A Dan­ger­ous Place

Jacque­line Winspear

  • Review
By – February 24, 2015

If you’re look­ing for an engag­ing mys­tery fea­tur­ing an adult and sophis­ti­cat­ed Nan­cy Drew-type hero­ine, char­ac­ters that evoke Down­ton Abbey, a 1930s film noir feel, and an exot­ic set­ting in a tur­bu­lent time peri­od, put this lat­est in the series of fan-favorite Maisie Dobbs mys­tery nov­els on your read­ing list.

Maisie is a psy­chol­o­gist, inves­ti­ga­tor, and for­mer World War I nurse on her way back to Eng­land via Cana­da and India in 1937. Still griev­ing over the dual loss­es of her test pilot hus­band and unborn child, she feels she can’t yet face the famil­iar­i­ty of her Eng­lish home and decides to hasti­ly dis­em­bark ship on the penul­ti­mate port of the voy­age in dan­ger­ous and strate­gi­cal­ly-locat­ed Gibraltar.

The Rock,” as Gibral­tar is known, is a hotbed of activ­i­ty, intrigue, refuge, and pol­i­tics dur­ing the Span­ish Civ­il War that is rag­ing just miles away from this British gar­ri­son area. Many warn her to leave, but Maisie checks in to a hotel and that first night lit­er­al­ly trips over a dead body and two cam­eras strewn near­by in the hotel’s gar­dens. The dead man, Sebas­t­ian Babay­off, is a promi­nent pho­tog­ra­ph­er and mem­ber of the Jew­ish Sephardic com­mu­ni­ty of Gibral­tar. Maisie is deter­mined to learn more about the mur­der and sets out to solve the case.

In the face of con­stant oppo­si­tion and sus­pi­cions, she method­i­cal­ly uncov­ers clue after clue as she inch­es clos­er to the dan­ger­ous truths play­ing out. Gibral­tar is filled with shady char­ac­ters, dou­ble agents, Ger­mans, British, and floods of refugees. Innkeep­ers and restau­rant own­ers keep tabs on Maisie as hos­tile forces fol­low her every step. She finds that the close-knit Sephardic com­mu­ni­ty and the dead man’s sis­ters are involved in clan­des­tine activ­i­ties with the local fish­ing com­mu­ni­ty. Maisie dogged­ly and coura­geous­ly uses her intel­li­gence, train­ing, skills, and inves­tiga­tive tech­niques, many of which were learned at the tute­lage of her men­tor, detec­tive Dr. Mau­rice Blanche, in her pur­suit of answers.

A Dan­ger­ous Place builds upon the past books of the series, but the author skill­ful­ly cov­ers the back­ground infor­ma­tion and events for new read­ers to feel com­fort­able with Maisie’s life sto­ry. Maisie’s per­son­al­i­ty and char­ac­ter guide the grip­ping action. Although her grief and suf­fer­ing are felt, so is her deter­mi­na­tion to face the world again. The mys­tery becomes her sal­va­tion and life force.

This is a well-writ­ten and well-paced page-turn­ing nov­el. His­tor­i­cal fic­tion fans will savor the accu­rate and nuanced por­trait Win­spear presents of the Span­ish Civ­il War. The pol­i­tics of Fran­co, the Inter­na­tion­al Brigades, Repub­li­cans, Nation­al­ists, Fas­cism, Social­ism, and the trag­ic bomb­ing of Guer­ni­ca are all out­lined and enveloped in the intrigue, and a final plot twist pulls Maisie and his­to­ry together.

Reni­ta Last is a mem­ber of the Nas­sau Region of Hadassah’s Exec­u­tive Board. She has coor­di­nat­ed the Film Forum Series for the Region and served as Pro­gram­ming and Health Coor­di­na­tors and as a mem­ber of the Advo­ca­cy Committee.

She has vol­un­teered as a docent at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty teach­ing the all- impor­tant lessons of the Holo­caust and tol­er­ance. A retired teacher of the Gift­ed and Tal­ent­ed, she loves par­tic­i­pat­ing in book clubs and writ­ing projects.

Discussion Questions