In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear
In this grave hour, perhaps the most fateful in our history, I send to every household of my peoples, both at home and overseas, this message, spoken with the same depth of feeling for each one of you as if I were able to cross your threshold and speak to you myself.
For the second time in the lives of most of us, we are at war.
These are the words of the King’s Speech, which George VI broadcast to his people in Britain, and throughout the Empire, immediately after Britain’s Declaration of War against Germany on September 3, 1939.
And so begins In This Grave Hour, the 14th installment of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs mystery novels – and I think it is her best yet.
The earlier books in this series detail Maisie’s experiences as a nurse in the First World War, and the effect of that time on those who survived. I realized that the sons who were born to Maisie’s friend, Priscilla, would end up being exactly the right age to be soldiers in the Second World War if this series went on until that time. And now that time has come.
This story though most concerns a group of Belgian refugees who came to England at the beginning of the First World War and stayed to make England their home. When one is killed, and then another, Maisie is hired to find out what is going on.
As Britain prepares for war there are children evacuated from London, some finding their way to the home of Maisie’s father and his wife in the countryside. Maisie finds herself involved in the care of a child who appears to have no family, and unable to speak she cannot indicate who she is or where she my have come from. Another mystery to be solved.
Maisie herself seems to be in better spirits than she was in the last couple of books, having come to terms with her tragic loss a few years earlier. By the end of the novel, in spite of this new war, there is a sense of optimism and Maisie seems to look forward to the future rather than back to the sadness of the past.
Reading this series is much like reading the Nancy Drew mystery novels of my childhood. I feel as if Maisie is an old friend and it is fun to catch up with her life – and read about her free spirited adventures of daring-do. Too bad we have to wait at least another year for the next installment.