In the third novel of this unique and masterly crime series, a deathbed plea from his wife leads Sir Cecil Lawton, KC, to seek the aid of Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. As Maisie soon learns, Agnes Lawton never accepted that her aviator son was killed in the Great War, a torment that led her not only to the edge of madness but also to the doors of those who practice the dark arts and commune with the spirit world. Determined to prove Ralph Lawton either dead or alive, Maisie is plunged into a case that tests her spiritual strength, as well as her regard for her mentor, Maurice Blanche. The mission will bring her to France and reunite her with her old friend Priscilla Evernden, who lost three brothers in the war, one of whom has an intriguing connection to the case.
It’s always a bit odd reviewing a book in a series. Do I talk about the series expecting any blog readers out there to know about the characters and their background? Or do I have to begin at the beginning?
Good thing I actually have a post about the first Maisie Dobbs book, right here! So I can cheat a little bit.
But here’s what you might need to know about Maisie Dobbs:
– she was a nurse during the First World War
– she honed her investigative skills while under the mentorship of Dr Maurice Blanche and now runs her own agency
– her first job was as a maid, and her employer catches her reading in the library and sends her off to school. She’s a bit of a prodigy
– this book is set in 1930s London.
Pardonable Lies is the third book in the series.
And Maisie has not one but three mysteries to uncover. Two men lost at war. One young girl accused of murder. How will she manage?
To make things worse, there seems to be someone following her and trying to kill her!
That always makes things exciting.
And it is interesting to see how Winspear is developing her character – as well as bits about the other side characters that feature in Maisie’s life. Winspear has a good eye for details and setting the scene when it comes to 1930s London. Often it is subtle, the street scenes, the clothes Maisie wears, little details like bandages and newfangled technology like long-distance phone calls! I mean, how did detectives or the police manage then without recording devices?
But while I was reading this book, I had another on my mind that I was also reading (why yes, I always have several different books going at once – do you?). A different crime series, involving a rather precocious youth.
I know it’s unfair to compare Maisie Dobbs to Flavia de Luce. Flavia is young – a child really although if she heard me say that she would likely slip some poison into my next cup of tea or something more devious like eye drops. But she is so much fun to read about, and I feel like she’s become a good (imaginary) friend of mine. The Flavia de Luce series is one that I never hesitate to jump on, grab hold off and lose myself in.
And Maisie, well, compared to Flavia, there is an aloofness. Her work is her life. Sure the work might be exciting, thrilling even, but when she’s not working, I’m not all that sure who she is sometimes.
Again, as I mentioned, it’s not entirely fair. I’ve read seven Flavia books and just three Maisie Dobbs. So I’m still in the process of getting to know Maisie Dobbs.
She kind of reminds me of House MD, yes, the TV doctor addicted to Vicodin, whose love is not the medicine or the healing of the patients but about the puzzle. Especially when she talks like this:
“Sometimes it’s as if truth were like a festering wound, ready to break open and be cleansed. It seems as if the information I am seeking is just there, lying in front of me on the path, asking to be discovered, asking for a kind of solution – or absolution. Then again, it can evade me, like a small splinter that escapes under the skin. Then I have to wait, be patient. I have to wait for it to fester.”
One of the best things about reading a book like this is beginning to understand how life must have been like as a woman in those times, a single woman, a career woman, a woman who has come up in the world and risen above her ranks. It has such wonderful historical details of life during that time that the less-than-stellar plot resolution is easily forgiven. Hopefully the later books in the series – there are seven more for a total of ten books – will give me a better complete picture of Maisie Dobbs!
Pardonable Lies is a well-researched, atmospheric, fun read. I would encourage those who are interested in historical fiction and less traditional mystery series to give Maisie Dobbs a try.
Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Leaving Everything Most Loved, Elegy for Eddie, A Lesson in Secrets, The Mapping of Love and Death, Among the Mad, and An Incomplete Revenge, as well as four other national bestselling Maisie Dobbs novels. Her standalone novel, The Care and Management of Lies, was also a New York Times bestseller. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha, Alex, and Macavity awards for the first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs, which was also nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and was a New York Times Notable Book.
I received this book from its publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review