Saturday, March 19, 2011
A Lesson in Secrets: A Maisie Dobbs Novel
by Jacqueline Winspear, Harper, March, 2011
While this book is a little light on the mystery it is a worthy addition to the series
This book is the eighth in the Maisie Dobbs series and can easily be read as a standalone book but I really suggest you start at the beginning if you are new to the series. The two hallmarks of this series are period detail and character development. This story like the previous ones is set in Britain between the world wars. Maisie, a psychologist and private investigator is now an independent woman with an inheritance from her mentor Maurice. She is asked by the government to investigate subversive activities at a pacifist college in Cambridge. Since this is a mystery there is the requisite murder but that story line is almost secondary to the descriptions of British life. Maisie encounters the nascent fascist movement among her students. In typical fashion the government is not worried about the Nazis but about potential communists. In the midst of the murder investigation Maisie discovers a government cover-up of a WWI mutiny where British and German soldiers refused to continue the front line fighting.
While the lasting effects of the First World War on the British has been an integral part of this series, the coming war gives the series and this book a sense of dread that is palpable. On a more optimistic note things are going very well in Maisie’s private life, her love affair with the aristocratic son of her former employer is advancing nicely, her assistant Billy and his family are recovering from the death of a child and her elderly father has a girlfriend.
While this book is a little light on the mystery it is a worthy addition to the series. The author has a talent for realistic descriptions of characters at all levels of British society from her assistant Billy a working stiff to her former employers, Lord and Lady Compton. In this book Maisie for the first time works for the government security forces, a relationship sure to continue as the country moves towards war. Maisie is really the linchpin of these books, daughter of a costermonger (love that word) a former parlor maid who has risen to independence without sacrificing her integrity – she is one of my favorite mystery detectives!
I read a copy of this book provided by the publisher.