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book 48

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear


This is the eighth book in the Maisie Dobbs series and it’s another solid entry into the series. Set post WWI, in England in the early 1930’s, Maisie was once a young maid in a wealthy household and was sent by the lady of the house to be schooled. She had an excellent mentor in the psychologist Dr. Maurice Blanche and she went on to be a nurse in the Great War. Upon returning home, she turned her skills and Maurice’s lessons to private detective work. She has recently inherited a nice home and a large bankroll and was seen ‘walking out’ with James Compton, the heir to the wealthy household she started out in service to.

While Maisie is still getting used to her money, she is tapped by Huntley in Secret Service to use her connection to Maurice to get a job at the College of St. Francis, a college started only recently by Grenville Liddicote and it is a pacifist college. Liddicote wrote a children’s book that was banned and suppressed by the British government (which made me wonder if Winspear timed this novel with the 75th anniversary of The Story of Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf which had almost every aspect attributed to Liddicote’s book). Huntley and the British government are worried that the Red Menace might be taking a foothold here.

Maisie gets the job as a philosophy professor but no sooner does she start than Liddicote is murdered. The suspects are numerous. There is the German-born Roth, Liddicote’s right hand man and his staunchest support in peace activism, Francesca Thomas, another professor, the mysterious Rosemary Linden who was Liddicote’s secretary and disappeared the day after his death and Headley Jr and Sr, who support the school monetarily. McFarlane and Stratton, who is very attracted to Maisie gets called in to solve the murder. Maisie isn’t’ to help but her work and the murder are linked.

There’s also a subplot that I’m fairly sure only exists because this plot line keeps her assistant Billy completely out of the picture with nothing to do, ditto her friend Priscilla. Sandra, another former maid at the Comptons and a friend of Maisie’s just lost her husband. Maisie puts her to work for her and Priscilla (just a way to show Maisie now has money) Sandra breaks into the auto mechanic shop where he worked to prove he was murdered then disappears. Billy is set to find her and if there is foul play. Also, Maisie is busy trying to buy one of those new governmental revitalizing homes for Billy and his family (again, keeps Billy in the story and keeps showing us she has cash). A third subplot is James is supposed to be Canada but Maisie thinks he’s back in England and not telling her.

These only distract from the main mystery a little and the mystery is a good one. I enjoyed it a lot. Guessed most of it but that’s all right, that’s the fun of it. I liked it a lot with the exception of the subject matter. I just hate politics and as you can imagine this has plenty. Nazism, Communism, Pacifism, etc etc. I do hope, however, in the next book the ‘Maisie has money now’ sledgehammer will be left behind.


Books: 22 Manga : 26
Tags: historical mysteries
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