Published by Henry Holt and Co.
Kindle edition $9.99
For bookclubgirl's Mad for Maisie Read-A-Long, I read the fourth book in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series, Messenger of Truth, which is a bit of a departure from the first three books. Many of the characters that we've come to know- Maisie's dad, her mentor Dr. Maurice Blanche, her friend Priscilla, her boyfriend Dr. Dene- are reduced to cameo roles in this story. Only Billy Beale, Maisie's assistant, has much of a storyline, and his is sad indeed.
Maisie seems dissatisfied with her life. She has a new home, but no real friends, and her relationship with Dr. Dene is taking second place to her career. When Georgina, a war journalist, hires her to find out whether her artist brother Nick died in an accident at an art gallery or was murdered, Maisie becomes enmeshed in a new world of artists.
Georgina introduces Maisie to her artist parents, Nick's artist friends, a gallery owner and an American art collector. Maisie is very organized and literal minded, as established by Winspear's frequent references to Maisie's index cards, colored pencils, and the case map that Maisie creates with "facts, thoughts, feelings, hunches and questions". (The case map seems like a forerunner of the murder board we see on today's cop shows, like TNT's The Closer.) This art world is a departure for her.
The war again plays a part in the book, as Nick and his friends worked in propaganda, creating posters for the war effort. Nick also fought in the war alongside his sister Nolly's husband, who died in the war. On the night Nick died, he was ready to unveil his masterpiece, a work about the war that some people would rather he never painted. Through's Nick's art, he becomes a messenger of truth.
I like how Winspear sprinkles in clues to some of the mysteries, and although I have to say that while I have figured out some of them, (such as the circumstances of Nolly's husband's death) which makes me feel smart when I am right, I am always surprised by the big reveal of the murderer at the end; it is never who I thought it was.
Winspear also more directly addresses the disparity of the wealthy and the poor in this novel. Billy and his family struggle, and even take in another family who needs help, but they are grateful that Billy has a job when so many others do not. Maisie found
"she was becoming resentful of the very people who provided her bread and butter and the roof over her head... When she considered the money that passed hands, the seeming inequity of a society where people would spend thousands on a painting, while a child would die for want of a few pounds of medical attention, she was left with a sour taste in her mouth."By the end of the novel, Maisie's restlessness and melancholy have morphed into a resolve to change her life. I have the feeling that in the next book, we are going to see a revitalized Maisie in her personal life.
Rating 4 of 5 stars