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Mystery Week: ARC Review: A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

Submitted by on March 19, 2011 – 2:00 pmOne Comment

Author: Jacqueline Winspear
Book: A Lesson in Secrets
Release: March 22, 2011
Series: Maisie Dobbs 8
Source: NetGalley
Purchase: - Book Depository 

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 inter-ests of His Majesty’s government.”

When the college’s controversial pacifist founder and principal 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.

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.

*Possible spoilers for previous books in series*
As usual, it is always a pleasure to pick up a new installment in this brilliant series by Jacqueline Winspear, though this time there was no ‘picking up’ involved – I received an early review copy through Net Galley.

Like with other books in this series, A Lesson in Secrets picks up a few months after The Mapping of Love and Death – Maisie is still in a relationship with James Compton who spends most of this book away on business in Canada, her assistant Billy Beale is about to become a father again with all the worries and concerns that involves and Maisie herself has had a major change in circumstances after her mentor Maurice leaves her his entire estate. All in all, a positive start.

Then Maisie gets roped in to do some investigative work for the Secret Intelligence Services – take up a job as a junior lecturer at a Cambridge college and give her superiors an “in” to possible subversive activities there. The college in question? headed by a man who during WWI wrote a controversial children’s book. But before Maisie even gets comfortable in her new position, the controversial principal Greville Liddicote, is murdered and the suspects abound. Meanwhile back in london, Sandra, a former maid at Ebury Place is in trouble – her husband has died in what seems to be an accident, but Sandra has other suspicions and she decides to uncover what some very powerful people would prefer remained concealed.

A Lesson in Secrets was not my favorite book in the series – the writing was exceptional as always and the story was interesting and engaging but I felt that this was an ‘in between’ book. The kind of book that often comes up throughout a series when one major plot line is completed and the story is now taking a new or slightly different direction. This is understandable as Maisie has gone through so much – especially in the last two books but I felt that both the mystery side of the story and Maisie’s personal life weren’t explored as thoroughly as in previous books.

If A Mapping of Love and Death put an emphasis on Maisie’s life, then A Lesson in Secrets puts more of an emphasis on Maisie’s career – the mystery side of things. The Cambridge mystery was quite intriguing but it felt as if the London side of things was a bit of a distraction and visa versa. By the end of the book I kept thinking I was missing out on something because on the one hand – on the cambridge side of things we received quite a lot of info and suspicions but it seemed that many of the lines of investigation were abandoned just as they were getting interesting and in London Billy was working on Sandra’s case but we really didn’t get to see much of the investigation – just the solution.

This is why I believe (and I might be totally wrong) that we may be seeing more of the plots presented in A Lesson in Secrets in future books. Maisie is definitely expanding her investigative skills to a more hush hush line of work and this might be a foreshadowing of what she will be doing in the run-up to the next war.

As for Maisie’s personal life – after all the progress we saw in The Mapping of Love and Death it seems that it was right for Maisie to have some time to herself to examine where she wants to go next, and the reader gets to share all her internal conflict over James Compton and where to go next. I was surprised that the book didn’t focus more on Maisie’s changed circumstances – it must have been quite a change for Maisie yet she seems to take it all in with ease.

All in all this was a solid addition to a marvelous series, and while it wasn’t my favorite, I really did enjoy it and am as always, left on tenterhooks waiting to find out what Maisie will be doing next.

Happy Reading everybody…

Also Reviewed By: Leeswamme BlogRundpinneLiterary Treats

Noa first fell in love with books when she discovered 100 acre wood and its inhabitants. To this day, the last pages of “The House at Pooh Corner” make her cry. In a good way. From“Calvin and Hobbes” to “The Iliad and the Odyssey” and lets not forget “Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes”. Biographies, mysteries, history books and romances all have a place on her bookshelves. Who needs furniture? This 29 year old singleton’s dream is to invent the zero-calorie chocolate. But until that day arrives, she tries to create sweet confections with whatever chocolate she can find. An MA in conflict studies (need a mediator?) means Noa loves a good debate, especially when she wins. If she were in charge, books would be free for everyone.
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