Jacqueline Winspear






Fourth in the Maisie Dobbs series
Henry Holt, Aug 2006
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

England, 1930

Nicholas Bassington-Hope died in a fall before he could finish setting up for his new art show. His twin Georgina believes the fall wasnít an accident, and she will pay generously for Maisie Dobbs to find out what really happened. Nicholas had a knack for saying things in his art that some people didnít want said. Georgina believes her brother may have been about to expose the unwelcome truth about someone, but no one knows where the showís centerpiece is stored.

Maisie Dobbs, Detective and Psychologist, has a unique approach to detection. In addition to the investigation of clues, her technique involves establishing such a strong empathy with the people she interviews that she knows what they are feeling. As she takes on the case of Nicholas Bassington-Hope, however, she is still recovering from the emotional breakdown she suffered in PARDONABLE LIES, when she returned to France where she was injured during World War I. Nicholas, also, was much concerned with events of the Great War. The connection puts Maisie on edge, so that sometimes she isnít able to use her empathy.

Maisieís acquaintance with Georgina leads her to the upper class Bassington-Hope family and to Nicholasís artist friends. There is an American millionaire who offers huge sums for the missing art that was intended for Nicholasís show. A crime gang is mysteriously involved with Nicholasís brother. Between charming people fascinated with nonessentials, and bullies who care about nothing but their own concerns, there is Maisieís assistant Billy, who has genuine, life-and-death problems. Maisieís goal is to resolve the case in such a way that everyone is helped. In the meantime, she feels she is on the verge of a new life for herself, but doesnít know what it may be.

Author Jacqueline Winspear plays fair. In MESSENGER OF TRUTH the psychological evidence is available for those who can put it together and see the motive. Be careful: there are still twists. Maisie needs to understand a segment of society new to her, in order to trace the sequence of events.

The England of this time did not allow for much social movement. As we saw in MAISIE DOBBS and BIRDS OF A FEATHER, few people managed the leap from the lower to the professional class. Maisie had to be unusually intelligent and adaptable, and have a rare knack for attracting friends, to work up from housemaid to her current position. It has given her a sharp eye for the peculiarities of these societies-within-a-society. One thing all these social levels have in common is the lingering, traumatic legacy of the Great War. Nicholas Bassington-Hope represents an indictment of what people can do to each other when they are caught up in war. 

As in each new book of this series, the introductory meeting with Maisie Dobbs is a warm pleasure. I have said repeatedly how much I enjoy Maisieís serene, empathetic company. In MESSENGER OF TRUTH, Maisie hasnít yet worked back toward serenity, but I still enjoy her company. Or maybe it is the company of Jacqueline Winspear that I enjoy. Whichever it is, a Maisie Dobbs mystery is a good place for both a puzzle and an easing of the spirit.

Aug 2006


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