To Die but Once: A Maisie Dobbs Novel

by Jacqueline Winspear

Paperback, 2019

Call number





Harper Perennial (2019), Edition: Reprint, 352 pages


Fiction. Mystery. Historical Fiction. HTML: Finalist for the Inaugural Sue Grafton Memorial Award Maisie Dobbs�??one of the most complex and admirable characters in contemporary fiction (Richmond Times Dispatch)�??faces danger and intrigue on the home front during World War II. During the months following Britain's declaration of war on Germany, Maisie Dobbs investigates the disappearance of a young apprentice working on a hush-hush government contract. As news of the plight of thousands of soldiers stranded on the beaches of France is gradually revealed to the general public, and the threat of invasion rises, another young man beloved by Maisie makes a terrible decision that will change his life forever. Maisie's investigation leads her from the countryside of rural Hampshire to the web of wartime opportunism exploited by one of the London underworld's most powerful men, in a case that serves as a reminder of the inextricable link between money and war. Yet when a final confrontation approaches, she must acknowledge the potential cost to her future�??and the risk of destroying a dream she wants very much to become real… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member hemlokgang
Oh Maisie! Another wonderful installment, #14, in this great series. This time, set in England in 1940, the reader experiences the mounting tensions of WWII. The bettle,at Dunkirk comes alive too. As always, Ms. Winspear is able to tell a poignant story while evoking a broad range of emotion in the
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reader by delving into the psychological world of characters from all walks of life who find themselves in a wide range of difficulties.
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LibraryThing member Kathy89
This is another wonderful Maisie story but . . . . but a sad one as tragedy strikes friends of Maisie. Pub owners from down the street come to Maisie because they have not heard from their 15 yr old son in two weeks while he is off painting military buildings for a private company. Maisie uses her
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contacts to find out where he's working and when she locates him, it's to identify his body. This starts the story because Maisie knows the boy and doesn't believe it was death by misadventure. Meanwhile, there's lots going on in the personal lives of Billy's family, Priscilla's family, and Maisie's guardianship with little Anna.
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LibraryThing member fromthecomfychair
I'm afraid this was my least favorite of the Maisie Dobbs series. Maisie's exploits in trying to solve the murder of a young man apprenticed to paint buildings in WWII were pretty tame. For me it lacked drama. Near the end, Maisie explains why she doesn't confront the criminal boss herself, but it
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left the book rather flat for me. Hope the next one is better. Have enjoyed all the rest.
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LibraryThing member MM_Jones
Wonderful series featuring a female detective who uses a psychological approach to solving problems. It gives easy access to British history circa 1930s & 40s. This novel is not the strongest in the series as it depends too heavily on prior knowledge of the recurring characters.
LibraryThing member shazjhb
Interesting story and I do love all the people featured in her books.
LibraryThing member brangwinn
Oh, Maisy Dobbs, helps Scotland Yard fight corruption in military contracts as she solves the mystery of the death of a neighbor’s son. Of course, there’s a lot more to the story than that. As in many series, its advisable to have read the other books for much of the story line depends on
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character development.
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LibraryThing member terran
Another solid entry in a series I always read and enjoy. Maisie Dobbs is asked to check up on a neighbor's son who is working as a painter on a secret military project in WWII England. There are many historical details and facts brought to play in each of Winspear's books and each character
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develops further in every book. Very satisfying.
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LibraryThing member pennykaplan
I really enjoy this series by Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie and her helper Billy are engaging main characters, and the setting and plotting interesting. Spring 1940 they are investigating the disappearance of a young painting apprentice working on a secret government contract in a case that “is a
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reminder of the inextricable link between money and war.” Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member jamespurcell
Another fine book in this excellent series. Mysteries, greed and the occasional spy sustain the storyline quite well. The use of small skeins of history create an authentic picture of the life and times as England prepares for the Battle of Britain.
LibraryThing member acargile
This is one of my favorite Maisie Dobbs. I like the books that take place in England and we have all of the people from the past. I find the audio outstanding.
LibraryThing member themulhern
Maisie fails to keep her cool, the series continues interesting, if overwrought. Now I must wait for the next book in the series, as it is not yet published. The good thing about this series is that the details of each individual book do not need to be retained in the memory very well; it is the
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overall dramatic arc, the minutiae of living in post WWI and now WWII England, that are most important. I have never read another series in which the author dwelt so much on the disgustingness and appalling odor of public telephone boxes. I am also utterly daunted by Maisie's ability to make and keep numerous crucial appointments every single day.
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LibraryThing member etxgardener
This is the 15th book in the Maisie Dobbs detective series and, after faltering for a couple of books, Maisie seems to be back in true form. World War II has begun and Germany has just started its offensive that will lead to the fall of France. Maisie has been asked by the local publican to
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discover what has happened to his youngest son who has been apprenticed to a painting contractor charged with painting air bases with flame retardant paint. The young man is dead, supposedly fallen from a railway viaduct. But did he really fall? Or was he pushed or thrown?

Meanwhile, Tim, the middle son of Maisie's best friend, Priscilla, takes it into his head to go off with his best friend and rescue the troops at Dunkirk; and Maisie is trying to adopt the young war orphan, Anna; and did we mention the German spy in the basement of Maisie's office building?

No, it really isn't a mess. The threads of the various plots are deftly woven together, along with, I suspect, the teaser for the next book. We're glad that Ms. Winspear is out of whatever funk she had been in, and that Maisie is back in fine form. We're going to need her to win World War II!
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
The Second World War is underway as this installment of the Maisie Dobbs series opens. The landlord of the pub across the street from Maisie’s office approaches her about locating his missing son. Joe Coombes is still too young for military service, but old enough to work in a civil support role
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away from home. Joe is part of a work crew contracted to paint military air fields with a special fire retardant paint. Joe’s parents are concerned because his personality seems to have changed in recent weeks, and he’s complaining of severe headaches. Joe’s parents haven’t heard from him in more than a week, and their worry motivates them to ask Maisie to find out where he is and if he’s alright. Meanwhile, Maisie’s friend, Priscilla, continues to worry about her three sons as they serve as a constant reminder of the three brothers she lost in the last war. Middle son Tim gives all who love him a scare as he sets out to do something both incredibly brave and incredibly foolish. Finally, Maisie begins the process to gain permanent custody of her orphaned ward, Anna, who is recuperating from measles.

I always look forward to spending time with Maisie, but I didn’t enjoy this book as much as others because the various threads weren’t tied up as neatly as I’ve come to expect in this series. Maisie’s desire to adopt Anna and the vetting she’s undergoing of her suitability as a parent affects the way she conducts her investigation. Even her assistant, Billy, notices this and comments on it. In this instance, the case took a backseat to Maisie’s personal life and the lives of her friends and associates.
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LibraryThing member delphimo
My journey with Maisie Dobbs draws to a close as I complete the books in this series. England braces for war, but so far, the war seems distant and non-existent until soldiers return from France and encounters with Germany. Jacqueline Winspear harangues on the greed, horror, and inhumanity of the
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war. The relationships of families and friends and enemies undercover the difficult times and the indirect casualties of the war. Winspear also displays the problems of women regarding rights and advantages. The story of Anna continues with a promise of hope and redemption.
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LibraryThing member Lisa2013
I really liked the mysteries in this one but from near the start it was a sad situation.

I loved all the settings and that the book’s storyline took place at such an interesting time. I liked that the reader sees how ordinary English people handled various situations.

I love Anna, and I hope
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everything will go as well as possible with the situation with her and Maisie.

Two great dogs and a horse in this one.

I’ve cried only a very few times when I’ve read the books in this series but I cried a bit while reading this book.

As usual, there are interesting and informative author’s notes at the end. I appreciated how the author has family/personal connections & experiences with so many aspects of this particular story including Dunkirk, toxic fire retardant paint and many other WWII specific event & situations.

Some of many quotes that I liked:

“And I know only too well how time can cast a sort of skin over an event—a membrane that gets thicker until a point where broaching the subject is all but impossible, even when you think you can face the grief and terror once more.”

“Tragedy is so personal, but it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened before, to someone, somewhere—it’s what helps us to understand and bring solace to others, knowing something of what they feel.”

“about putting on the light in a dark room. He told me that when we keep secrets they grow inside us, and we can’t see the truth of them anymore.”

4-1/2 stars rounded up vs. down because I particularly liked this book #14.
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LibraryThing member lbswiener
To Die But Once is a book that keeps its pace throughout. It is a book that was written from the British point of view of WWII. The book is not suspenseful because none of the main characters are placed in danger but it does make the reader want to hear more. The book has received four stars for
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its interesting story.
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LibraryThing member bardbooks
Following Maisie's life remains one of my favorite reading experiences. No. 14 in the series, "To Die But Once" bogs down occasionally in descriptive passages, just when the reader is anxious to keep up with the characters and the cases, but effectively draws upon historical experiences from the
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author's own family to bring fresh appreciation for enormous sacrifices made by British Expeditionary Forces and citizens at Dunkirk.
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LibraryThing member labfs39
Private investigator, Maisie Dobbs, is asked to look into the disappearance of a local teen who had been suffering severe headaches while working as a painter on air force bases. The World War II is heating up, France is invaded, and the Battle of Dunkirk has personal repercussions for several of
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the characters.

In the afterward, the author writes about her personal connections to the story: her father was the boy with headaches, her cousin lives in the area in which much of the novel is set, her aunt was the model for the young WAAF, and two of her uncles were stranded on the beach at Dunkirk. I like Winspear's historical mysteries because she does her research, and the stories feel intimate due to their personal nature.
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LibraryThing member diana.hauser
To Die But Once is written by Jacqueline Winspear.
The title is Book #14 of the Maisie Dobbs series.

“During the months following Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, Maisie Dobbs investigates the disappearance of a young apprentice working on a hush-hush
government contract.
As news of the
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plight of thousands of soldiers stranded on the beaches of France is
gradually reveled to the general public and the threat of invasion rises, another young
man beloved by Maisie makes a terrible decision that will change his life forever.”

This is such a unique series.
A mystery. A detective story. Unforgettable characters. Thoughtful. Historical. Cultural.
Tragic at times. Full of love, respect & friendship. Ethical.
I recommend reading the series in order of publication. Brilliant - every one. *****
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