Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

In Jacqueline Winspear's early novels, Maisie Dobbs was a perceptive, plucky and competent investigator sensitive to shell shock’s damage and the unseen aftereffects of war.  In A Lesson in Secrets, set in 1932, Maisie seems to be juggling too many mysteries and relationships to do justice to all of them.
Maisie Dobbs, a truly unique character, first appeared in 2003 to much acclaim.  In this the eighth entry in the series, Maisie’s boyfriend James is in Canada on business leaving her confused but with time for new endeavors. She has a new secretary with a mystery of her own.  But the main thrust of the novel is Maisie’s acceptance of an undercover assignment overseen by both Scotland Yard and the Special Service that has her teaching at a Cambridge college devoted to promoting peace where some of the college’s non-British professors may be leaning toward the burgeoning Nazi party. 
When the college’s controversial founder and a famed pacifist author of children’s books is murdered and his secretary disappears, Maisie tussles with the Secret Service as she tries to catch the murderer.  The novel is at its best in describing the attraction of the Nazi Party to Britain’s upper classes.  But too many subplots and unnecessary coincidences make the rushed ending less satisfying than the earlier titles.
Summing it up: Start with Maisie Dobbs and Birds of a Feather then wend your way through all eight Maisie mysteries including A Lesson in Secrets.  The last installment doesn’t live up to the early novels but it’s still an enjoyable escape.
Rating: 3 stars      
Category: Fiction, Chinese Carryout, Mysteries and Thrillers

Publication date: March 22, 2011

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