Among my discoveries this year, this is one that I think will enjoy during my hectic times ahead. Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mysteries have all the ingredients to make for a wonderful reading, without asking for too much effort. Great for the beach, perfect for chilly nights by the fire...
My friend Anna introduced me to these novels and by introducing I mean she handed me 6 logs all at once. If there was ever a danger of overindulging, this would have been it - but no. Little by little I will savour these books, starting (obviously) with the third book in the series. I found Maisie to be an Agatha Christie reincarnation - and I mean the real Agatha, not one of the characters she wrote about. Maisie is a girl of humble beginnings who, by virtue alone, manages to climb high up the ladder, make herself useful as a nurse during the 1st World War and excel afterwards when we find her in 1929's London as a psychologist and investigator. Her insight into the harshness of the war, the difficulty to adjust to "normal" life by many of those implicated in it, make Maisie the ideal person to go to lengths in order to solve a mystery.
In Pardonable lies, there are two cases at the same time, which invevitably connect at some level (as I'm currently reading the first book, I can see this to be a recurring theme). We come across an already established Maisie, who agrees to grant the dying wish of Ralph Lawton's wife and search for their missing son, an aviator long thought to have died in the war. Her enquiries lead her to France and her good friend Priscilla. Her story of losing all three of her brothers and in particular one of them will provide the missing link to the story of the aviator.
Maisie has the experience to juggle many hats at the same time. So, when a totally unrelated case will require a legal miracle, she uses the connections and the powers of Lawton to compensate for the frustration she has to endure during her investigation:
"Instead of encountering a father crushed by the loss of his only son, Maisie found herself keep to temper his frustration and bitterness"
The inexplicable disappearance of the aviator as well as Priscilla's brother bring Maisie to France and the discovery of one of the most notorious operations during the war.
The plot is fairly straightforward, with no sudden revelations that take me aback. The sadness is pretty much evident, both from Maisie's recollections of the war, but also by the story that will be revealed from the missing aviator. I believe this is what makes this character more likeable than others of the same gendre: though she may master the art of detection and psychology of the people around her, Maisie is fragile herself. Not because she's a woman, but because she's stepped outside her little pond and she seen the ugliness around her.
I really liked the quiet tone of the novel, the secondary characters that shed some additional light on Maisie's personality and the logical twists in the story. A very nice reading indeed, I look forward to the rest of them!