbs novel. We have followed Maisie's life over the course of two world wars and through much personal upheaval. As this current novel begins, Maisie is contending with the many difficulties facing Great Britain in the aftermath of World War II. Ration books are still needed for both food and petrol, so Maisie must be cautious about travel plans. Her investigative skills are called into play when she discovers several individuals who are in dire situations because of what occurred during the war. She finds a group of four young teens who are seemingly terrified of discovery. She also learns of their connection to the missing son of her partner Billy, who returned to England from a horrendous wartime captivity in Japan but never came to his home.

As the book progresses, Maisie revisits, along with the reader, the highlights of her life and the people we have come to know and love. We are reminded of her early years as a poor, uneducated maid in a rich household, where her love of reading is recognized and leads to her life-changing relationship with her renowned mentor Maurice Blanche. We are reminded of her past losses, her first love dying from WWI wounds and her beloved husband James Compton killed in a plane crash, the shock causing her to lose her almost full-term baby. Her years as a nurse in WWI and her experiences as an ambulance driver in WWII are referred to, along with her friendship with Priscilla and her involvement with this dear friend's family. And we are reminded of how Maisie became part of the gentry herself when she married the heir of the family who had once hired her, then inherited a fortune when Maurice died.

England seems to be a country in shock after having focused on fighting the Germans for so many years. Bombed out streets and buildings have not yet been repaired, and food shortages abound. Some people are so unhappy that they feel winning the war meant nothing, although others realize that defeating the enemy has truly saved their way of life.

Because many people have been displaced and become homeless when their houses were destroyed, the government allows squatters to live in any abandoned buildings that no one is claiming. Maisie discovers young people living in the now partially destroyed mansion where her wealthy family once lived. These young folks are living in fear since they believe they have witnessed a murder. They think that the police or the government is looking for them. Maisie gets them to trust her and eventually discovers the clandestine role that they were trained to play in case Germany won. It also turns out that they are caring for a returning soldier who is near death.

Maisie investigates the killing they seem to have witnessed and works to protect and save all of them. To do this, she must use the skills she has developed over her years as a psychologist and investigator, as well as relying on the relationships she has developed.

When Maisie accomplishes what she has set out to do, she goes back to her home, to her husband Mark Scott, to her adopted daughter Anna, and her whole extended, family. We don't know exactly what the future will hold for Maisie, but she is surrounded by love and we, as long-time readers, can only wish her well. Thank you, Jacqueline Winspear, for allowing us to know Maisie Dobbs and follow her many adventures throughout the years.

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

Reviewed by Anne Corey, June 2024

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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