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Monday, April 25, 2011

The Maisie Readalong Concludes with A Lesson in Secrets

Book Club Girl's  Mad For Maisie Readalong concludes with the eighth novel in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series, A Lesson in Secrets.

We've followed Maisie from her days as a maid in Lady Rowan Compton's estate, through her schooling and tutelage under the brilliant Dr. Maurice Blanche, her WWI service as a nurse in France, opening up her own private investigations/psychologist office, and now working undercover for the British secret intelligence as a university instructor in the current novel.

Maisie takes on the job working to discover if there are any terrorists at the University. She hesitates at first, but remembers her late mentor Maurice's words to her that she needs to be open to the unexpected. While at the school, the dean is murdered, and Maisie finds herself assisting the police in their investigation as well.

The dean had written a famous children's book about soldiers putting their weapons down and refusing to fight. There were rumors that this book had caused a large mutiny in France during WWI, with British and German soldiers laying down their weapons. This book plays a big part in the mystery, one that is intriguing indeed.

I liked how this novel not only took Maisie out of her comfort zone of work, but forced her to face personal challenges as well. Her friend Sandra lost her husband, and Maisie took Sandra into her home and offered her a job. Sandra uses her position with Maisie to investigate her husband's death. I would like to see Sandra stay on as part of Maisie's office staff.

Maisie worries about her father's health, and his refusal to move in with her at Maurice's home frustrates her. It is ironic that Maisie is so in tuned with other people's secrets and feelings, yet her father is able to hide something big from her.

Billy Beale, her faithful assistant, is stubborn as well. Maisie has offered Billy a downpayment on a new home, one that will change his family's life forever and for the better, but Billy is hesitant to accept. The men in Maisie's life are frustrating her.

And then there is her boyfriend James Compton, son of her benefactor, Lady Rowan. He is supposed to be away on business in Toronto, but Maisie finds out he has been in London. Is their relationship in trouble?

I always learn something of historical interest in these novels, and in this one, we learn that women played a big part in wartime intelligence.  Over 10,000 women worked for the Secret Service in London during the war, reporting troop movements, sabotaging the German enemy, and consorting with the enemy to get information. I will definitely be looking for information on this subject.

The rise of the German Socialist Party, the Nazis, is on the horizon, and we see the beginning of the debate between the Brits who, weary of the lingering WWI problems, do not to wish to get involved in Germany's issues, and those Brits who see the dangers of the Nazi Party and Hitler's rise. I can't wait to see where Winspear  takes this in future books.

I really enjoyed reading the Maisie Dobbs series; I like Maisie as a strong female character, one young ladies can look up to. Not only is Maisie interesting, but the secondary characters are as well, and Winspear introduces many new ones in each book, rather than just relying on the ones we already know.

I've learned much about Britain following WWI, an era I was unfamiliar with. It seems that while the methods of war have changed over the decades, the effects of it on the people who fought it, and those who love them, remain the same.

If you like historical fiction with a strong female protagonist, and cozy mysteries, I highly recommend the Maisie Dobbs series. Thanks to Book Club Girl for hosting this fun, rewarding challenge.

I give A Lesson in Secrets 4 of 5 stars, the same score I give the entire series.


  1. I am sad that the read-a-long is over and we have to wait a year for the next one!!

  2. I fear we will suffer from Maisie withdrawal!

  3. I only skimmed your review, because I'm not yet up to A LESSON IN SECRETS. I started reading Maisie only just this year (have read the first 3), and absolutely love the character and all I'm learning about the Great War (and the years after) and its lingering effects.

    I'll be joining you in Maisie withdrawal in a few months ....

  4. I'm missing Maisie already and learning about the after effects of the Great War reignited my love of history.