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We first met Maisie Dobbs in the years before World War I when she was a young girl who had lost her mother and was being raised by her father. Her father found a position for her as a maid to an aristocratic family. That benevolent family took an interest in the young girl and helped to educate her. Her relationship with the family was the making of her.

Hebrews 9:27-28 "And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that..."

It was through them that she became the person that she was as an adult, and eventually, she married the son of the family and emigrated to Ca We first met Maisie Dobbs in the years before World War I when she was a young girl who had lost her mother and was being raised by her father. It was through them that she became the person that she was as an adult, and eventually, she married the son of the family and emigrated to Canada. But tragedy followed her. Her husband was killed and she returned to England. In this latest installment, we have progressed all the way to the beginnings of World War II.

It is Appointed Unto Men Once to Die

It is and England is on edge. It has not been attacked directly yet, but an attack is expected imminently. Meanwhile, their forces in Europe are being pushed back to the sea. The Dunkirk rescue looms. Maisie is still pursuing her profession as an investigator and psychologist, ably assisted by her longtime right-hand man Billy Beale.


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A local pub owner asks Maisie's help in finding out what has happened to his son. The young man had taken a job with a painting firm that had a government contract to paint various government buildings with fire retardant paint. He was away in Kent doing this work and had been in contact with his family on a regular basis but now has missed calling them for a couple of weeks and the parents are worried.

Maisie agrees to investigate. Meantime, Billy is worried about his older son who is with the forces in Europe and his younger son who is chafing at the bit to get involved in the war effort. And Maisie's friend Priscilla is terrified of losing her three sons in the war as she lost her three brothers in the First World War.

Her oldest is in the RAF; the middle son wants to join the military but is too young without the parents' permission; the youngest is not yet old enough but if the war continues for years, he, too, will want to be involved. To further complicate the book's plot, Maisie has decided that she wants to adopt Anna, the young girl that she took in as an evacuee along with her grandmother.

Sermon, Hebrews , Proper 27B, "Once to Die"

The grandmother had subsequently died and left Maisie as the child's guardian. Now she wants to become her mother, but the authorities are reluctant to allow a single mother widow to adopt. And it's all just too much. Yes, I do realize that in real life all of these things do happen simultaneously, but in a work of literature, I think it is helpful to have the focus on one or perhaps at most two events. Winspear is asking us to focus on and care about all of these different occurrences.

She rushes from one storyline to another and the various stories lose some of their emotional impact in the process. As always, Winspear does an excellent job of setting the historic scene. One can feel the fear and uncertainty experienced by those who lived through these perilous times. For those of us who take for granted our ability to travel and to communicate and stay linked to friends and family far away, Winspear helps us to feel what it was like not so very long ago when those things were not possible.

And that is why I keep reading these books - for the historical perspective which they provide of the daily lives of ordinary people. It's there that Winspear really shines. May 31, Beth rated it it was amazing Shelves: This series is one of my top 5 favorites. And especially edgy because, as we know to our sorrow, Winspear does not hesitate to kill off anyone, even beloved characters if it furthers her story. But, boy, this one was terrific and the historic detail is fascinating.

Apr 17, Kathryn rated it it was amazing Shelves: , maisie-dobbs. Well, she did it again.

The book is so well done; full of lots of history, new and old characters and of course Maisie. I'm trying to figure out how old she is now. In her 40s I think. It's just a great story and I shall miss her until the next book. Apr 02, Charlene rated it really liked it. One of the best in the series and I've read them all, so far. It's spring, There's several stories running here; the mystery concerns the disappearance of Joe, the young painting apprentice? He's been working on a crew painting RAF buildings with a fire retardant that gives him headaches and seems to be causing a personality change.

Then there's the WWII story. Maisie and friend Priscilla are training as rescue ambulance workers, there's rumors that the British Expeditionary Force is One of the best in the series and I've read them all, so far. Maisie and friend Priscilla are training as rescue ambulance workers, there's rumors that the British Expeditionary Force is in trouble in France and then there's Dunkirk. Maisie has her young ward, Anna, safe in the country but we see the worries of those still in London and those who have left. And her own WWI family story is always the background, too.

View 1 comment. It's always great to spend some time with one of my favorite private investigators. I met Maisie Dobbs right after she returned from being a nurse in France during WWI to London and set up shop as a private investigator and psychologist. In this 14th installment in the series, we are at the beginning of WWII.

Britain is preparing for a possible German invasion and part of this preparation is to paint all military buildings with a fire retardant paint in case of attack. When a young painting appr It's always great to spend some time with one of my favorite private investigators.

“Just as man is destined to die once,”

When a young painting apprentice dies after complaining of severe headaches, Maisie and her longtime assistant, Billy, get involved in trying to find out what happened. Was is "death by misadventure" as the medical examiner is encouraged to proclaim or is it something more sinister? The cast of characters we have come to know and love throughout this series are all present and accounted for in To Die But Once. A few additional story threads related to some of these characters and the war keep things interesting. As always, events in the Maisie Dobbs series are based on fact and family history, impeccably researched by Winspear.

In this case her father was involved in painting military buildings with fire retardant which made this story all that more vivid and poignant. The good news? Book 15 The American Agent is due out the end of March! Why I'm reading this: Catching up on a favorite series. In the spring of , World War II had been underway in Europe for more than half a year, but the violence had yet to come home to England. Suddenly, on May 10, Hitler's legions rumbled across the borders of Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, and, finally, France.

Now, it found itself steadily pushed into a tighter and tighter space along the coast around the French port of Dunkerque Dunkirk. In the Battle of Dunkirk, the English people finally came to confront the terror of modern war.

The Maisie Dobbs Series

During ten days in late May and early June, German armies savaged retreating English and French troops and Stuka dive-bombers pounded ships sent to evacuate them. When the Admiralty confessed its inability to save the troops, newly installed Prime Minister Winston Churchill issued an open call for all British seagoing vessels to join the effort.


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  • The result was "the Miracle of Dunkirk" depicted in the popular film, Dunkirk. On the home front, children have been evacuated from London to the countryside. In the "Phony War" that preceded the Nazi attack on the Low Countries, many families had begun to bring their children back to the city. Now, with British troops on the verge of annihilation on the Continent, a German invasion appears imminent, and that is changing.

    All the earmarks of home defense have sprung up: blackout curtains, barrage balloons, observation posts all along the coast, gasoline rationing, and "reserved professions" vital to feeding the people and, as the saying went, "keeping the home fires burning. Maisie's practice as a "psychologist and investigator" has slowed, freeing her up to look into the disappearance of the teenage son of the couple who run the local pub.

    The young man had been sent to rural Hampshire as an apprentice to a painting crew working on a contract for the Royal Air Force. Maisie's investigation confronts her and Billy Beale, her assistant, with a notorious gangster, war profiteers, and a plan to rob the Bank of England.

    Winspear tells the tale with her customary deep understanding of human behavior and her respect for historical accuracy. As she reveals in the Acknowledgments, the book was inspired by her late father, a young apprentice in a painting crew during the war. Apr 03, Wendy Hearder-moan rated it liked it. Even some of the characters are a bit faceless, including the main villain.

    May 21, Carol rated it it was amazing. It was Spring During the months following Britain's declaration of war on Germany, as far as the population is concerned, nothing much seems to have happened. Despite the sandbagging of underground stations and public buildings, constant government reminders to carry gas masks at all times, and the barrage balloons bobbing overhead, the newspapers are calling it the "Bore War," and mothers have started bringing children who evacuated to the country back home.

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    Against this backdr It was Spring Against this backdrop of uncertainty, Maisie Dobbs investigates the disappearance of a young apprentice working on a hush-hush government contract. As news of the plight of thousands of soldiers stranded of the beaches of France is gradually revealed to the general public, and as the threat of invasion increases, another young man beloved by Maisie makes a terrible decision that will change his life forever.

    Maisie's investigation leads her from the countryside of rural Hampshire to the web of wartime oopportunism exploited by one of the London underworld's most powerful men, in a case that serves as a reminder of the inextricable link between money and war. Yet when a final case that serves, she must acknowledge the potential cost to her future--and the risk of destroying a dream she wants very much to become reality.

    This series is a comfort to read. Even major drama and disaster are calmly presented. The Dunkirk evacuation is one of the main story lines in this book, but I did feel this book is just a prep for the real shit to hit the fan in the Battle of Britain. Apr 19, Susan rated it liked it Shelves: mysteries.