A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear - In my previous post I discussed the drama of Maisie’s life after she left England for India in 1934. It is now 1937 and she is returning home. She leaves her ship in Gibraltar unable to yet face the family and friends who have been anxiously awaiting her.
Ashore she soon stumbles over the body of Sebastian Babayoff, a Shepardic Jew. The authorities expect it was a robbery gone wrong committed by one of the many penniless men who have fled the Spanish Civil War. Maisie is unconvinced.
Meeting his surviving sisters she feels duty calling her. As a private investigator and psychologist in London for over a decade she had striven to provide comfort to the victims of murder partly by finding the killer.
She reflects on the lessons of her mentor, Maurice Blanche:
We must spend time with the dead in silence, to try to hear them. Then we ask questions, not to gain an immediate answer but to let them know, even in their netherworld, that we care enough to give voice to our lack of understanding …. There is never just one victim when a body is found - it is never singular. Who are the other victims, and which one has committed the crime of murder.
Investigating will give her life a purpose. Addictions have come upon her as she seeks means to forget her losses. She is smoking and taking morphine. Melancholy remains upon her:
And she had wondered then, what it might mean, to catch death.
Through the investigation she consciously attempts to move forward in life from the deep sadness that has enveloped her.
She goes searching for a large piece of paper to form her case map. She buys coloured pencils to write upon the map.
She has returned to the days when she was a young investigator on her own relying on the skills of investigation she has learned from Blanche.
Using one of her most memorable techniques she mimics the posture and actions of a man watching and following her. By copying him she realizes he is filled with feelings of inadequacy.
She knows she is being watched and expects it is connected to the government and high level connections of the Compton family.
In a clever twist she turns her watcher into an assistant.
It is no surprise that the murder involves the twisted relationships of European nations late in the 1930’s. The opposing sides in the Spanish Civil War are receiving support from nations preparing themselves for the next war. England is still trying to preserve public neutrality.
Deceit and subterfuge surround Maisie throughout her investigation.
Family and friends in England write asking her to come home so they can care for her. I have to remind myself to let those I care about have the chance to help me in times of challenge. The reluctance to accept caring is pure stubbornness.
There are dangerous places all around us and inside us.
Winspear, Jacqueline – (2008) - Maisie Dobbs; (Best fiction of 2008) (2008) - Birds of a Feather; (2009) - Pardonable Lies; (2011) - Messenger of Truth; (2012) - An Incomplete Revenge; (2012) - Among the Mad; (2013) - The Mapping of Love and Death; (2016) - A Lesson in Secrets; (2016) - Elegy for Eddie; (2018) Leaving Everything Most Loved; (2020) - A Dangerous Place - Part I on Maisie's life since the last book