In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear
Published by Harper ISBN 9780062436603
Hardcover, $27.99, 352 pages
The last few Maisie Dobbs books have found Maisie in Germany and Spain, away from her friends and family, trying to heal from a horrible tragedy. The latest book, In This Grave Hour, Maisie is back in London and back to work as a private investigator and psychologist.
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.
My review of Journey to Munich is here.
My review of A Dangerous Place is here.