Psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs is a rarity in early twentieth-century London --- and in the pages of detective fiction. Cambridge-educated, independent, and dedicated to her work, the spirited sleuth is the owner of a thriving London detective agency, drives a red convertible, regularly assists Scotland Yard, and uses her considerable skills to unravel even the most baffling of mysteries.
In PARDONABLE LIES, the third adventure in the series, Maisie tackles not one but three cases. A 13-year-old girl, Avril Jarvis, is being held by Scotland Yard, charged with murder. Maisie is convinced that Avril is innocent and is determined to prove it. Next, Maisie is retained by Sir Cecil Lawton to find evidence verifying that his son, Ralph, perished in World War I more than a decade earlier. The aviator's body was never recovered, and on her deathbed Sir Cecil's wife --- who never accepted that her son was dead --- extracted a promise from him to lay the matter to rest once and for all. When Maisie's old college friend, Priscilla Partridge, finds out that she is looking into the death of a soldier, she asks Maisie to do the same for her brother. He, too, died during the war, and Priscilla has no knowledge of the circumstances surrounding it. These three seemingly disparate cases, as Maisie comes to discover, overlap in unexpected ways.
Maisie's quest for information about the two soldiers leads her to France, where the journey takes a personal turn when she visits a site that continues to haunt her. Thirteen years ago, Maisie was a nurse on the front lines in World War I. An attack on the makeshift hospital where she was serving scarred her emotionally and physically, and robbed her of the man she loved, Dr. Simon Lynch, who is broken in body and mind. Here she hopes to, as her father says, "slay her dragons." While in France, Maisie also learns some startling facts about her mentor and former employer, Maurice Blanche.
PARDONABLE LIES finds Maisie navigating treacherous ground, testing her detecting skills, her moral integrity, and her spiritual strength. Like the two previous books in the series, MAISIE DOBBS and BIRDS OF A FEATHER, this novel has as its backdrop the shadow of the Great War. History buffs will revel in the evocation of the time and place --- London in the year 1930, a city still reeling from the treacheries of war and unaware that another conflict looms on the horizon.
Jacqueline Winspear has created a truly engaging series with the Maisie Dobbs novels. The historical accuracy, compelling plotlines, and vivid descriptions make for smart, appealing page-turners. But the key to their success is the character of Maisie. She's everything a heroine in mystery fiction should be --- brave, complex, hopeful, and beguiling enough to leave the reader wanting only one thing: more Maisie.
Reviewed by Shannon McKenna on June 27, 2006
Pardonable Lies: A Maisie Dobbs Novel