Official Synopsis from Goodreads: Beloved heroine Maisie Dobbs, “one of the great fictional heroines” (Parade), investigates the mysterious murder of an American war correspondent in London during the Blitz in a page-turning tale of love and war, terror and survival.
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.
Genre: Historical Mystery
Setting: London, 1940
My Copy Came From: I purchased the hardcover from my local bookstore, Copperfield’s, at an author event.
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Review: One of the best in the Maisie Dobbs series! The American Agent is book fifteen in the popular Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. Through Maisie’s eyes we’ve seen WWI, the aftermath of that war, and now the start of WWII. It’s a fascinating premise to a mystery series, as the series tackles the after-effects of war, and how murder can easily enter the picture. Maisie is a former nurse turned psychologist and investigator, so we see the humanity in the crimes, and discover the whydunit of the murder. The American Agent is no exception to this rule, and I found it to be one of the best of the series.
War might be waged, the German Luftwaffe might be trying to destroy the city she loved, but she felt a duty to the young woman who had risked her life to tell London’s story. And she wondered, not for the first time, whether it was Catherine Saxon’s decision to paint a picture of Britain’s plight in the minds of people living thousands of miles away that had led to her death.
With a focus on radio, and how radio, particularly Edward R. Murrow, affected the opinions of Americans, The American Agent deals with a murder of a young woman, Catherine Saxton, with a career in radio. Catherine spends the night reporting from the ambulance that Maisie and Priscilla (Maisie’s good friend) drive to help the war effort. The next day, Catherine is found murdered, and since Catherine’s father is a US Senator, the case draws the attention of Scotland Yard’s Special Branch, and the FBI. Maisie is tasked to work with an FBI agent, Mark Scott, whom she worked with before on a task in Germany in the book Journey to Munich.
While I like Mark as a character, I am very “meh” about his romantic pairing with Maisie. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. I’ve realized that I haven’t really liked any of Maisie’s love interests throughout the series. I’ve only ever really liked Stratton, and so far that pairing hasn’t happened, but I still hold out hope!
“And that’s what he talked about—how he’s heard there are plans in the works for a new bomber, and it sounds really exciting. Really exciting? I tell you, there are times when I feel like getting him by the scruff of the neck and giving him a piece of my mind about what’s really exciting. Really exciting is when every day is the same and verging on boring. That’s a thrilling thought, as far as I’m concerned.”
I really liked the mystery in this novel. I wanted to know who killed Catherine, and why, and I didn’t figure it out until it was revealed in the book. Was the murder personal or was it more political, as Catherine was striving to change American opinions towards helping Britain in the war, and many people, especially her father, held isolationist leanings?
Many of the chapters begin with a quote from Edward R. Murrow about the war. Murrow looms large over this book and his presence is felt, even though he never actually makes an appearance in the book, and The American Agent ends with a haunting quote about Murrow and the work he did in swaying American opinions about the war. Joseph Kennedy also looms large over the book, as he takes the opposite stance and tries to keep the US out of the war.
So you see, I must disagree with you on one count. Women will always be part of war, whether fighting, tending the wounds of soldiers, reporting—as Miss Saxon did so very well—and even when we’re the ones left waiting. And as you probably know, most soldiers would tell you that waiting is the hardest part of war to endure.
While Maisie is trying to solve the mystery, the Blitz keeps happening night after night, and there are many haunting scenes. The characters keep growing, book after book, and while the mystery and the history are all well done in the series, what keeps me coming back are the characters, and I just really loved this read. I loved the history, with the wireless and the Blitz, loved the mystery with its compelling puzzle, and loved Maisie’s journey in this read. This is added to the list of my favorite Maisie Dobbs books! I’m really looking forward to one day re-reading this special series.
Bottom Line: One of the best in the series!