A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear


Historical Mystery

A lesson in secrets A Lesson in SecretsJacqueline Winspear; Harper 2011WorldCatA Lesson in Secrets is a quiet suspense novel with foreshadowing of World War II.

In the summer of 1932, the British Secret approaches Maisie Dobbs to take on a special job. Her contact, Brian Huntley, had worked with Maisie’s mentor. She knows she is taking on more of Maurice’s “other” duties and contacts. She agrees to take on the assignment.

Maisie goes to St. Francis, a private college in Cambridge with a goal of pacifism. They have professors and students from all over Europe. Dr. Gordon Liddicote, the founder, hopes that if all these young  collegiates get to know and understand each other, then they could learn to get along in peace rather than the war that seems imminent. Yet the Secret Service suspects that something is going on there that could be dangerous to national security.

Within Maisie’s first month at St. Francis, Dr. Liddicote is murdered. Maisie is not supposed to have anything to do with the murder investigation because of her other, original assignment. But she can’t stay away. She is careful but still follows her leads when she finds them.

Maisie doesn’t uncover what she expects at first. She does find idealism, though, as well as belief in Adolph Hitler and his fascist movement. There are secrets among students and staff. Something is going on. It may not be what the Secret Service is suspecting but there are more secrets than any of them can believe.

As usual, Jacqueline Winspear’s A Lesson in Secrets is multi layered. There is Maisie’s quest for possibly anti-national feelings on the college campus. There is her discovered enjoyment in teaching. It was something Maisie thought she should do but hadn’t gotten that far. There is Dr Liddicote’s murder. Again, Maisie isn’t supposed to get involved but she can’t help follow her own ideas and suspicions. She has a new secretarial assistant. Her friend Sandra was was just widowed and needs a job. Sandra also is in trouble and Maisie tries to figure out how to get Sandra to open up. There is also Maisie’s relationship with James. He’s in Canada. Her own lifestyle recently underwent a major change and she is still adjusting.

Some of the layers relate. Some reflect each other. And some may be portents of things to come in future Maisie novels. Winspear has tackled a lot in A Lesson in Secrets. While it never gets overly confusing, it is unsatisfactory. There are strings purposefully left dangling since we are talking about the rise of fascism. There is just too much left for later. The immediate stories – Dr. Liddicote’s murder and Sandra’s secret – are resolved satisfactorily. The book is finished. Yet it feels unfinished.

More books by Jacqueline Winspear
Maisie Dobbs series at Stop! You’re Killing Me!

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