of the Maisie Dobbs Series
Henry Holt, Aug
Reviewed by Joy
Maisie Dobbs isn’t just a detective, she is also a doctor of the soul. Our first sight of Maisie in PARDONABLE LIES is when she is asked by the police to get a suspect to talk. Avril Jarvis has stubbornly refused to say a word to anyone, but her clothes are bloody and her prints are all over the murder knife. Maisie not only gets Avril to talk, she also hopes to clear her of murder.
By the end of the first chapter we know Maisie as a caring woman of great sensitivity and serenity. This impression stays with us even as Maisie takes on two more cases, both investigations of young men missing in Europe since the Great War, both listed as dead. Maisie, who was a war nurse in France, has made peace with herself about that terrible time, but now her sealed-off memories are floating back. She won’t be able to avoid them; her two war cases require her to return to France.
All these years since the war, Maisie has used work as her protection against memories. She attracts friends, good people who would like to be closer to her, but her trained mind will only allow them so close and no closer. Now her friends are worrying because her defenses are no longer working in her favor. Maisie is overseeing her assistant Billy’s investigations into Avril’s case; running up against people who don’t want her to understand the missing Ralph Lawton; tracing the disappearing war career of Peter Evernden; but all the while, nightmares eat at her. And now she has a fourth case. Someone is trying to kill her.
The initial book of this series is titled MAISIE DOBBS; I read it for background. As I began reading MAISIE DOBBS, the first impression that struck me was elegance – an elegant woman, elegantly written. It becomes clear as we go that she has elegance of soul, as well. Maisie makes an indelible impression on a reader. It is the atmosphere she carries with her, a tranquility that tugs at the potential serenity in each of us. Maisie’s grace of mind comes from the author’s own understanding. Author Jacqueline Winspear is a “personal/life coach,” as she describes herself, and many of her techniques of understanding and relating to people have been given for Maisie’s use. When Maisie loses that tranquility, it is a sadness to us as well.
The Maisie Dobbs series is peopled with a heartwarming cast of supporting characters – and I mean “supporting” literally. Maisie began life as the daughter of a costermonger; her father walked the streets selling vegetables out of a cart. From her first job as an under housemaid, she began acquiring the friends who are still with us in PARDONABLE LIES. Her mentors are the impulsive Lady Rowan, yearning to help someone; and Dr. Maurice Blanche, her tutor of many years. The blind Dr. Basil Khan showed her her serenity, and helps her find her way back to it. Priscilla Evernden, friend since university, chivies her into contact with life. Lamed veteran Billy Bealeher assistant, provides her with every help he can give her, and Dr. Andrew Dene – well, there is hope for the future. If Maisie gets the courage to reach out past the terrors in her past, there is a garden of friendship waiting to heal her.
MAISIE DOBBS was deservedly a bestseller, followed by BIRDS OF A FEATHER. Now PARDONABLE LIES explores the reasons for secrets: when should one talk, and when stay quiet? The series has won seven awards so far, but there is still much that can be done among Maisie and her friends. With a heroine this inspiring and lovable, it is to be hoped the Maisie Dobbs series will continue for many years to come.
August 2005 Review, revised Sep 2005
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