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by Jacqueline Winspear
Henry Holt and Co, August 2005
352 pages
ISBN: 0805078975

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Maisie Dobbs is an exceptional woman of her time. It's 1930 in London and she's an investigator and psychologist, who had spent her First World War years as a teenage nurse on the bloody battlefields of France. On the behest of a new client, Sir Cecil Lawton, she is now going back to France the place of her hardest war memories to discover if his son Ralph, reported to have died there in a fiery crash, is actually dead.

Learning of her quest, her closest friend also asks her to look into the disappearance of her own beloved brother during the war. Maisie is torn between her duty to do a good job and the still very tender mental wounds she has as she tries to deal with her own horrible memories of the war.

Following any clue she can find, Maisie first goes to the psychics who told the late Lady Lawton that Ralph was still alive. As she delves deeper into Ralph's past, also learning that he did some top secret flying during the war, repeated attempts are made upon Maisie's life.

This is the third in the Maisie Dobbs series and you can't help but feel that the other books are needed to understand the very unusual background and education of the main character. There are references to a guru-like character Kahn, that doesn't fit well in this story and constant reminders that Maisie had a deep relationship with her mentor, Maurice Blanche, a character who is also included in this story for no sound purpose.

Author Jacqueline Winspear does a superb job of recreating the Europe of just after the First World War. She describes the rebuilding of the towns, the deep sadness of the population who witnessed horrors and are still mourning their dead and lost, and Maisie's heart-breaking war experiences with realism and skill.

This is a deeply introspective book, beautifully written and well-paced. Unfortunately I was terribly disappointed by the resolution of the cases, both the mysteries in France that Maisie researched and the small side story that she had her assistant look into. By the completion of the book the reader can't help but feel that there was no logical reason for any of the secrets held, or that an investigator was needed to solve the problems. I liked and admired the writing in this novel; I just wish the mysteries had a better resolution.

Reviewed by Sharon Katz, June 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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