A Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear - After heartbreaking loss Maisie Dobbs has returned to England. Family and friends share her grief. She is unsure what she will do with her life when the Secret Service reaches out to her to perform “an important task” for England that needs a woman. She answers the call of her country.
Leon Donat, a British industrialist and inventor, has been imprisoned in Dachau after providing an investment to a young man who ran afoul of Nazi authorities. After laborious negotiations he is to be released to a family member.
The only living family member is his daughter, in hospital, in England with consumption. Few know of her illness and fewer know of her appearance. The Secret Service wants Maisie to impersonate Edwina Donat and bring her father home.
I was hooked. Maisie shifts from private investigator / psychologist to secret agent. It is a brilliant shift in her life.
When the Otterburns learn of her mission they prevail upon her to seek their daughter, Elaine, who has abandoned her marriage and baby for parties in Munich. Angry at the Otterburns, she would prefer to have nothing to do with them, she accepts their plea for the sake of the child. Elaine, pampered and indulged all her life, has never demonstrated a sense of responsibility.
In her flirtations with Nazi Germany I thought of the Mitford sisters but Elaine’s connections proved far different than the real life sisters.
The Otterburns believe Elaine will listen to Maisie as she craves Maisie’s forgiveness for the death of James in an airplane crash on a day Elaine was to fly the plane.
Maisie is pulled into a tangle of emotions. So many have been affected by the loss of James. Their respective griefs remain strong.
Though not a religious person Maisie has learned that providing forgiveness “is setting me free”. While nothing is harder than forgiving it is liberating when done.
In another surprise the peaceful Maisie is trained to kill, if necessary, to complete her assignment.
In Munich the Nazi complete command of Germany is displayed in ways large and small. Can Maisie gird herself to say “Heil Hitler” and make the Nazi salute constantly demaned? Dread is constant.
Will the Nazis actually release Donat or have they been playing the English to demonstrate their unconcern with conventional diplomacy and agreements?
Maisie finds her quest a frustrating circular process. And then she remembers something her mentor, Maurice Blanche, had said, so long ago. “Never fear going in circles, Maisie. The next time around, you’ll see something yourself. And when you have knowledge, you have wisdom. If your mind is open, and your heart is willing. ”
I was disappointed by Maisie’s actions near the end of the book when she made a decision that took her into gratuitous danger for purely personal reasons. It also felt contrived and never fitted with the plot.
The conclusion, with Maisie back in England, felt right.
I hope Maisie will venture into espionage again. She proved an able and clever agent.
The brilliant premise of Maisie as a secret agent was carried out well but the book did not sparkle. It is but not one of the stronger books in the series. After consecutive books set outside England it is time for Maisie to stay in England.