Friday, May 14, 2021

Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear THE CONSEQUENCES OF FEAR


Run don’t walk to find a copy of Jacqueline Winspear’s new Maisie Dobbs adventure THE CONSEQUENCES OF FEAR.  I and many of my friends have been a fan for several years.

It is 1941 and the bombs are fast producing a reign of terror on London.  A young message runner views what appears to be a brutal murder and then thinks the killer is the same man he has just delivered a dispatch to.  He reports his experience to the police,  but they seem less than interested.  Frustrated, the troubled young man turns to a woman he has delivered messages to before.  Maisie Dobbs is a private  investigator,  a forensic psychologist,  and also an intelligence operator for Churchills’s  newly formed SOE or Special Operations Executive.  Dobbs takes the boy’s story seriously and then quickly discovers that there are dangerous intersections with the Free French,  the French Resistance,  and the insertion of British spies into occupied France.    

There is, as usual with Winspear,  a seamless conjunction of London and Brititsh geography that pairs up in this book with the historical context of the Blitz and the beginnings of  World War II.  Her style is spare and  direct,  yet manages to convey complexity without sacrificing simplicity.

Masie’s personal romantic life,  the lives of her daughter and her family and friends are also given full play in the narrative. They add a sense of the personal emotions and deadly consequences that lurk just under the surface in any wartime.  It is this element that takes Maise’s trials outside of and above the level of standard detective fiction. 

You can start with this adventure and be well satisfied,  but picking up Maise’s life from the scullery,  to  WW I nurse,  to detective,  to secret agent adds oceans of depth to a complex female character whose growth seems to parallel the women’s movement itself.  She survives the battlefield, tragic love losses, and narrow scrapes that make her as unsinkable as Molly Brown.  She is a character you will comfortably live with over time and love more with each new episode. 

Jim De Young 

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