Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear’s Journey to Munich

Posted May 11, 2016 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear’s Journey to Munich

Journey to Munich

by Jacqueline Winspear

Series: Maisie Dobbs #12

Other books by this author that I've reviewed include Maisie Dobbs, Birds of a Feather, Pardonable Lies, Messenger of Truth, An Incomplete Revenge, A Lesson in Secrets, The Mapping of Love and Death, Among the Mad, A Dangerous Place, In This Grave Hour.

Genres: Historical Mystery

This Hardcover has 304 pages and was published by Allison & Busby on April 1, 2016. Discover more about it at Goodreads. You can also buy it at Amazon

Twelfth in the Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series and revolving around a young widow. This story moves between London and Munich in February of 1938. And Pris mentions the drama in England with Edward stepping down from the throne because of Wallis Simpson.

My Take

It’s a settling-down sort of story with Maisie newly back in England and finally grieving with James’ parents. She’s at odds with what to do until Robbie MacFarlane and Brian Huntley show up, wanting a favor.

It’s the doing of the favor that results in Maisie learning things about herself and finding forgiveness within…how she does that, I’ll never know. I don’t think I could ever forgive those Otterburns! She’s definitely a much better person than me. She also has to cope with her fear of flying and the memories it brings back.

We also learn why Maisie doesn’t want to be called Lady Compton. And it simply makes me cry even more. That death is still so new for me.

Donat sounds like an amazing man in so many ways. When you consider what his employees have been doing for the past two years to keep his businesses running, well, that’s loyalty.

There are so many small remarks Winspear makes about manners and actions before war actually breaks out that provide insight into Nazi Germany, and I’d be curious to know if the story about the desert uniforms is true. It would explain the “Brown Shirts” epitaph.

A good, tension-filled story that still misses. I suspect using the unreliable narrator POV contributes to the miss, as there are so many clues that aren’t provided, otherwise how does Maisie “leap” to those conclusions? They make sense afterwards, but I never saw anything that would explain it. What was the reasoning for the source of the money? I don’t see a connection there, either. Why hasn’t the consulate done anything to find Ulli’s father? Were the British reps never allowed to see Donat? Why did he hang about for so long? Then Maisie makes it sound like Scott arranged the murder.

We do get a different insight into Elaine. Amazing what guilt can do to you.

It’s a bridge that moves us from Maisie’s grief and brief revolt into running back into her previous life, albeit with more financial ease than before.

The Story

It’s early 1938, and Maisie Dobbs is back in England. On a fine yet chilly morning, as she walks towards Fitzroy Square — a place of many memories — she is intercepted by Brian Huntley and Robert MacFarlane of the Secret Service. The German government has agreed to release a British subject from prison, but only if he is handed over to a family member.

Because the man’s daughter is ill, the Secret Service wants Maisie — who bears a striking resemblance to the daughter — to retrieve the man from Dachau, on the outskirts of Munich.

The British government is not alone in its interest in Maisie’s travel plans. Her nemesis — the man she holds responsible for her husband’s death — has learned of her journey and is also desperate for her help.

Traveling into the heart of Nazi Germany, Maisie encounters unexpected dangers — and finds herself questioning whether it’s time to return to the work she loved. But the Secret Service may have other ideas…

The Characters

Maisie Dobbs, Lady Margaret Compton — a former private inquiry agent, psychologist, and nurse — can’t bear to use her married name; Chelstone is the country estate where James grew up. Lord Julian (he’s come out of retirement) and Lady Rowan Compton are Maisie’s in-laws. Frankie Dobbs is her retired father; Brenda is her stepmother. Becca was Maisie’s grandmother. Dr. Maurice Blanche, a psychologist and forensic scientist, was Maisie’s mentor. Edward Compton has taken charge of Compton Corporation.

Priscilla Partridge has been Maisie’s friend since their days at Girton College. Douglas Partridge is her poet-writer husband. Their sons include the quiet yet devilish Timothy, the sensible Thomas who is turning into a lady’s man, and the naughty Tarquin. Peter Evernden has been one of Priscilla’s three brothers, a spy during the Great War. Billie Beale had worked for Maisie before A Dangerous Place, 11; Doreen is the wife who suffers from depression. Margaret Rose is their youngest.

Robbie MacFarlane (formerly Special Branch) and Brian Huntley work “in the undisclosed realm where Scotland Yard and the Secret Service” meet. Harry is Robbie’s driver. Strupper is the weapons man. We first met Dr. Francesca Thomas in A Lesson in Secrets, 8; she’s a spy for Belgium and had worked with La Dame Blanche.

Leon Donat is an engineer, a businessman who began with his father’s machine-tool factory in Birmingham, and an inventor. Edwina is his ill daughter. Andrew helps with drawings and is quite good with engines. Mrs. Randall is the Donat housekeeper. Lawrence Pickering is a publisher at Pickering Publishing Company, which is in need of help. Sandra Tapley, who had been Maisie’s secretary before A Dangerous Place, is now working for Pickering.

John Otterburn is influential with the government, which makes him untouchable. Lorraine Otterburn is his wife. Their feckless daughter, Elaine, married the Honorable Charles Whitney. Palmer is the Otterburn butler.

There’s a bit of a tour through mentions of previous characters: former Murder Squad Detective Richard Stratton who retired to take a position as a teacher; Eddie Petit had fallen afoul of Otterburn in Elegy for Eddie, 9; Sister Teresa is with the field hospital Maisie left in November; Raoul was her driver; Esperanza was the newborn baby who gave Maisie Hope; Miriam Babayoff from A Dangerous Place, 11; Dr. Charles and Pauline Hayden who gave her shelter in Boston; and, a former lover of Maisie’s, Dr. Andrew Dene. Seems he’s now happily married with two children and a leading orthopedic surgeon who teaches at two medical schools.

Patsy Chambers is one of the women who hobnob with Priscilla. Hugo Watson is an unprincipled estate agent.

Nazi Germany

British Consulate
Robert Townsend “Small Brains” Smallbones is the British consul general in Munich. Gilbert Leslie used to be with Military Intelligence. Boyle is Leslie’s driver. Peter Stamont is also with the consulate.

American Consulate
Mark Scott is a spy with the U.S. Department of Justice and based in Munich. Dorothy Blake arranges hotel reservations.

Ulli Bader, a writer, is the son of a friend of Donat’s. Anton Schmidt runs an underground press, the Voice of Freedom. Klaus is a tailor. Rachel and Adele are young girls, friends, who can only play where no one can see them.

The Nazis
Luther Gramm is a young German officer. Adolf Hitler is currently führer. Major Hans Berger, a former artist, is with the Schutzstaffel (SS), which is headed up by Himmler. Untersturmführer Acker is chief of the Dachau Political Department and hears all cases there.

Kurt von Schuschnigg is the Austrian chancellor replaced by Nazi Arthur Seyss-Inquart.

A boffin is a man who does not think like ordinary people.

The Cover and Title

The cover is in woodcut-style of Maisie walking away from us, wearing a dark, fitted suit and hat, carrying a briefcase and her coat over one arm. She’s about to pass a black and gray steam train, a Nazi officer standing next to it with a huge Nazi flag hanging from the arching ceiling. The only color comes from the red of the flag and the train bumper and the yellow in the author’s name and series information. Quite suitable really, as it’s a downer of a journey despite all the insight Maisie gains.

The title is Maisie’s mission, a Journey to Munich.


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