Maisie Dobbs continues to work in British Intelligence. She is vetting agents for the SOE (the Special Operations Executive). She decides whether an agent is suitable to be sent to Occupied Europe. It is a daunting responsibility especially when she knows a prospective agent.
What a life Maisie is living when a murder investigation is a form of distraction, almost welcome, from the process of deciding who will be sent into the night to be a part of Churchill’s plan to set Europe ablaze.
The murder investigation butts up against intelligence operations. For the skilful wicked a war can protect them.
Scotland Yard, overwhelmed by wartime crime, makes but a cursory investigation into Freddy’s report of seeing murder. Unless Maisie and her assistant, Billy, can solve the case there will be no resolution.
The investigation takes Maisie into yet a new element of the war. She delves into the Free French forces in England. Honour is at their core. They are in an awkward position seeking to remain independent but dependent on England for everything.
Fear in wartime is real. How it is managed is often the difference between life and death:
Fear had to be handled with care, managed so it
became a tool, not a weight.
Each character has a dominant fear. For most it involves family.
While Maisie worries about Anna she must deal with a fear of commitment in personal relationships. It is time for a decision on Mark.
It is a powerful emotional moment when Maisie replaces the chain holding her wedding ring from the deceased James with a necklace featuring a large diamond given to her by Mark.
In a brilliant quote her friend Priscella advises her “.... I believe love must be cradled gently, as if you have something very precious in your hands that you do not want to break”.
Maisie is worn out by secrets:
Secrets. Secrets. Secrets. She sometimes felt as if she would drown under the weight of other people’s secrets …. And she feared she might lose herself in all the secrecy - it had happened before.
It is harder and harder for Maisie to keep doing “her bit”. She wants to spend more time with her adopted daughter, Anna, in the country. Each absence for work leaves her longing to be with Anna. Maisie would be happy to live on her estate full time.
Maisie provides a vivid illustration of drawing out hurt with Anna:
She lifted her hands, and placed first her left-hand against her chest, and then her right hand on top of her left. “Follow me - see what I’ve done with my hands? You can close your eyes and cradle your heart, then before you know it the pain starts to go away.”
Both love and pain can benefit from cradling.
I think Maisie has done enough. It has been 24 years since she first went to war for England. Few men and women have done more for their country. But a sense of duty cannot be switched off.
Maisie is back to using the insights of an open mind nurtured by her mentor, Maurice Blanche. She is less constrained by prejudice and cynicism that most of us.
The Consequences of Fear is not a great mystery but it is an excellent story.