The American Agent is the new novel from author Jacqueline Winspear. It is the 15th novel in the series starring “psychologist and investigator,” Maisie Dobbs, a former British nurse whose adventures begin during World War I and continue into the decades that follow. The American Agent finds Maisie investigating the mysterious murder of an American war correspondent in London during the beginning of the Bltiz.
The American Agent opens on September 10, 1940. It is the time of the “Blitz,” when Nazi Germany unleashes the full terror of its blitzkrieg upon the British Isles. During this period of intense bombing, German bombers and the Luftwaffe rain death and destruction from the skies on London and other British cities.
Catherine Saxon, an American correspondent reporting on the war in Europe and on the Blitz from London, is found murdered in her London apartment. News of her death is concealed by British authorities, because of the sensitivity of Ms. Saxon's work and because of her position as the daughter of an influential and powerful United States senator. Robert MacFarlane, who is acting as a linchpin between Scotland Yard and the American Secret Service, asks Maisie Dobbs to investigate the murder of Catherine. MacFarlane also asks Maisie to work with Mark Scott, an agent from the U.S. Department of Justice. Scott is also “the American agent” who helped Maisie escape from Hitler’s Germany in 1938 (as seen in the 2016 novel, Journey to Munich).
In addition to this case, Maisie is a volunteer with the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service with her dear friend, Priscilla Partridge, helping to rescue people after the German bombs have done their damage. With all this going on, Maisie must also protect Anna Mason, the young evacuee girl she has grown to love and wants to adopt. Soon, Maisie must go before the Ministry of Health and seek its approval for her to adopt the six-year-old girl, but Maisie worries that she will not be approved to be the child's mother. Maisie also faces losing her dearest friend. She finds herself entangled in a murder investigation linked to the power of wartime propaganda and to American political intrigue. And now, Maisie, a widow, must also face the possibility that she might be falling in love again.
THE LOWDOWN: The American Agent is the fourth Maisie Dobbs novel that I have read. It is also the third novel in the series that is set during Great Britain's involvement in World War II, going back to 2017's In This Grave Hour, which introduced Anna Mason, the girl Maisie wants to adopt.
I thought 2018's To Die But Once was the most personal Maisie Dobbs novel I had read. By “personal,” I mean that of the Maisie novels I had read up to that time, it seemed the most linked to Maisie's connection to her family, to her in-laws, and to her dear fiend, Priscilla Partridge, and her husband and three sons, who are practically Maisie's family, also.
The American Agent is also deeply personal, but I find that in this novel, Jacqueline Winspear focuses on the character of Maisie Dobbs. The case of the murder of Catherine Saxon, including the late young woman's history, career, ambitions, and her complicated family relationships bring out Maisie Dobbs ethical approach to investigation, which includes her desire to heal many of the people involved in a case. In turn, Winspear uses the case to reveal the internal workings of Maisie as she deals with the life-threatening injury to a friend and comes to understand how her life and that of Anna's will change with the decision on whether Maisie can adopt the child or not. And we get to see the process of Maisie falling in love in spite of herself.
Jacqueline Winspear makes The American Agent a riveting character study of a wonderful character whom readers cannot help but love. As always, Winspear authors a novel that ends in a way that has us eagerly awaiting the next installment. Thus, The American Agent is a winning novel, and it turns out to be a perfect starting point for new readers.
I READS YOU RECOMMENDS: Fans of Maisie Dobbs, of World War II era novels, and of British mystery novels will want The American Agent.