The American Agent (Maisie Dobbs #15)
Published by Allison & Busby
ebook and hardback (26 March 2019) | paperback (22 August 2019)
About the Book
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. Accompanied by an agent from the US Department of Justice-Mark Scott, the American who helped Maisie escape Hitler’s Munich in 1938 he 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 citizens of London, raining death and destruction from the skies, Maisie must balance the demands of solving this dangerous case with her need to protect the young evacuee she has grown to love. 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.
Reporting London, broadcast by Catherine Saxon, London, September 10th, 1940
Tonight I joined the women of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service as they rushed to the aid of civilians caught in the relentless bombing of this brave city. Herr Hitler’s bombers have been swarming in for the past three nights, raining down terror on the men, women and children of London as if to pay the country back for the success of Britain’s Royal Air Force as they fought the Luftwaffe over England’s southeastern counties throughout the summer. Resilience and endurance have been the order of the day and night for the citizens of this country – an experience we Americans should be grateful we have not yet encountered on our soil. Pray to God we shall never see the shadows of those killing machines in the skies above Main Street.
I was aboard an ambulance with two women – both Mrs. P and Miss D served their country in the last war: Mrs. P with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry, and Miss D as a nurse at a casualty clearing station close to the front line. I later discovered Miss D is, in fact, a titled member of England’s aristocracy, a sign that everyone’s pulling together on Britain’s home front. As Miss D drove through the streets at speed, her way lit only by fires either side of a thoroughfare strewn with scorched and burning rubble, the flames threatened to take us with them. When we reached our destination, a street I cannot name and would not know again, Miss D braked hard, and before the ambulance came to a stop, Mrs. P had leaped out and was gathering the kit needed to aid bombed-out families. The men of the fire service were hard at work, directing wide arcs of water into houses destroyed by the bombing. Flames rose up as if to spike the heavens, the remaining walls like broken teeth leading into the mouth of hell. Beyond I could see searchlights as they crossed each other scouring the skies for bombers and many of those searchlights were “manned” by women. The constant ack-ack-ack of anti-aircraft guns added to the ear-splitting sounds of a night with London under attack. Within minutes an injured boy and a girl were made stable and placed in the ambulance. I’d watched their grandmother pulling at fallen masonry even as it scorched her hands. “My girls, my girls,” she cried, as she tried to move bricks and mortar away from the untimely grave that had claimed her two beloved daughters. Miss D gently put her arms around the wailing grandmother and led her toward the ambulance, where she bandaged her hands and reminded her that two small, terrified children were counting on her strength. Minutes later, firemen carried away the bodies of the deceased, the grandmother’s “girls” – the mother and aunt of the two children. This report cannot include a description of the remains of those two women.
The Civil War is still remembered by the elders in our American hometowns. Those men and women were children during a terrible time in our country’s history, and some saw what trauma cannon fire and machine gun will inflict upon the human form. The volunteers who fought with our Lincoln Brigade witnessed Hitler’s Blitzkrieg in Spain – they too know the terror of a bombing raid. We who have seen war know the children in that ambulance will never forget this night – it will be branded into their young minds forever. And it will be branded into the memory of those two women of the London Auxiliary Ambulance Service, and into the heart of this reporter. The children’s father is at war. If he comes home, it will be to what’s left of his family – as will many men who believed they were fighting for the safety of their loved ones.
This is Catherine Saxon, courtesy of the British Broadcasting Corporation in London, England, on the night of September tenth, 1940. God bless you all, and may peace be yours.
My thanks to the publisher for providing the extract and to Anne Cater for the tour invitation. I wish I had had been able to fit in a review for this as looks just my type of read.
About the Author
Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in Kent and emigrated to the USA in 1990. She has written extensively for journals, newspapers and magazines, and has worked in book publishing on both sides of the Atlantic. The Maisie Dobbs series of crime novels is beloved by readers worldwide.