Monday, April 25, 2011

Review: A Lesson in Secrets

Summary: Maisie Dobbs' first assignment for the British Secret Service takes her undercover to Cambridge as a professor—and leads to the investigation of a web of activities being conducted by the emerging Nazi Party. 

In the summer of 1932, Maisie Dobbs' career takes an exciting new turn when she accepts an undercover assignment directed by Scotland Yard's Special Branch and the Secret Service. Posing as a junior lecturer, she is sent to a private college in Cambridge to monitor any activities "not in the interests of His Majesty's government." 

When the college's controversial pacifist founder and principal, Greville Liddicote, is murdered, Maisie is directed to stand back as Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane and Detective Chief Inspector Richard Stratton spearhead the investigation. She soon discovers, however, that the circumstances of Liddicote's death appear inextricably linked to the suspicious comings and goings of faculty and students under her surveillance. 

To unravel this web, Maisie must overcome a reluctant Secret Service, discover shameful hidden truths about Britain's conduct during the Great War, and face off against the rising powers of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei—the Nazi Party—in Britain. 

As the storm clouds of World War II gather on the horizon, this pivotal chapter in the life of Maisie Dobbs foreshadows new challenges and powerful enemies facing the psychologist and investigator—and will engage new readers and loyal fans of this "outstanding" series (Marilyn Stasio, New York Times Book Review).-- Harper

When I began Book Club Girls  Mad for Maisie readalong a few months ago, I admit that I was more than a little concerned about being able to read eight Maisie Dobbs books in a little over two months. However, I immediately fell in love with this series and I can now say that I truly am Mad for Maisie. This might sound a bit odd, but reading the eighth novel A LESSON IN SECRETS by Jacqueline Winspear was almost bittersweet for me because I realized that I won't be able to just pick up another Maisie book in a week or two. I am caught up in this series and will have to wait until the next book is released!

I thoroughly enjoyed A LESSON IN SECRETS, but that shouldn't come as any surprise to you considering that I have pretty much loved all of the books in this series. Once again, I thought the mystery was a good one and kept me guessing --  although I did think I had it solved from the very start. Maisie begins working undercover at a local college to report on questionable activities against the Crown when she surprisingly discovers a dead body. Of course, there were some other minor mysteries too that Maisie and her associate were working on. As I read the novel, I began doubting myself and constantly changing my mind; and that's what one of the things that made this book so good to me. In fact, I thought A LESSON IN SECRETS was a little more mystery-focused than some of the books.

I do love the mystery parts of these novels, but I admit that I hold a close place in my heart for Maisie; and I love all the story lines about her personal life. For the past eight novels, I've seen how much she's grown as a character -- from a little girl working as a maid to a confident 30-something year old woman. She's had a incredibly difficult life, dealing with many tragic losses; however, in A LESSON IN SECRETS, I really thought the true Maisie came through! She was confident and definitely a little more relaxed and she was also admitting her feelings towards a certain man. In addition, I loved how she channeled Maurice and found herself helping those less fortunate with her new-found wealth.

Since the Maisie books take place during the time period between WWI and WWII, the after effects of the war have been a huge theme in every novel. I have loved how Ms. Winspear has explored so many of the ways that a war can affect not only soldiers but also the families who lost loved ones. In addition, I started to notice a few books ago that there were many changes occurring for Europe and some of the characters were even sensing that another conflict might be on the horizon. In A LESSON IN SECRETS, Ms. Winspear introduced the rise of the Nazi Party and Hitler's destructive ideas. Of course, Maisie sensed that the Nazi party might be more of a threat than many initially thought -- because Maisie's just smart like that!

I finish this review with a bit of sadness because I'm going to miss Maisie. I absolutely love this series -- it's one of my favorites; and I am definitely looking forward to the next novel! If you haven't discovered this series yet, then what are you waiting for?

Thanks to the publisher for sending a copy of this book.

Mystery Mondays is a "somewhat" regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


iwriteinbooks said...

Oh, I just finished this and my Sunday post was about how much I'll miss Maisie!! I can't believe I've reached the end, thus far. I love picking up a series that is already in full swing because I have the next book on hand...except when I catch up with the author! Glad you're enjoying these. They've definitely been a favorite for me, too.

Beth F said...

I still have to fulfill my promise to read the first Maisie by BEA. Ha!

Beth Hoffman said...

I love reading your Maisie reviews!

bermudaonion said...

Don't you just hate it when you run out of books in a series you love? I've got to start this one! said...

The only downside to participating in this read-along was now I have no new Maisie books to read. But, golly I love these books.

SuziQoregon said...

Love this series. I too, was reading them fairly close together in order to get caught up to read a review copy of this one. The only sad part about getting caught up with a series you enjoy is the long wait until the next one.

I have really enjoyed the way the story has developed over the past couple of books.