I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear, alongside my tour buddy Karen at My Reading Corner. Thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour and to Allison & Busby for my review copy.
The American Agent is the fifteenth book in the bestselling Maisie Dobbs series, a series which has sold over 200,000 copies in the UK to date. You can read my review below. Check out the tour poster at the bottom of this post to see the other fabulous book bloggers participating in the tour.
Praise for The Maisie Dobbs series
‘An outstanding historical series’ New York Times
‘Maisie Dobbs is a revelation.’ Alexander McCall Smith
‘I’m a huge Maisie Dobbs fan’ Lee Child
‘Wry and immensely readable’ Daily Mail
‘A series that seems to get better with every entry’ Wall Street Journal
‘Excellent…In Winspear’s capable hands, Maisie has evolved into a deeply sympathetic character. Readers will eagerly await her next outing.’ Publishers Weekly
About the Book
When an American war correspondent’s murder is concealed by British authorities, Maisie Dobbs agrees to work with an agent of the US Department of Justice to help an old friend discover the truth. With German bombs raining down on London, Maisie is torn between the demands of solving this dangerous case and the need to protect a young evacuee.
And what will happen when she faces losing her dearest friend and the possibility that she might be falling in love again?
Format: Hardcover (350 pp.) Publisher: Allison & Busby
Published: 26th March 2019 Genre: Historical Fiction, Crime, Mystery
Find The American Agent on Goodreads
The American Agent has made me a very happy reader. Firstly, because I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Secondly, because it’s introduced me to a new historical crime series (a genre I love) to follow in future. Thirdly because, being the fifteenth in the series, it means I’ve got fourteen previous instalments to look forward to reading. At this point, I’ll assure readers like myself coming new to the series that The American Agent works perfectly well as a standalone read. Naturally, there are a few brief references to events and characters from previous books in the series so there are things that won’t come as so much of a surprise as if I’d read the series from the beginning. However, thanks to the skill of the author, I didn’t feel these references gave me the full story. In fact, they left me wanting to find out more about the context in which they had occurred.
What we now refer to as the “Blitz”, the intense bombing of London and other British cities between Autumn 1940 and Spring 1941 (which Jacqueline Winspear talks more about in her fascinating Author’s Note) is the backdrop to Maisie’s investigation into the death of American journalist, Catherine Saxon. The atmosphere of a bomb-ravaged London and the nightly peril facing Londoners is brilliantly conveyed. I really loved the inclusion of excerpts from actual radio broadcasts and newspaper articles from the time, including those by war correspondent and broadcaster, Ed Murrow. (Incidentally, he makes a cameo appearance in one of my favourite films set in World War 2, Sink the Bismarck! (1960), starring Kenneth More and based on the book, The Last Nine Days of the Bismarck by C.S Forester.)
The fact the victim is an American journalist broadcasting about the brutal realities of war which British civilians – not just its armed forces – are facing turns out to be significant at a time when politicians in the United States are divided over to what extent their nation should get involved and come to the aid of Britain and her allies. For both interventionists and isolationists, propaganda plays an important role. So some contemporary echoes there…
The nationality of the victim also involves Maisie teaming up with American agent, Mark Scott, (with whom she has history, we learn) to work on the investigation. However, she starts to wonder what has brought him so conveniently to London and just what exactly is the nature of his role especially as Maisie finds herself doing the majority of the investigative legwork (with the assistance of the trusty Billy) despite at the same time doing nightly shifts driving an ambulance through the blitzed streets of London. Furthermore, she has matters of a personal nature concerning her as well.
I have to say I can now understand completely why so many readers have fallen in love with Maisie Dobbs as a character. She’s perceptive, independent-minded, thoughtful, observant and compassionate. For various reasons, Maisie feels a personal responsibility to find out who killed Catherine Saxon and this empathy characterises her dealings with other people drawn into the investigation. I particularly liked the way Maisie recognises the impact of sudden death on those touched by it and the investigation that follows, even if this is necessary to find out the truth. ‘She knew that death unsettled any family, but a murder was akin to a bomb dropping – the living were cast this way and that as debris from the investigation fell around them.’ In an especially neat touch, once the case has been resolved, Maisie makes a point of revisiting the key people she’s come into contact with during her investigation, giving them the equivalent of a literary curtain call.
Maisie Dobbs now has a new fan and I can wholeheartedly recommend The American Agent to readers looking for a historical crime series that combines an intriguing, well-constructed mystery, an engaging leading character and convincing period detail.
In three words: Atmospheric, compelling, suspenseful
Try something similar…Nemesis (Tom Wilde #3) by Rory Clements (read my review here)
About the Author
Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in Kent and emigrated to the USA in 1990. She has written extensively for journals, newspapers and magazines, and has worked in book publishing on both sides of the Atlantic. The Maisie Dobbs series of crime novels is beloved by readers worldwide – always going into the New York Times top 10 on publication.
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