Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear’s A Dangerous Place

Posted June 9, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear’s A Dangerous Place

A Dangerous Place


Jacqueline Winspear

historical mystery in Hardcover edition that was published by Harper on March 17, 2015 and has 352 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have 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, Journey to Munich, In This Grave Hour

Eleventh in the Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series and revolving around Lady Compton, a.k.a., Maisie Dobbs. There is no couple in this.

My Take

I am so angry with Maisie (and with Winspear)! Yes, it was well-written, but no, Winspear couldn’t possibly let Maisie be happy. I was so hopeful for James, and I looked forward to reading of Maisie’s exploits with James.

Instead, I cried and cried and cried all the way through this one almost from the very first page. Almost the only thing keeping Maisie alive is thoughts of Dr. Maurice Blanche.

The massacre at Guernica takes place during A Dangerous Place. The Spanish Civil War was a footnote we peeked at in my high school history class. There was no mention of Guernica or what the war was about. Franco was the only real name I remember. Winspear provides an emotional (to me) explanation of why the Republicans are fighting this war. It’s a well-done “info dump” that does NOT read that way. Another good example for writers.

It’s Maisie’s experience, her past, that leads her to give Miriam some good advice.

The Story

It’s a familiar world Maisie cannot face, and she gets off the ship in Gibraltar. Maybe a bit more time will make it easier to cope when she returns to England. Instead, her curiosity and compassion pull her into the Spanish Civil War with life-changing results.

The Characters

Maisie, Lady Compton, neé Dobbs, is one of very few core characters in the series we truly encounter. The rest are mentioned, write letters, beg. James, Viscount Compton, was her beloved husband. Frankie Dobbs is her father; Brenda is her stepmother. Billy Beale was Maisie’s assistant during her private investigator days. The thought of his insights encourage Maisie. Priscilla Partridge is her best friend and is married to Douglas, a poet and writer. They have three sons who loved their Uncle James. Lady Rowan Compton and her husband, Lord Julian, were James’ parents, and they see Maisie as their daughter.

Robbie MacFarlane is with Special Branch now. He suggests she contact David Shaw if she can’t get hold of him.

Mrs. Bishop runs the guest house where Maisie stays in Gibraltar. Arturo Kenyon is spying on Maisie. Mr. Salazar runs the café and looks out for Maisie. Michael Marsh is an inspector with the Gibraltar Police. Jacob Solomon owns the shop which sells Babayoff’s photographs. Mr. Santos is a clerk at the Ridge Hotel.

The too-curious, selfish Sebastian Babayoff is the Jewish man who is murdered and provides Maisie the excuse she needs. Miriam and the handicapped Chana Babayoff are his surviving sisters. Carlos Grillo was a fisherman and a good friend of Sebastian’s. Rosanna was Carlos’ niece and loved Sebastian.

Professor Antonio Vallejo is angry with Britain’s complicity in allowing German warplanes to cross the airspace in Gibraltar and refuel there. He knows Professor Francesca Thomas (A Lesson in Secrets, 8); he also studied with Dr. Maurice Blanche, Maisie’s mentor. Raoul is the driver who will sneak them into Spain.

“Red Ellen” Wilkinson is a fighter for workers’ rights in Britain. Felipe runs a restaurant in Madrid. Maria is a maid at the hotel. Freda Nicholls and Hattie Benson are nurses who have volunteered to work with hospitals in Spain, caring for the wounded. Sister Teresa is all the people in the small devastated village in Valencia have for medical aid. Brian Smithers is an English fighter for the Republicans.

Thomas Wright is the German who brokers war to anyone. He warns Maisie to stay away from Otterburn.

Dr. Charles Hayden was a friend of Simon Lynch‘s and lives in Boston with his wife, Pauline. Captain Richard Johnstone tried to keep Maisie on board the ship. Dame Constance is the abbess at Camden Abbey. Mr. Klein is Maisie’s solicitor in England, and he receives special instructions regarding a fully equipped ambulance.

John Otterburn is the jerk from Elegy for Eddie, 9, with the experimental aircraft. His daughter, Elaine, is a flake.

The Cover and Title

The cover is the woodcut style I so enjoy and that the series has used in the past. This time it’s Maisie in a white hat and short-sleeved blouse over a slim black skirt, her brown shoulder bag clutched to her side, one hand holding onto her hat as she looks up at the German warplanes flying over the Rock of Gibraltar in the background. The colors suit the mood in the gloomy grays and creams.

The title is about Spain during its Civil War, and yes, it is A Dangerous Place.