Book Review: A Lesson in Secrets by Jaqueline Winspear

It has been a while since I have written a review.  I’m still reading, don’t worry; it’s just that the books I’m reading are things called Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Learning and e-Learning and the Science of Instruction, so … yeah.  Maybe I’ll review those some day.

Anyway, to the subject at hand — the latest Maisie Dobbs book.  Since I first received the third book in this series, Pardonable Lies, I’ve been hooked on this historical-fiction-mystery series.  It’s set in a pretty fascinating time period — the early 1930s, just before the Second World War began.  It details the rise in status of a young woman who is quite the investigator, who rises above both her station and her gender to become a rousing success in her field.  The mysteries are fascinating, the characters are believable, and all in all the series is one that it’s very easy to get hooked on.  I know I have become a bit addicted to the books in the last almost six years.

Book eight finds Maisie Dobbs adjusting to her new life.  She has just inherited a rather substantial fortune thanks to her mentor, the late Dr. Maurice Blanche.  She has also inherited a fairly permanent assignment with the British government, working with His Majesty’s Secret Service to root out threats to the crown.  Her first assignment is to go under cover at a Cambridge college to determine if there are any activities going on there that the government should be concerned about.  Of course, this is a Maisie Dobbs book, so that assignment is immediately complicated — in this case, by the apparent murder of the school’s founder.  Maisie is immediately involved in both her investigation for the government AND the investigation of the murder, because she sees the two as intimately related.

In addition to this (as if it isn’t enough!), Maisie’s personal life is growing increasingly complex.  Her budding relationship with James Compton is a bit stressed, with his trip to Canada lasting much longer than he had intended.  Her father is courting, her assistant Billy is about to become a father again, and her new secretary is convinced that her husband’s death was more than just an accident.  Can Maisie keep all of these plates spinning, or will everything come crashing down around her in chaos?

Dedicated readers know the answer to that one; the truly fascinating part of these books is the HOW as much as anything.

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