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Journey to Munich: A Maisie Dobbs Novel


Journey to Munich: A Maisie Dobbs Novel

The previous book featuring private investigator Maisie Dobbs, A DANGEROUS PLACE, showed our heroine battling nearly unimaginable grief in the wake of the sudden death of her newlywed husband and the subsequent stillbirth of their child. Following a cathartic trip to Spain and a return to her nursing roots in that volume, Maisie returns to England in this latest series installment --- at least for a time --- but as the novel’s title indicates, the bulk of the action takes place in Germany.

A DANGEROUS PLACE showed Maisie struggling hard to find a reason to continue living in the wake of losing nearly everything she treasured most. After her return to useful work, however, and especially after her return to the arms of her beloved friends and family in England, Maisie finds herself literally surrounded with reasons to live and even to thrive.

"Readers who have come this far on Maisie’s journey will be both satisfied and excited by the novel’s conclusion, as well as by the tantalizing suggestion that so much of Maisie’s future has yet to be written."

Just as Maisie is casting about for the answers to questions such as where she wants to live and how she wants to occupy her time (her inherited wealth means that she never has to work again if she doesn’t want to, but it’s impossible to imagine an idle Maisie), she’s summoned by the British government for an important, top-secret mission. Engineer Leon Donat, who is of great value to the country, has gone missing in Germany, and the latest information shows that he has been detained in a prison camp called Dachau. The Nazi government has given their word that they will release Donat to a family member, but only if she herself comes to fetch him (and pays a hefty bribe in the bargain). In the space of a few days, Maisie finds herself transformed with a wig and some sensible shoes into Edwina Donat, Donat’s “daughter” (his actual daughter has been hospitalized after a nervous breakdown and consumption). She’s also been intensively coached on marksmanship, rudimentary German and basic self-defense.

But before she can depart on her journey, Maisie is detained by her old acquaintances, the Otterburns. Their daughter Elaine --- who is in no small part responsible for the death of Maisie’s husband --- has also disappeared in Munich, abandoning her infant son and, by all accounts, living a wild life there. The Otterburns beg Maisie to find Elaine and persuade her to return home, a request that Maisie agrees to with gritted teeth.

The Munich of 1938 that Maisie finds is unsettling, indeed; almost as soon as she arrives, she is engulfed in an ambience of fear, mistrust, surveillance and paranoia. Hitler’s brown-shirted thugs patrol the streets, and children fear being seen with one-time playmates. Maisie’s journey progresses steadily (and with ever-mounting dread) toward her hoped-for interception of Donat at Dachau. But, as you can probably imagine, that encounter is far from easy (it wouldn’t be much of a story that way, I suppose), and soon Maisie realizes that nobody --- neither Donat, nor Elaine Otterburn, nor perhaps even the government agents assigned to help and protect her --- are who they seem. Maisie herself, of course, is also perpetuating a deception, and attempting to conduct her own investigation while assuming another woman’s identity proves increasingly complicated.

JOURNEY TO MUNICH shows Maisie Dobbs trying on a new role, trying to decide, in a very dramatic way, what she wants her life to look like in the wake of great loss. Readers who have come this far on Maisie’s journey will be both satisfied and excited by the novel’s conclusion, as well as by the tantalizing suggestion that so much of Maisie’s future has yet to be written.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on March 30, 2016

Journey to Munich: A Maisie Dobbs Novel
by Jacqueline Winspear