Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book Review: A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

In Jacqueline Winspear’s 8th Maisie Dobbs novel, set in 1936 England, Maisie agrees to go undercover for the British Secret Service as a professor of philosophy at the College of St. Francis in Cambridge. The Secret Service wants to know if everything is above board at the College. When the College’s founder is murdered, Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. While not asked to help in the murder investigation, Maisie finds the two investigations crossing paths on numerous occasions.
Maisie determines that one of the College’s professors is a Nazi sympathizer as is the son of the College’s main benefactor. While Maisie isn’t sure that has anything to do with the death of the founder, it may have since the college was founded on the principal of worldwide peace.
In addition to trying to complete her assigned tasks for the Secret Service, teaching her philosophy classes, and helping to find a murderer, Maisie’s personal life continues on. The man she’s stepping out with has been sent to Canada on family business, but Maisie determines a letter that should have had a Canadian postmark was actually postmarked in London.  A woman, Sandra, who was once in service with Maisie's father doesn’t believe her husband’s death was an accident and is arrested for breaking and entering. When released on bail, Sandra goes on the lam.
Winspear has created an outing for Maisie Dobbs that, while moving along at a fast clip, allows Maisie, and the reader, to follow every clue that comes her way. There are as many twists and turns to the story as in the warren of streets in London itself.
By the end of the book, Winspear has tied up all the loose ends with satisfactory explanations, the murder has been solved, and Maisie has warned her superior in the Secret Service that the real threat to England are not the Bolsheviks, but, rather the Nazis. Her warnings, though, may have fallen on deaf ears. She’s even found out the whys of her young man’s having mailed a letter in London when he was supposed to be in Canada (of all the loose ends, this was the least satisfying solution).

All in all, this was an excellent addition to the Maisie Dobbs series.

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