Friday, August 10, 2007

Mysterious summer reading

Messenger of Truth / Jacqueline Winspear
New York : Henry Holt, c2006

I was sent this one as a review copy, and though it took me a few weeks to get to it, it is a great summer read. The series, of which this is the fourth installment, features Maisie Dobbs, Private Investigator. She is a wonderful character, a nurse in the war who has set up as a P.I. now the Great War has ended. It is set in London and has a very English sensibility. It reminds me a little of the wonderful BBC series Foyle's War, although it is set a few years later, in 1931. In Foyle's War, police Inspector Foyle deals with the social turmoil that arises on the home front during the War. In this series, Maisie Dobbs encounters the aftereffects of the Great War on English society. This particular novel also begins to discuss the difficulties arising with the beginnings of the Depression; overcrowding, poverty, social instability. She also realizes how this is affecting different classes of society in very different ways.

The story begins with the death of artist and war veteran Nick Bassington-Hope, who fell from his scaffolding the night before his first big exhibition. Scotland Yard considers it accidental death; Nick's sister Georgiana can not accept that, so hires Maisie. Her investigation takes her into the world of louche artists as well as into the upper reaches of society. The mystery itself is not as important as the social issues and period setting of the novel; if you're a fan of Maisie Dobbs already, you will likely enjoy this one, if not, I think it would help to start with the first book in the series, entitled Maisie Dobbs, and work your way forward. The development of Maisie's character is a large element in these stories, and is especially enjoyable when you begin with her introduction. A good choice for a lazy weekend, especially if you already know you like this period in English life.


  1. I haven't read "Messenger of Truth", but I do agree that "Maisie Dobbs"(which I have read and enjoyed) is reminiscent of "Foyles War". Both give details of the living and working conditions of ordinary people as well as dealing with crimes to be solved.

  2. I love Maisie Dobbs! But I haven't read the second book yet, so I'll have to wait to read the fourth.

  3. I really appreciate that when reviewing this book you specify how the book fits into the series and how it would be best to approach the series if you haven't read it before!

  4. This sounds like exactly the sort of mystery series I like best! You might also like Laurie R. King. She has two series, though, and the one most similar to this is her Mary Russell series. The other one features a modern-times lesbian cop in San Francisco, also a really gripping series, but very different from the one you write about here.

  5. Very nice review, Melanie. I have read the first 3 in this series and have the 4th languishing on my shelf.

    We visited a bit of your beautiful Ontario this summer. We'll have to return because I didn't get my fill.

  6. Dewey - I love the Mary Russell mysteries! They are so very English, and Mary is a wonderful character.

    Booklogged - glad you enjoyed your time in Ontario. It is quite lovely,isn't it!

    BooksPlease, Dorothy, Heather - hope you'll like this one when you get to it. I like the focus on ordinary people in that society.

  7. Maisie Dobbs is a recent discovery for me and I love her too. I began at the beginning and read all four in record time. I think that Winspear balances and interconnects all of the elements--the mystery, the character development, and the social and historical detail--beautifully.


Thanks for stopping by ~ I always enjoy hearing your comments so please feel free to leave some!