Monday, March 16, 2015

Review: A Dangerous Place

Summary: Four years after she set sail from England, leaving everything she most loved behind, Maisie Dobbs at last returns, only to find herself in a dangerous place . . .

In Jacqueline Winspear‘s powerful story of political intrigue and personal tragedy, a brutal murder in the British garrison town of Gibraltar leads Maisie into a web of lies, deceit, and peril.

Spring 1937. In the four years since she left England, Maisie Dobbs has experienced love, contentment, stability—and the deepest tragedy a woman can endure. Now, all she wants is the peace she believes she might find by returning to India. But her sojourn in the hills of Darjeeling is cut short when her stepmother summons her home to England; her aging father Frankie Dobbs is not getting any younger.

But on a ship bound for England, Maisie realizes she isn’t ready to return. Against the wishes of the captain who warns her, “You will be alone in a most dangerous place,” she disembarks in Gibraltar. Though she is on her own, Maisie is far from alone: the British garrison town is teeming with refugees fleeing a brutal civil war across the border in Spain.

Yet the danger is very real. Days after Maisie’s arrival, a photographer and member of Gibraltar’s Sephardic Jewish community, Sebastian Babayoff, is murdered, and Maisie becomes entangled in the case, drawing the attention of the British Secret Service. Under the suspicious eye of a British agent, Maisie is pulled deeper into political intrigue on “the Rock”—arguably Britain’s most important strategic territory—and renews an uneasy acquaintance in the process. At a crossroads between her past and her future, Maisie must choose a direction, knowing that England is, for her, an equally dangerous place, but in quite a different way. -- Harper

It's almost hard for me to believe that A DANGEROUS PLACE by Jacqueline Winspear is the 11th novel in her Maisie Dobbs series. I've read every one of them, and I still get excited when a new one is published. I absolutely love Maisie as well as the time periods covered in these books. When you consider that every book has a fascinating mystery too, this is one series this is a must-read as far as I'm concerned!

A DANGEROUS PLACE picks up four years after Maisie left England in Spring 1937. Maisie has been through a lot since readers last saw her, and that's really saying something because Maisie has dealt with so much loss already in her life. She decides to return to India in hopes that she might find some semblance of peace; however, her stepmother asks her to return to England because her father isn't getting any younger.

Maisie is on a ship, only a  few stops from England, when she decides that she's not ready to return to England and face her family and friends. So she gets off at a stop in Gibraltar, a British garrison town which is facing its own turmoil. Refugees are fleeing from nearby Spain because of the civil war which is occurring there.

Despite warnings from the ship's captain that Gibraltar is "a most dangerous place," Maisie gets off the ship only to find a dead body just a few days after her arrival. For some reason, Maisie can't get the  murdered man out of her mind so she begins to investigate. Maisie's private investigation catches the attention of a British agent with whom she's had some dealings in her past, and she becomes embroiled in the political intrigue that is such an important part of Gibraltar.

I loved A DANGEROUS PLACE, but that's probably not a surprise considering how much I love Maisie. From the gorgeous cover of the book, to Maisie's character development, to the mystery and political intrigue, I thought this book was fantastic. Once again, Ms. Winspear brought a time period to life that I knew next to nothing about, and I not only enjoyed this story but learned a great deal.

I've mentioned a few times that I love Maisie Dobbs. She is a wonderful character, but I have to admit that I'm a little concerned for her. She's had an amazingly difficult life and just when I thought she might find some happiness, everything came crashing down on her. What happened to Maisie in this novel is far worse than anything I can remember -- and that includes the loss of her mother, the loss of her mentor Maurice, and being a nurse during WWI. I honestly don't know how much more one woman can take, even if that woman is Maisie Dobbs. During A DANGEROUS PLACE, Maisie is at a major crossroads in her life (again), and this time, she really has to struggle to find her inner strength. As a faithful reader, I knew she had it in her, but I do admit I had my doubts a few times!

I really appreciated the historical aspects of this novel. My knowledge of Gibraltar in the mid to late 1930s is basically non-existent. In fact, I wasn't even exactly sure where Gibraltar was located. In A DANGEROUS PLACE, the author features this country during a very dangerous time period. There were definitely a lot of countries involved in Gibraltar's business, and there were also many different political leanings from the people living there as well as the recent refugees. I found all of it to be fascinating although I admit that the messiness got a bit confusing at times.

Another really strong aspect of A DANGEROUS PLACE was the mystery of the man Maisie found murdered near a hotel. It seemed to me that almost everyone Maisie talked to about the murder had something they were hiding, or they knew more about the victim and the crime than they were willing to admit. At times, I felt like Maisie was just running around in circles. And then, about halfway through the novel, I thought I figured it out... and I was pretty proud of myself but also a tad bit disappointed that it wasn't more complex. I should have never doubted Ms. Winspear! She played me like a fiddle and I fell for all of her red herrings! It's probably obvious that I was fooled over and over again and had little to no idea about the events surrounding the murder.

A DANGEROUS PLACE would make a fantastic book club selection, although I do think people familiar with the series might appreciate this book more than ones who aren't familiar with Maisie's life. There are a great many things to discuss including Maisie's mental state, grief, secrets, war, political intrigue, deceit, friendship, fresh starts, and family. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a formal discussion guide, but I'm sure one will be available in the near future.

A DANGEROUS PLACE is a great addition to the Maisie Dobbs series. Highly recommended for fans of Maisie as well as fans of historical fiction and mysteries.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read. Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

I've got to try another book in this series and this time I want to read it in print. My mom and sister love Maisie too!

Beth F said...

I read the first couple and then stopped for no reason. Well, you know ... so many books, etc.