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“Memories come out of nowhere, sometimes, don’t they? Like a splinter long in the finger finally rises to the surface. Pluck it out, and the pain goes – and you realise there has been discomfort all along, but you have lived with it”.
A Dangerous Place is the eleventh book in the Maisie Dobbs series by British-born American author, Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and private investigator, is on the island of Gibraltar. It is 1937, and across the water, the Spanish Civil War is being fought. Maisie has stopped over in Gibraltar on her way home from India, feeling unprepared to face family and friends in England after the recent tragic events of her life. But soon after she arrives, she stumbles across a body on a dark path during an evening walk: Sebastian Babayoff, a Sephardic Jew, a photographer, has just been beaten to death. The Police dismiss the case as an opportunistic robbery by one of the many refugees on the island, but Maisie is not convinced. She decides to investigate.
“She’d been feeling as if all meaning in her life had perished when she discovered Babayoff’s body. Perhaps she would find the person she used to be, before tragedy struck her a second time, cutting deeper into her soul, a still-open wound more livid than anything left by the war. Now she was in business – and that responsibility to another would give her a reason to live”. Maisie’s investigations, without Billy Beale’s capable assistance, see her meeting quite an array of people: a professor of philosophy and politics; a café owner; a shopkeeper; a bereaved sister; a fisherman’s niece; a carpenter; and none of these is quite what they first seem to be. She finds herself the subject of covert observation, and encounters a certain ex-Special Branchman she would rather avoid.
Winspear’s plot has plenty of twists and turns and Maisie interviews quite a few witnesses who are practiced at evasion and determined to keep their secrets. This episode of Maisie’s life is set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War and its effect on nearby countries. Winspear rather quickly disposes of the events of years since Maisie’s decision to go to India, her decision to marry, her marriage, impending motherhood and widowhood, not unsympathetically, but somewhat cursorily, perhaps because Maisie’s forte is private investigation. It will be interesting to see where Winspear takes her heroine next. Captivating crime fiction. 4.5 stars