As World War II dawns for Britain, investigator Maisie Dobbs takes on a case involving murdered Belgian refugees with shadowy ties to the Great War.
Back in England after her undercover mission in Germany (Journey to Munich, 2016, etc.), Maisie re-establishes herself as private investigator extraordinaire just as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announces that England is once again at war on Sept. 3, 1939. Conflict, of the armed or emotional variety, is nothing new to Maisie: she’s been suffering nobly for the entirety of Winspear’s series, since the death of her husband and her subsequent miscarriage. So when Dr. Francesca Thomas, a Belgian national who once fought with the resistance group La Dame Blanche and trained Maisie in all things spy, comes inquiring about a new murder investigation, Maisie’s interest is piqued. Fellow Belgian Frederick Addens, who came to London as a teenager during WWI and later married an Englishwoman, was shot to death outside his engineering post at St. Pancras station, but Dr. Thomas doesn’t buy the cops’ explanation that theft motivated the murder. Maisie starts digging, uncovering a trail of mysterious figures with questionable alliances, several of whom don’t survive her investigation. Also occupying her time is the plight of 5-year-old Anna, a refugee who’s been evacuated to Maisie’s family home in Kent but seems to have no family of her own, sending up not only Maisie’s detecting red flags, but her long-dormant maternal ones as well.
Winspear teeters on the brink of stating the emotionally obvious at times but largely pulls back and weaves a convincing historical drama together with a rocky journey for her heroine.