When listeners last heard Maisie Dobbs, it was 1938, and the world was on the brink of war. Maisie herself was on a dangerous mission inside Nazi Germany, where she encountered an old enemy and the Fuhrer himself. In In This Grave Hour, a year has passed, and Maisie is back home in England - yet neither she nor her nation is safe. Britain has just declared war on Germany and is mobilizing for the devastating battle ahead. But when she stumbles on the deaths of a group of refugees, Maisie suspects the enemy may be closer than anyone knows.
That means that the characters we have grown to love- her assistants Billy and Sandra, her father and stepmother Brenda, best friend Priscilla and Pris' husband and sons- are back too. They were sorely missed.
As the story opens in 1939, England has reluctantly declared war on Germany. We first met Maisie when she was a nurse and ambulance driver in France during WWI, and we have seen the havoc wreaked on her and the people she loved because of war. They are all wary of what will happen, but many (including Maisie) know how dangerous Hitler and Nazi Germany have become.
Francesca Thomas, a Belgian national we have met in a previous book, returns to ask Maisie to investigate the murder of a Belgian refugee in London. Thomas is a shadowy figure, and she doesn't believe that the London police are very interested in discovering what happened.
Maisie takes on the case, and she brings out the trusty case board for her and Billy and Sandra to work on. (This brings me great joy to see the case board again!) Maisie discovers that two other Belgian refugees have been murdered in the same fashion, a bullet to the back of the head while kneeling, so this case gets more complicated.
The story resonates with today's news as war refugees from Syria have been flooding Europe and many of the countries to which they have been accepted are having issues as well. Nationalist movements are gaining ground in countries like England, France and Germany as millions of refugees seek safety from their war-torn home.
Maisie gets involved with a man blinded and rendered disabled by WWI, as well as a young girl found at a train station alone amidst a group of refugees. Maisie recruits her father and stepmother to help her with the young girl.
Using her wits and training, Maisie closes the case. And as WWII looms, Priscilla convinces Maisie to join her as she signs up to drive ambulances for wounded soldiers. It seems that in the next book, we will have come full circle, with Maisie and Priscilla helping out with the war effort.
In This Grave Hour brings Maisie back to her home, family and friends, and it feels right. This is a strong book in the series, and I will be impatiently awaiting next year's story to see where WWII takes Maisie and company.
It is particularly appropriate that each Maisie Dobbs book publishes in March, which is International Women's History Month. Maisie is a wonderful feminist heroine, and this series is great for high schoolers.
Private Investigator Maisie Dobbs, the hero of more that a dozen mysteries, is asked to initiate an investigation separate from Scotland Yard's stalled case. Dr. Francesca Thomas from the Belgium Embassy is doing the asking. She has a good history with Maisie, yet Maisie has certain grounds for not trusting Dr. Thomas.
When a second refugee is found murdered in the same clinical fashion as the first, things begin to get complicated, but there is still the reason of why that eludes Maisie and her team of detectives.
A secondary story concerns one of the the children evacuated from London and billeted at the Dobb's house in Kent. The little girl doesn't talk to anyone and no one knows where she came from, who her family is or where she was actually supposed to go.
Ms. Winspear evokes an England on the doorstep of the Second World War, a time of nervousness and uncertainty, but depicting a people coming to grips with the possibility of yet anther conflict that might just cross the Channel and invade
Maisie’s investigation is done against the background of the onset of WW2 in Britain. She is actually hired on the day war is declared. Everyone is carrying gas masks with them as they go about their daily business, fearful of an attack from the air. There are barrage balloons floating overhead which reinforces the ominous situation. School children are evacuated to the country which results in some of them being billeted with Maisie’s father and step-mother. One little girl stands out for Maisie’s attention and this story-line plays a significant part in the book. Similarly developments in the lives of Billy and Sandra crop up. Maisie’s lifelong friend Priscilla sees her boys gear up to join the war effort. The stage is set for Maisie to continue in the British war effort.
The strong assured Maisie Dobbs is back after several books where she was uncertain and doubting her abilities in stranger than usual surroundings. She has come in from the wilderness of her grief, revitalized and ready to go. Welcome back Maisie!
Winspear set the first book in 1929 England, ten years after the Great War. Maisie worked as a nurse in WWI, but has since trained as a psychologist and private investigator, opening her own agency.
The cases that Winspear creates in her novels are always interesting, timely and well plotted. This latest finds England on the cusp of WWII. Hence the title....
"In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history....for the second time in our lives for most of us, we are at war. King George VI, September 3, 1939."
Maisie has worked with government agencies in the past and is approached by a Secret Service agent. The assignment? To quietly investigate the death of a Belgian refugee who landed in England over twenty years ago. Winspear always includes a secondary plot as well. This time, it's the unknown identity of a child evacuee who is billeted with Maisie's father. No one knows her name and she won't speak.
I so enjoy the cases being solved the 'old-fashioned' way - with legwork, interviews, intuition and the careful piecing together of clues.
These books are a comfortable, almost genteel read, if you will. The social customs, manners and mores of the times are all faithfully observed in Winspear's writing. I enjoy being transported to this time period. Winspear does a bang-up job of bringing time and place to life. The sense of duty, loyalty and 'can-do' in the face of adversity and hardship.
But ultimately it is the character of Maisie that has me anticipating every new book in this series. Her quiet confidence, intelligence, compassion and bravery have endeared her to me. The supporting characters - family and co-workers are just as well drawn. It is that sense of settling down with an old friend that prefaces turning the first page in every new enter.
In This Grave Hour was another excellent read for me.
If you've not read Winspear before, I recommend starting with the first book, simply titled Maisie Dobbs, to fully appreciated the continuing timeline. This is an excellent historical mystery series and definitely recommended. (Best read with a pot of tea and a cosy chair
I was unaware of the influx of Belgians into Great Britain during World War 1 – some settling with families for the duration of the war and others setting up entire towns of Belgian citizens. While most returned home when the war was over, some stayed in England permanently. Winspear uses this incident as the basis for this novel and provides so many fascinating details regarding the entire refugee event and the impact on both countries.
World War 2 is one of my favorite eras, and I have read so many books based then. I love stories that still manage to teach me new facts and stories about that time period. In This Grave Hour most certainly succeeds in that respect as Winspear brings the early months of the war to life demonstrating what it was like for Londoners. I didn’t know that Londoners carried gas masks everywhere (and left them many places too until they got used to keeping up with the masks) and that barrage balloons were a constant presence in the sky. I also learned that those early months were subsequently dubbed “The Phoney War” because it was months before Germany actually started bombing London lulling the populace into thinking that the war might never reach British soil. Winspear vividly conveys the horror of war and its impact on the lives of everyone involved, not just those who enlist. Many British subjects had barely recovered from the last war and could hardly fathom that war was upon them again. The title of the book is taken from King George’s speech given on that September 3rd which Winspear uses as an Epitaph: “In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history… for the second time in the lives of most of us, we are at war.” The title is perfect for the book.
I loved In This Grave Hour. Thanks to Harper for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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.
As an added plus an old flame makes an appearance & Maisie develops an attachment to an orphaned London evacuee, so, perhaps, she is going to have a chance, despite the war, to have some happiness in her life. If this comes to pass in subsequent books, that will be a very good thing.
Publisher’s Summary: adapted from Audible.com
England 1939. A year has passed since we last heard from Maisie Dobbs – she was on a dangerous mission inside Nazi Germany then, where she encountered an old enemy and the Führer himself. Maisie is back home in England now – yet neither she nor her nation is safe. Britain has just declared war on Germany and is mobilizing for the devastating battle ahead. Maisie is plunged into a treacherous battle of her own when she stumbles on the deaths of a group of refugees, and suspects the enemy may be closer than anyone knows.
Great characters, as I’ve come to expect from Winspear. The usual, continuing cast is on board: Billy Beale, Frankie Dobbs, Priscilla Partridge, Robert MacFarlane. In addition, we have Dr Francesca Thomas, who urgently contacted Maisie when the first of several Belgian refugees was murdered. Thomas is enigmatic: a diplomat, a brilliant mind, and a trained killer. The adorable, orphaned Anna, who is taken in at Chelstone to live with Frankie and Brenda Dobbs, pulls on Maisie’s hearstrings. And Maisie cannot but help herself indulge the little girl – but is her indulgence a trigger for the unthinkable grief she had to overcome in losing both James and her unborn child?
If you have never read Maisie Hobbs, started with the first book. Although each book is a stand alone murder mystery to be solved, Maisie's life is what makes you come back to the novels. I couldn't tell you who the murderer was in any book, but I can tell you all about Maisie, her loves, the people who work for her, and the tragedies they have all overcome. It's the characters that you come to know and what to revisit with each book, not the mysteries, that makes you want the next book.
Maisie is approached by Dr. Francesca Thomas who works as a spy for both Belgium and Britain and is someone Maisie has worked for in the past. Thomas asks Maisie to investigate the murder of a Belgian refugee from WW I that the police seem disinterested in doing much work to solve. Shortly the bodies start to pile up and they all seem to have a connection with fight from Belgium during the German advance in 1916.
Maisie has a staff of three- Billy who does much of the leg work and strikes me that he gets amazing results when starting out with very limited information and Sandra, a young woman who maintains the office and does her research mainly by phone or the public library. Maisie's parents have a role in the story especially in the secondary case on which Maisie is working. It involves finding the identity of a five year old girl who turns up among the children being evacuated from London to escape the anticipated bombing by the Germans but there are no records as to who she is.
The author does a good job of creating the atmosphere of fear but also determination that Brits felt as war was coming.
Maisie is asked by a former colleague from the Belgium Embassy to investigate...
The book was well written and it held my interest. The historical references are accurate and of interest as well, as they make for a realistic plot & story line.
This is a strong entry in the series. The last couple of books in the series involved more espionage than detection. In this book, Maisie returns to the type of case that attracted readers to this series in the first place, with the war as a backdrop. Maisie’s best friend, Priscilla Partridge, never fully recovered from the loss of her three brothers in the First World War. I have long been worried about Priscilla’s three sons, and indeed one of them has joined the RAF and his life will be in danger. While I look forward to Maisie’s subsequent adventures, I dread what might become of Priscilla’s boys and Billy’s sons.
The book was easy to read. The investigation and Maisie's personal challenges interwined quite well, and I enjoyed the historical setting.
I wasn't sold on the writing style. I felt that all the characters (including Maisie) were distant. Hence, when she formed conclusions (that were fairly evident from what we'd already read), she felt more like an authorial explanatory mouthpiece to bring readers up to speed.
Additionally, her apparent knowing of what other people were thinking came over as authorial intrusion, plus her odd contrived instinct for sensing the right thing to do. Far too convenient. What particularly irritated me was Maisie finding a clue (as a made-up example, a character tells her someone's identity) and then springing into action because of it, but without the reader also being clued in. That smacks of the author deliberately withholding information: a cheap trick.
That said, I enjoyed the read. But I'm not rushing out to find other books in the series.