Jenn's Reviews > A Lesson in Secrets

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear
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's review
Dec 23, 11

bookshelves: bought-2011, e-book, fiction, mystery, novel, read-2011
Read in December, 2011

In the eighth entry in the Maisie Dobbs series, Maisie is drawn into the British Secret Service again as fascism begins to flash in Germany and even England. When she's asked to take a position as a philosophy instructor at a controversial, peace-loving college in Cambridge, she runs into not only possible threats to the state but a murder -- all in her first week.

The mystery mostly concerns the comings, goings, and politics of the professors at the College of St. Francis. Founded by Greville Liddicotte (yes, all the names are this rough this time), the college was founded on the idea that peaceful negotiation is always better than war. It's facing an interesting challenge, as Nazism begins its rise in Germany and even England, and this makes for a fascinating philosophical background (if, at times, a very loose thread for the story to follow). When Liddicotte is murdered, his own motives for founding the school become as mysterious as the identity of the killer, and Maisie Dobbs is determined to sort it all out.

Behind all of this are the storylines continuing from the last two books: Maisie's budding romance with Viscount James Compton; the challenges that Maisie's assistent Billy Beale and his family face as a new baby comes to their overcrowded home; and a surprise visitor from her old service days who once again needs Maisie's help and understanding.

It's those last stories that make this book better than just average. The ongoing growth of Maisie's character was actually a pleasant surprise, and the best tension, in this book. The mystery itself is secondary; the state secrets part of the story was woefully underdeveloped and seems to exist only to allow the author to show that Maisie is ahead of her time in worrying about Nazis and fascism. The suspense of whether Maisie will torpedo her own relationship or navigate the tightrope between well-meaning over-involvement with her assistant's trouble and actually being helpful, however, is engaging. Not all of these loose ends are tied up completely at the end of the book, but the epilogue provides enough answers that I'm satisfied for a while.

It's a sign of how much I enjoy this series that I put off reading this book for several months because I knew that once I read it, there were no more books in the series to read. Now, though, the #9 book has been announced for release in March 2012: Elegy for Eddie, here I come!
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Reading Progress

12/22/2011 page 150
47.0%

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