Thursday, August 15, 2019

Review: The American Agent by Jacqueline Winspear

The American Agent (Maisie Dobbs, Book #15)
by Jacqueline Winspear
Release Date: March 26th 2019
2019 Harper
Kindle Edition; 384 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062436665
ASIN: B07B7K973K
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

When Catherine Saxon, an American correspondent reporting on the war in Europe, is found murdered in her London digs, news of her death is concealed by British authorities. Serving as a linchpin between Scotland Yard and the Secret Service, Robert MacFarlane pays a visit to Maisie Dobbs, seeking her help. He is accompanied by an agent from the US Department of Justice—Mark Scott, the American who helped Maisie escape Hitler’s Munich in 1938. MacFarlane asks Maisie to work with Scott to uncover the truth about Saxon’s death.

As the Germans unleash the full terror of their blitzkrieg upon the British Isles, raining death and destruction from the skies, Maisie must balance the demands of solving this dangerous case with her need to protect Anna, the young evacuee she has grown to love and wants to adopt. Entangled in an investigation linked to the power of wartime propaganda and American political intrigue being played out in Britain, Maisie will face losing her dearest friend—and the possibility that she might be falling in love again.

My Thoughts
The American Agent is the fifteenth entry in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series and I was so happy to see the return of Mark Scott. Scott is the American agent who helped Daisie escape from Munich in 1938 and yes, there is a bit of history there.  While I don't think you necessarily have to have read the previous books in order to understand this one, it certainly helps put their relationship in perspective and gives you an idea of Maisie's thoughts and why she was so determined to know what Scott was up to in London.  The author does assume that you have this previous knowledge.

I love this series and have been reading it since the first book was published all those years ago.  And while I really liked this book, and thought it did a good job highlighting the Blitz and the terror of that time-period, I really felt like there was something missing from this one, just that little something that I just can't quite put my finger on.  Maisie seems a bit different in this installment, but in all fairness, she does have a lot going on; she volunteers as an ambulance driver and rescue worker, has to deal with the enormous paperwork required for her to be able to adopt Anna as her own, has an investigation to run, and still has a business to maintain.  And while Maisie is definitely dogged in her pursuit to find the murderer, she also seemed distracted by everything happening around her. And while the author masterfully intertwined descriptions of the Blitz with descriptions of daily life, and people around them got seriously hurt, including her best friend, it was the investigation that felt a bit muddled and made the characters, and the investigation, seem a bit...flatter than usual. Don't get me wrong, I love all the characters in this book, but it is the character development that has really drawn me back time and again to this series.  I just didn't feel or see that development as much in this one.  Typically, I can't put one of this author's books down once I've started them, but this one I could, and needed to. The investigation was interesting, but I'm wondering if the author got too caught up in all of the story lines that were happening and the plot kind of got muddled up.

The American Agent was a good addition to a stellar series, but I don't really feel it was as good as some of the previous entries.  While there was a lot going on, the character development seemed stunted and I really felt like the investigation was a bit muddled, although it did come out quite well in the end, with a couple of twists and turns that caught me off guard.  The author does have this brilliant way of describing the time period that makes you feel like you are right there, huddled in a basement shelter, listening to the bombs being dropped all night long, wondering if you will get hit. So I really think the descriptions of the Blitz were my favourite part of this book.  Do I recommend this book? Oh, definitely. And I am looking forward to what happens next to Mark, Maisie, and Anna.