Book Review: The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear

The American Agent
A Maisie Dobbs Novel #15
Jacqueline Winspear
Harper, March 2019
ISBN 978-0-06-243666-5

In this latest novel by Jacqueline Winspear set in London during the Second World War, her protagonist Maisie Dobbs, an investigator and psychologist, is asked by a long time friend Robert MacFarlane, who works in the Secret Service, to look into the murder of an American woman, Catherine Saxon. Catherine had been working as a reporter, intent on letting the American people read first hand about the horrific devastation and deaths caused by the German bombers.

The British authorities are keeping Catherine Saxon’s death under wraps, and are hoping Maisie with the help of Mark Scott, an American Agent she has worked with before, to find the murderer. Maisie had in fact met Catherine when she’d accompanied Maisie and her best friend Priscilla Partridge a few nights previously, as they’d worked their shift as volunteer ambulance attendants.

Over a period of weeks Maisie interviews the other occupants residing in the boarding house where Catherine lived and where her body was found. It’s a slow process and amid the nightly turmoil of bombings, progress is slow. Maisie also has other responsibilities, not the least being the welfare of a young child Anna, an evacuee she’s grown to love. Anna is meantime in the countryside being looked after by Maisie’s father and stepmother. But Maisie is anxious about the upcoming hearing with regard to her adoption of young Anna.

I’ve been reading the Maisie Dobbs novels since the first came out in 2003 and which won numerous awards. Maisie is a strong woman, she’s had to be, considering all she has gone through. She’s honourable, steadfast and caring, and has a unique way of investigating and uncovering the truth.

The background of the Blitz, as it was referred to, actually took place from November 1940 to May 1941 and the sense of danger and the relentless bombardment from the German Luftwaffe and their fighters makes for a tension filled story. It’s a difficult case and Maisie faces a number of challenges in her quest to uncover the killer.

While this book is the latest in a series, it isn’t vital that you read the previous books. But if you want to get to know Maisie Dobbs and her friends and family a little better…. then search them out.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, May 2019.

Book Review: Brave Hearts by Carolyn Hart—and a Giveaway!

Brave HeartsBrave Hearts
Carolyn Hart
Seventh Street Books, August 2013
ISBN: 978-1-61614-797-6
Trade Paperback

Carolyn Hart knows how to write. More than that, she knows how to touch the quivery strings of the human psyche in ways that reveal hidden attitudes and motives that sometimes trick us into actions and emotions we could not otherwise imagine. She does this in Brave Hearts.

Starting with a setting, London during the Blitz of World War II and later the Philippine Islands while the Japanese invade. Hart’s character, Catherine Cavanaugh, is married to a low-level British diplomat. Her life is calm, peaceful, essentially boring. Then amid the turmoil of wartime London she encounters an American war correspondent named Jack Maguire.

Maguire  is so taken by Catherine that he manages to follow her when she is posted with her husband to the Philippine Islands. Their affair blossoms among the bombs and the invasion and the turmoil of all-out war. Each of the main protagonists is skillfully placed in situations calling on them to rise above themselves in terms of their essential attitudes and willingness to sacrifice.

Yes, this book is a romance, but with a hefty dollop of suspense, it becomes a story most readers will want to finish. While written some years ago, the author is a perceptive and skillful chronicler of individual human emotions and foibles, intimately set against the smoking canvas of a war-torn tropical paradise. It is a novel well worth a reader’s attention.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2013.
Author of Red Sky, Devils Island, Hard Cheese, Reunion.

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by Carolyn Hart
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Open to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Covenant by Dean Crawford

Dean Crawford
Touchstone Books, October 2011
ISBN 9781451628531

What if you had nothing to lose? However, what if you had everything to gain? What if you were a party to discovering a secret going back millennia, possibly to the beginning of the rise of mankind? Of course, you know there will be others involved who want the secret for themselves. Thus it is in Dean Crawford’s debut thriller, Covenant. From the untamed and violent Israeli deserts to the equally wild urban jungle of Washington, D.C., two sets of individuals try to unravel a mystery while a third, looming group seeks to control the secret for its own fanatical purposes.

His fiancé abducted three years ago, Ethan Warner, former soldier and war correspondent, has been living a rough life. Then, he is recruited by a military buddy to find the man’s granddaughter, Lucy Morgan. An archaeologist working in the Negev Desert, Lucy has been abducted by an unknown party shortly after discovering remains of a humanoid some are suggesting is alien in origin. Meanwhile, back in Washington, D.C., two homicide investigators stumble onto what, at first, looks like a simple case of three overdose victims. However, after the post mortem, one of the victims is rife with anomalies. Evading a ruthless civilian security force, Warner and Lucy’s mother seek answers not only to Lucy’s whereabouts, but to life itself, while the investigators piece together clues that implicate a powerful and controversial pastor.

With short chapters and death defying action scenes, Crawford presents a fast moving tale of intrigue, science, and technology, while revealing some of the mysteries of the origins of life. Where did mankind originate? Why do cultures around the world have similar stories of and throughout history? This book doesn’t seek to answer these questions, but it does spur the imagination.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, November 2011.