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Sunday, 2 May 2021

‘The Consequences of Fear’ by Jacqueline Winspear

Published by Allison & Busby,
18 March 2021.
ISBN: 978-07490-2658-5 (HB)

The story opens in October 1941. Britain is at war with Germany and Maisie Dobbs’ life has divided into several distinct compartments. In the country she is a widow who is part of the local gentry, living in the Dower House at Chelstone Manor with her father, stepmother and adopted daughter. In London she still takes an interest in the more complex cases undertaken by the detective agency that she took over after the retirement of her mentor, Maurice Blanche. Also, she has a secret and very stressful role, using her skills as a psychologist to assess potential overseas operatives for SOE, the Special Operations Executive, the secret organisation that trains agents to infiltrate territories under German control. Maisie finds it very difficult to shoulder the responsibility of sending young men and women out to face extreme danger, knowing that if they are captured they will be tortured to death unless they succeed in taking their own lives. It is even harder when the prospective agents are people that she knows and cares about, and as well as her own grief, she has to face the possibility of lying to people who she loves and who trust her. To stretch Maisie’s reserves even further, she is in a relationship with Mark Scott, an American diplomat, but she fears that they both have too little time free from their other responsibilities to commit to a long-term relationship.

Young Freddie Hackett is a message runner, who spends his after-school hours carrying messages for the government. He is a very courageous boy, and a swift runner, who is determined to make what provision he can for his hard-working mother and disabled sister, although he has to turn over much of the money he earns to his drunken, brutal father. One night as he runs through the dark streets, Freddie has the terrifying experience of seeing two men arguing violently before one man murders the other. Freddie reports what he has seen but the police cannot find any trace of the body and they assume that he has imagined it. However, Freddie remembers that he has delivered messages to the Private Investigator Maisie Dobbs and turns to her for advice. Maisie believes that Freddie is telling the truth and, alongside investigating the murder he reported, she wishes to help him and his family escape from the clutches of Freddie’s vicious father.

As Maisie probes further she suspects there is a link between the murder that Freddie reported and her work for the government. She wants to discover the truth in order to achieve peace of mind for Freddie and justice for the victim but, at the same time, she has to walk a fine line in order to not betray the secrets with which she has been entrusted. Maisie has great people-reading skills and access to many people who know things that can help her, but she is also aware that some secrets can be dangerous to possess and the conjunction of these two cases promises to be potentially deadly.

The Consequences of Fear is the sixteenth novel featuring Maisie Dobbs. It is a complex novel with an interesting plot that cleverly intertwines the different strands of Maisie’s life. The characters are engaging, and the historical detail is excellent, skilfully evoking the fear and grinding exhaustion of wartime life. The author also shows considerable expertise in the way she introduces the large cast of characters, accumulated through the previous novels, all with beautifully judged backstory details that enhance the story and enlighten readers unfamiliar with the series without slowing down the pace of the novel. The Consequences of Fear is a thoroughly enjoyable read, which I recommend.

Reviewer: Carol Westron

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in the county of Kent, England. Following higher education at the University of London's Institute of Education, Jacqueline worked in both general and academic publishing, in higher education and in marketing communications in the UK. She emigrated to the United States in 1990, and while working in business and as a personal / professional coach, Jacqueline embarked upon a life-long dream to be a writer. She is the author of sixteen books set in the period following the WW1 and featuring Maisie Dobbs.

 Carol Westron is a successful author and a Creative Writing teacher.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  Her first book The Terminal Velocity of Cats was published in 2013. Since then, she has since written 5 further mysteries. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

To read a review of Carol latest book This Game of Ghosts click on the title.

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