Monday, February 28, 2011

Review: Messenger of Truth

Summary: London, 1931. On the night before the opening of his new and much-anticipated exhibition at a famed Mayfair gallery, Nicholas Bassington-Hope falls to his death. The police declare it an accident, but the dead man's twin sister, Georgina, isn't convinced. When the authorities refuse to conduct further investigations, Georgina takes matters into her own hands, seeking out a fellow graduate from Girton College: Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator.

The case soon takes Maisie to the desolate beaches of Dungeness in Kent, as well as the sinister underbelly of the city's art world. She again uncovers the dark legacy of the Great War in a society struggling to recollect itself in difficult times. But to solve the mystery of the artist's death, she will have to remain steady as the forces behind his death come out of the shadows to silence her.

Jacqueline Winspear delivers another vivid, thrilling, and utterly unique episode in the life of Maisie Dobbs. -- Picador

MESSENGER OF TRUTH by Jacqueline Winspear has proven once again why I'm Mad for Maisie! I know I say something to this effect every time I read another Maisie mystery, but I think this one might have been my favorite. I know what you're thinking....until you read the next one!

I am not alone in my praise of MESSENGER OF TRUTH. It was a Sue Feder/Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery Award Nominee a few years back, and I can certainly see why. Out of the four Maisie books that I've read, I found that MESSENGER OF TRUTH had the best mystery storyline and was probably the most traditional "whodunit." The mystery of this novel just seemed more complex, and a larger portion of the story pertained to the mystery.

I've said in my prior reviews that one of my favorite things about the Maisie Dobbs books was Maisie herself. I loved how these books were technically mysteries, yet delved so deeply into Maisie's character. In fact, the third books in the series, PARDONABLE LIES, really showed a great deal about the effects that Maisie's childhood and war experiences had on her. However, because the last book seemed almost as if the mystery storyline was secondary, I think I appreciated a little break from all of Maisie's issues and more focus on the crime. I think MESSENGER OF TRUTH was a fantastic followup to PARDONABLE LIES.

That's not to say that this book still didn't encompass everything I've grown to love about the Maisie books -- you know, all that Maisie character development. There still were quite a few scenes about Maisie's relationships, and I appreciated seeing how much she has grown throughout the series both as a detective, a friend, and a woman. I admit that I'm still curious about whether Maisie will ever be truly content and feel as if she "fits in" anywhere. I guess I'll learn more in the next four books.

I was very glad to see that Billy, Maisie's assistant, had a more important role in this novel, although what happened to him and his family saddened me. Despite the heartbreak, I did appreciate the storyline about Billy's daughter because it showed reality during this time period. In 1931 London, there were still many poor people who didn't have access (or couldn't afford) to get the health care they needed. Disease was rampant and many children were taken from their families in an effort to contain the sickness. It was all so sad to me to see how many people lived -- people who had sacrificed so much for their country.

Another wonderful part of MESSENGER OF TRUTH (and really all of the Maisie books) was how well the author established the setting. I enjoyed all of Ms. Winspear's descriptions about the people and places and even the artwork and decorating, but I absolutely love how she describes the fashions of the time. I can perfectly picture Maisie and I just adore all of the attention to detail.

As is the case with every Maisie book that I've read, MESSENGER OF TRUTH would be fun to discuss at your next book club meeting. There is a reading guide available which touches upon some very interesting topics. Some things you might want to explore include family dynamics, art and artists, the effects of war, the role of women, loss, grief, and the metaphor of dance. I have no doubt that any group would find a great deal to talk about from this novel.

MESSENGER OF TRUTH is the half-way point in the series, but it's still not too late to join in all the fun at Book Club Girl's Mad for Maisie readalong! (I must admit that I'm happy I've been able to keep up so far!) The books are relatively quick reads so you can try to catch up -- or just jump in and start the next one AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE.


bermudaonion said...

I really want to get this series. It sounds like one I would enjoy and could pass on to my mother to read as well.

Beth Hoffman said...

Julie, this was a terrific review!

Anonymous said...

I agree so much with your review. This may be my favorite Maisie so far. Definitely a good mystery. I'm still loving Maisie.

Sandy Nawrot said...

There are several of you who have done a really good sales job on this series! I think that is the true beauty of series is that you are able to see the protagonist grow and change, begin and end relationships, and generally follow their lives. That is the real highlight to me, beyond the actual mystery.

Anonymous said...

great review Julie and I know - I've been suprised that *I've* been able to keep up - the pressure of being in charge certainly helps ;) But the books are so compulsively readable that I find myself whipping through them, and I think after I'm done with Maisie, I need to read more mysteries, they really keep you going.

Anonymous said...

Ack, I started late and I'm trying to zip up from behind and catch up! I'm about to finish book three, today or tomorrow and then I'll have one more to catch up. They're easy reads, though, thank goodness!