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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Review - A Lesson in Secrets

This book is nominated for an Agatha this year which prompted my reading it for our Agatha coverage.  The first book in the series won several awards and it is clear Jacqueline Winspear is a worthy author.

Author: Jacqueline Winspear

Copyright: March 2011 (Berkley) 336 pgs

Series: 8th in Maisie Dobbs Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: PI / Intrigue

Main Characters: Maisie Dobbs, psychologist, private investigator, and former WW1 nurse

Setting: 1932, London and Cambridge

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

This is my first Maisie Dobbs novel and I picked up the storyline easily.  In this addition to the series, Maisie gets an assignment from the British Secret Service.  Her mission is to go undercover at a Cambridge University, founded by pacifist author of children's books, to see if there is a threat from the growing Nazi party in England - lurking among the students.  Maisie has just settled into teaching Philosophy when the founder, Greville Liddicote, is murdered.  Maisie is told by Scotland Yard to stick to her undercover assignment and leave the murder to them.  But Maisie can't help putting together the clues in front of her.  A sideline story is Maisie helping a young widow, Sandra, get on her feet after her husband's death.

Maisie is a great character with depth, intelligence, and finely honed deductive skills.  She has her emotional issues from the first war, not to mention some relationship baggage. She is also a compassionate and generous character. Her strength is being able to understand people and their motivations.  A stellar supporting character is Billy Beale, her right-hand-man for her investigative business.  Even Maisie's romantic interest, wealthy businessman James Compton, seems a good match for Maisie.  He is complete in himself so he can accept her independence.

Cambridge and London are all brought effortlessly to life.  The climate of England between wars, with a growing fascist influence, is portrayed with a deft hand.  The historical details envelop the reader for a trip to the past.  I was fascinated by the information of women as spies in WWI.

The plot has some interesting twists between fascist influences at the college, the secret that Greville Liddicote had hidden for decades, and the story of Sandra and her husband's death, all keep the reader interested.  I understand that this book may not be as suspenseful as past books in the series, but that is probably the only area for improvement I can see.  The theme is around secrets and how they eventually spring out.

There is no real harrowing confrontation with the killer, just an arrest, which was realistic.  The wrap-up was satisfying and left the possibility of Maisie working with the Secret Service wide open.  Overall, I must say I have found a new series to devour!

Are there any Maisie fans out there who want to share if this book was less suspenseful as prior books in the series?

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Karen Russell said...

All of the books in this series are delightful. If you're going to read more, go back and read them in order. I didn't, and every time I post a review on one, I say that I wish I'd read them in order. ; )

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