Review

Messenger of Truth: A Maisie Dobbs Novel

by Jacqueline Winspear



Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs historical mysteries have
consistently drawn comparisons with the work of P. D. James, Agatha
Christie and Sue Grafton. Her heroine, "psychologist and
investigator" Maisie Dobbs, not only uses unorthodox methods to
solve her crimes but also exhibits an emotional depth and
complexity unusual in most fictional sleuths.

Set in England between the two World Wars, the Maisie Dobbs novels
have also shown an unusual understanding of the political, cultural
and economics milieu of the times. They illustrate, often through
the character of Maisie herself, the demons of World War I that
continue to haunt (Maisie herself is a WWI military nurse whose
betrothed was incapacitated during the war) even as the specter of
World War II is looming on the horizon. This inexorable march
toward the second World War is especially relevant in Winspear's
latest historical mystery, in which the growing Nazi threat plays
an integral role in the plot.

In 1931, England itself is in the midst of a serious economic
depression. War veterans are unable to find work, and deadly
diseases go untreated because of lack of funding for adequate
medical care. The economic disparity particularly enrages Maisie,
especially when it strikes her beloved assistant Billy's family
right at the heart. She speaks passionately for the
disenfranchised: "The war is being waged...only the war is here and
now, and it is a war against poverty, against disease and against
injustice."

In her latest case, though, Maisie is forced to take on an
investigation seemingly at odds with her moral principles. A
certain class of people in England and America still has money to
burn, money to spend on seemingly frivolous things like
entertainment, luxury cars and artwork. Capitalizing on that market
is Nick Bassington-Hope, whose controversial artwork often reveals
his own complex feelings about the Great War. When Nick is
discovered dead in the gallery on the eve of unveiling his
masterpiece, Nick's sister, the infamous journalist Georgina
Bassington-Hope, enlists Maisie's help to discover whether Nick's
death was an accident, as it was ruled by Scotland Yard, or
something more insidious.

Soon Maisie is sneaking a peek into a social class of which she's
never been a part. She's frequenting all-night clubs, socializing
with intellectuals and politicians, listening to live jazz music,
and dancing the night away, all while using her unusual mix of hard
evidence and intuition to delve into her investigation. Before she
knows it, Maisie is uncovering evidence of smuggling, adultery,
gambling addiction and betrayal. But who really killed Nick
Bassington-Hope, and where did he hide his reputed
masterpiece?

One of the most rewarding aspects of reading Jacqueline Winspear's
Maisie Dobbs series is the gradual fleshing out of this fascinating
main character. In that aspect, MESSENGER OF TRUTH will not
disappoint. Maisie, still recovering from a nervous breakdown,
undergoes several revelations about herself and her society even as
she solves her latest mystery. Even though the mystery plot itself
is not always the main focus of the novel, readers who enjoy
historical fiction, well-crafted characters and genuinely engaging
stories will be absorbed by this consistently fine series.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on January 7, 2011

Messenger of Truth: A Maisie Dobbs Novel
by Jacqueline Winspear

  • Publication Date: June 12, 2007
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Picador
  • ISBN-10: 0312426852
  • ISBN-13: 9780312426859