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In This Grave Hour: A Maisie Dobbs Novel Hardcover – March 14, 2017
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“While Winspear maintains her focus on the volunteers and charitable organizations involved in their rescue and relocation, her portraits of individual evacuees like Anna, a homeless waif so traumatized she has stopped speaking, are enough to break your heart.” (Marilyn Stasio, New York Times)
“Maisie Dobbs might be classified as a secret weapon judging by her courage and fierce determination as she plunges into wars…. Winspear has created a vivid niche.” (Muriel Dobbin, Washington Times)
“Winspear conveys compassion and grief so well that it’s hard for readers to not relate to the characters and what they’re experiencing, even if they’ve not shared the exact circumstances…. Readers who like straightforward whodunits can also expect satisfaction. Ditto anyone who enjoys the rich character development and exploration of important life issues.” (Carolyn Haley, New York Journal of Books)
“With authority and compassion, Winspear excels at captivating plotting, authentic casting and refined prose. Superlative crime fiction that breaks the boundaries of the genre, In This Grave Hour portrays a past that reverberates in the present.” (Jay Strafford, Richmond Times-Dispatch)
“Winspear’s compelling series entry feels very timely in light of our current political climate over issues of refugees and immigration. Fans will line up to get this installment, but it also serves as a good introduction for new readers.” (Library Journal, starred review)
“A fine novel, written with Winspear’s sure hand and ability to meld historical events into an engaging crime narrative. Fans will savor this one as they anticipate what Maisie will do in WWII.” (David Pitt, Booklist)
“Although In This Grave Hour is a well-realized historical novel… many of the issues it raises continue to hold currency today…. And, of course, Maisie, with her quiet competence and unfailing compassion, continues to be one of the most interesting and resilient characters in mystery fiction.” (Norah Piehl, Bookreporter)
“A female investigator every bit as brainy and battle-hardened as Lisbeth Salander.” (Maureen Corrigan, NPR's Fresh Air)
“A series that seems to get better with every entry.” (Tom Nolan, Wall Street Journal)
“With clarity and economy, Winspear lays the historical groundwork…. The setting matters, but what may matter more is the lovely, sometimes poetic way Winspear pushes her heroine forward…. May she shine on the literary scene for many books to come.” (Robin Bianco, USA Today, 3.5 out of 4 stars)
From the Back Cover
Sunday, September 3rd, 1939. At the moment Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcasts to the nation Britain’s declaration of war with Germany, a senior Secret Service agent breaks into Maisie Dobbs’s flat to await her return. Dr. Francesca Thomas has an urgent assignment for Maisie: to find the killer of a man who escaped occupied Belgium as a boy some twenty-three years earlier during the Great War.
Within days, in a London shadowed by barrage balloons, bomb shelters, and the threat of invasion, another former Belgian refugee is found murdered. And as Maisie delves deeper into the killings of the dispossessed from the “last war,” a new kind of refugee—an evacuee from London—appears in Maisie’s life. The little girl billeted at Maisie’s home in Kent does not, or cannot, speak, and the authorities do not know whom the child belongs to or who might have put her on the “Operation Pied Piper” evacuee train. They know only that her name is Anna.
As Maisie’s search for the killer escalates, the country braces for what is to come. Britain is approaching its gravest hour—and Maisie could be nearing a crossroads of her own.
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Maisie is not your average "girl sleuth."
She has the courage to speak her mind along with impeccable manners; a no-nonsense woman who is also witty and compassionate.
I really appreciate that Maisie's compassion comes across as genuine and sugar-free.
Her intuitive take on everyone and everything around her is spot on: As I see Maisie, she is the poster child for cognitive thinking.
No one bests Maisie...other than her dad, as you will see in this 13th story in the life of Maisie Dobbs.
This book begins with a radio announcement at 11:15 am, September 3rd, 1939.
Nevile Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Britain, announces that England is now at war with Germany.
Throughout the book, we read many authentic details of England's preparations for all-out war. Every citizen is given a gas mask and expected to have it with them at all times. The full blacking out of windows at night is rigidly enforced. The strange "barrage balloons" loom over London, a highly visible and ominous reminder that a new kind of war is under way.
Maisie, who has recently returned from grief-stricken wanderings abroad, reopens her business as "Psychologist and Investigator" of her own detective agency. She is approached by a member of the Belgian Embassy and asked to investigate the murder of a man who had been a refugee from Belgium in the first World War.
As Maisie sets about solving the case, more murders occur, all seeming to point to a common denominator involving a group of Belgian refugees who fled from Belgium to England during WWI.
In the meantime, Maisie becomes involved with a little girl who was evacuated, along with many other children, from London to Kent in the hopes of protecting them from the worst of the bombings sure to come.
Among the children are little Anna, who has no papers with her to explain who she is or where she is from. The child has with her only her gas mask and a little case she will not let out of her sight.
Anna cannot or will not speak a single word.
Although "In This Grave Hour" is a well-tuned mystery novel, it is also a much different story as well; one about the triumph of love and compassion over seemingly unbearable anger and heartache.
While this book can be read and enjoyed out of sequence, each book is a continuation of the one before, in the course of Maisie's life.
I recommend starting with book one: "Maisie Dobbs," if you like to start "at the beginning."
All of the books in this series are peppered with well-researched facts and tidbits about the era. Some of these provide just enough "cozy" to make things interesting to those who enjoy such details. But Winspear's books are far more than "cozies."
They are well-written mysteries, and, in my opinion, excellent literature.
The plot of this book revolves around the assassination style murder of a long-term (WWl) refugee from Belgium. Not long after there is another murder, and then....The story is very nicely paced and a quick read. This is a time and place that has long fascinated me, and I am delighted that Winspear has included so many little touches of 1939 London life, e.g., carrying gas masks over the shoulder, to enhance her story. The story unfolds quickly, the ending is very satisfying, and there is enough of a cliff-hanger or two to bring you back to the next one.
Though I read tons of crime fiction, I am not big into twists - I think they've really been overdone. It's gotten to the point where the ultimate twist is.....no twists! "In This Grave Hour" has a few mild twists or turns if you will, but mostly it relies on very good writing. No naughty words, no romance - at least in this one; I'm guessing Maisie is in her late 40s. Similar novels are classified as "cozies". I wouldn't classify this as a cozy; my image of a cozy is a tottering old lady searching for clues and wearing comfortable shoes, an amateur discovering arcane details and nagging suspects (and readers). I don't like cozies, but I admit Maisie comes close.
For those of you encountering Winspear for the first time, I would suggest a note card to track all the characters. I read a print version of this book and found it was not easy to flip back to recall where/when a character was earlier introduced - I'll remedy that by reading other Maisie books on my Kindle and use the search function. Update: I just ordered the 11th book, "A Dangerous Place". If I'm still in love after reading it, I will circle back to #1, "Maisie Dobbs" (I really don't care for that name!) and read the whole series.
This is a fine mystery, with a strong central plot and a touching secondary plot dealing with how England dealt with the dispersal of children from cities to the country even before bombing began. Many of the series regulars who have been missing for the last couple of books, return, and are depicted with Winspear's usual grace and precision. I was stunned to realize how little I knew about life in England during this time, but this series (in combination with the Maggie Hope series) is helping me to envision what life must have been like. I like to think that the series will continue.