Series: #7 in the Maisie Dobbs series
Publication Date: 2010
The Short Version:
Newly discovered remains of an American who joined the British army and disappeared in World War I bring to light mysteries and secrets hidden by many for nearly twenty years.
Why I Read It:
This is such a wonderful series that gets better with every book and I’ve been working on getting caught up.
In 1914 Michael Clifton left America to join the British army to demonstrate his support for the country of his father’s birth. He was eventually declared missing and the land he’d purchased in California just before leaving for the war was left in a legal muddle.
In early 1932 a French farmer discovered the underground bunker where Michael and his fellow soldiers died. Clifton’s American parents hire Maisie Dobbs to learn more about their son’s time in the army and the circumstances of his death. Along with his remains are found some of his tools and belongings, including a packet of letters from someone only identified as an English nurse.
The letters and Michael Clifton’s remains themselves lead Maisie on a journey through the past that includes secrets, betrayal, love affairs and murder. As her investigation continues, there is also present day danger when Michael’s parents are attacked in their hotel room and Maisie herself is pursued.
As Maisie follows her investigation into the wartime activities of young Clifton she can’t help but revisit her own memories of her early career as a battlefield nurse including both her lost love and the horrible circumstances of the war.
As she traces the story for her clients she also faces a personal sadness in the failing health of her mentor and teacher Maurice Blanche. This is tempered by a changing relationship with a long familiar acquaintance that Maisie learns to see through different eyes.
I know I say this after every single book in this series but this one was my favorite so far. The central investigation and mystery of Michael Clifton is entertaining and intriguing on its own, but coupled with the changes that are happening in Maisie’s personal life is what made this such an interesting installment in this series.
Family secrets come into play not only with her clients, but also with some of Maisie’s closest friends. She finds herself surprised by people she’s known most of her life. This book feels like a significant turning point for Maisie in both her personal and professional life.
The historical aspect of this series continues to be its high point. Even though part of the story takes place years earlier, it continues to place the ‘present day’ aspects of the story in historical perspective. The aftermath of the first World War and it’s continuing impact on the people of London and the world in the early 1930’s is the continually developing back-story and setting for this series. Maisie’s role as an independent businesswoman who spent her youth ‘in service’ is something that could not have happened had not the devastation of World War I happened to change societal norms in particular the expected and acceptable roles of women. Granted she had the benefit of mentors that allowed her to get an education and experiences that were not readily available, but at the same time she is an example of a single woman in her mid-thirties in a post-war society that has had to adapt its acceptance of women as something other than wife and mother. Nevertheless, while Maisie on one hand represents independent womanhood, on the other hand she naturally desires love, companionship and perhaps family.
I am most definitely looking forward to continuing with this series to see where Maisie’s path leads.