Cover image for To die but once : a Maisie Dobbs novel / Jacqueline Winspear.
To die but once : a Maisie Dobbs novel / Jacqueline Winspear.

First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2018]

Physical Description:
325 pages ; 24 cm
General Note:
Sequel to: In this grave hour.
Spring, 1940. Following Britain's declaration of war on Germany, Maisie Dobbs has been investigating the disappearance of a young apprentice working on a hush-hush government contract. Her investigation leads from the countryside of rural Hampshire to the web of wartime opportunism exploited by one of the London underworld's most powerful men. When a final confrontation approaches, she must acknowledge the potential cost to her future -- and the risk of destroying a dream she wants very much to become reality. Meanwhile, the plight of thousands of soldiers stranded on the beaches of France causes one of Maisie's friends to make a decision that will change his life.


Library Branch
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
1 Nechako Branch WIN Book Adult Mystery / Suspense Fiction

On Order



Maisie Dobbs--one of the most complex and admirable characters in contemporary fiction (Richmond Times Dispatch)--faces danger and intrigue on the home front during World War II.

During the months following Britain's declaration of war on Germany, 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 on the beaches of France is gradually revealed to the general public, and the threat of invasion rises, 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 opportunism 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 confrontation approaches, she must acknowledge the potential cost to her future--and the risk of destroying a dream she wants very much to become reality.

Author Notes

Jacqueline Winspear was born in the county of Kent, England. She was educated at the University of London's Institute of Education. After graduation, she worked in academic publishing, in higher education, and in marketing communications in the UK. In 1990, she emigrated to the United States. She was working in business and as a personal/professional coach when she decided to try writing.

Her first novel, Maisie Dobbs, won the Agatha Award for Best First novel, the Macavity Award for Best First Novel, and the Alex Award. She is the author of the Maisie Dobbs Mystery series. She has also won the Agatha Award for Best Novel, the inaugural Sue Feder/Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery, and the Bruce Alexander Award for Best Historical Mystery. Her title, A Dangerous Place, made The New York Times High Profile titles list. Journey to Munich, a book in the Maisie Dobbs Series, made the New York Times bestseller list in 2016.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

The possible disappearance of a teenage boy drives bestseller Winspear's so-so novel set in 1940 Britain, her 14th featuring London investigator and psychologist Maisie Dobbs (after 2017's In This Grave Hour). Before the war, 15-year-old Joe Coombes worked as an apprentice for a painting and decorating company that the British government retained to paint RAF facilities with a new kind of fire-retardant. When Joe's family doesn't hear from him for several days, his father, publican Phil Coombes, asks Maisie to trace the boy. His son seemed different during their last visits, Phil tells her. Maisie soon learns that Joe took a fatal fall onto a railway track, but the reader already knows, via the prologue, that he was bludgeoned to death. The whodunit story line is often secondary to the larger historical picture-in particular, the British response to the retreat from Dunkirk and the threat of German invasion-and to developments in Maisie's private life. A gratuitous closing contrivance doesn't help. Still, Winspear fans will find much to like. Agent: Amy Rennert, Amy Rennert Agency. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

New York Review of Books Review

Whatever Robbie was expecting at the end of this tense trip, it wasn't a big tip and a compliment on his driving. But that's the way it is with Grimes: Great characters who say and do the most unexpected things are her stock in trade. The charmer here is 10-year-old Patty Haigh ("looks like a little girl, but acts like MI6"), one of a group of loosely parented children who hang around the stations at Waterloo and Heathrow, practicing the skills needed to be cops. Patty even talks her way into a firstclass seat on a plane to Nairobi by attaching herself to the murderer she's pursuing. "For someone who shoots people," she acknowledges, "he was pretty nice." Meanwhile, Grimes's irresistibly attractive Scotland Yard man is busy solving the murder of his newly acquired friends David Moffit, an American astronomer, and his wife, Rebecca. With enthusiastic assistance from his wealthy friend Melrose Plant and Plant's fellow drinkers at the Jack and Hammer pub, Jury manages to have multiple sets of eyes on his suspect. But our eyes are glued to Patty, off in Africa and having the time of her life. what's that smell? The acrid odor of fire is always cause for alarm in the mysteries C. J. Box sets in heavily forested Wyoming. But there's something strange about the odor that's coming from the burner at a lumber mill in the DISAPPEARED (Putnam, $27), "something that smelled a little like roast chicken." Wylie Frye, the night manager, recognizes the peculiar stench, but for $2,500 he can take shallow breaths and ignore it. The task of identifying that strange smell falls to Joe Pickett, the conscientious game warden in these rugged novels who is mostly charged with monitoring the wildlife of the region, where so much land is managed by the federal government. That explains his interest in a dicey wind energy project and his involvement with a group of falconers clamoring to hunt with eagles. But when a British tourist disappears from the dude ranch where Joe's daughter works, he shows the tough-and-tender qualities that make him such a great guy to have on your side. HISTORY comes alive when a character you think of as a friend is in the thick of the action. That's how Jacqueline Winspear keeps her Maisie Dobbs mysteries so fresh. TO DIE BUT ONCE (Harper, $27.99) opens in the spring of 1940, when the German Army is advancing on France and the British are preparing to evacuate. Maisie is already concerned about her office assistant, Billy Beale, who has a son at the front, when she receives an assignment from another worried father. Phil Coombes, landlord of the Prince of Wales pub, hasn't heard from 15-year-old Joe, an apprentice painter with Mike Yates and Sons, a firm that's been contracted to apply a fire-retardant emulsion to buildings at government airfields. Joe had been complaining of bad headaches, a detail that becomes much more significant when his body is discovered and, after the autopsy, Maisie learns he had suffered two brain injuries, one from a fall (or a push?) off a railroad bridge and one from exposure to toxins. Maisie's investigation takes on heft from its underlying theme of war profiteering, with greedy entrepreneurs like Mike Yates exposing their employees to life-threatening working conditions just to make a buck. Talking dirty can be great fun, especially when the trash talkers are Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, the cutup private eyes in Joe R. Lansdale's Texas crime capers. In jackrabbit smile (Mulholland / Little, Brown, $26), the partners are tasked with finding Jackie (Jackrabbit) Mulhaney, the daughter of white supremacists who don't care that Hap is irreverent and Leonard is black and gay. "We want her back," her mother says, "be it flesh, or be it bones." Jackie's father, Sebastian, a fire-breathing preacher, lived hard and died a sad and lonely death. But her brother, Thomas, is carrying the burning torch. For such a freewheeling stylist, Lansdale can write a sensitive obituary for a "confused and tortured soul" like Sebastian, as well as boisterous action scenes for his irrepressible leads. And he has compassion for places like Hell's Half Mile, "a line of honkytonks full of drunken patrons trying to wash down poverty, bad marriages and gone-to-hell children." ?

Library Journal Review

A somber mood sets the tone for the 14th Maisie Dobbs mystery (after In This Grave Hour) as World War II has begun. Local pub owner Phil Coombes wants Maisie to find his son Joe, who had been working as a painter for a military contractor. Coombes is concerned because Joe had complained of persistent headaches while working with fire-retardant paint. When Joe's body is discovered, Maisie must investigate whether it was a case of murder or just an accident. She finds more than she ever bargained for in the way of Coombes family secrets and military operations. Everyone has something to hide. Meanwhile, the drama of the British troops trapped at Dunkirk is made personal when Maisie's godson jumps on a yacht to help rescue the men. She is also balancing her own personal life with her investigative business as she explores the possibility of adopting Anna, her family's orphaned evacuee. Verdict Winspear has created another rich reading experience for Maisie's many fans, but this title could be seen as entry point for new fans as well. Highly recommended for readers who enjoy a thoughtful mystery. [See Prepub Alert, 9/11/17.]-Kristen Stewart, Pearland Lib., Brazoria Cty. Lib. Syst., TX © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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