35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Set in post-World War I England, the Maisie Dobbs mysteries keep getting better and better--more fully developed, more complex, and more illustrative of life in that between-wars era. In this fourth novel, Maisie, a former army nurse, now in her late twenties, is an "inquiry agent," or private detective, who has been contacted by wealthy Georgina Bassington-Hope following the death of her brother Nick. Nick, a highly regarded artist, died in a fall from the scaffolding he was using to mount a new exhibition, and Georgina, defying her family and the police report, believes he was pushed.
Using straight-forward, workmanlike prose, author Jacqueline Winspear develops the story and a motley cast of characters which offers a broad cross section of the society between world wars--from the wealthy Bassington-Hopes, who can afford to be frivolous in their arty lives, to the family of Billy Beale, a poor man who supports his large family as Maisie's assistant. The exotic world of artists, gallery owners, and buyers, comes alive, as does the world of fishermen on the Kentish coast, where Nick Bassington-Hope has his studio, and the reader quickly develops an awareness of the stratification pervading society and the concern for one's "place" in it.
As Maisie begins her investigation of Nick's death, Winspear juggles several overlapping plot threads simultaneously. Nick's exhibition was to feature his "masterpiece," thought to be a triptych about his experiences in the war, a work of art so secret no one has ever seen it--and no one has found it since his death. The relationships of Nick Bassington-Hope with his family and friends; the problems of Billy Beale's family in an overcrowded and unhealthy tenement; Maisie's new suitor and romance; the centuries-long history of smuggling on the Kentish coast; and the search for Nick's missing masterpiece keep the action lively from beginning to end, with plenty of tugs at the heartstrings as sorrowful events, some associated with the war, unfold.
Maisie, as proper and chaste as the heroines of novels actually written in the 1930s, is imaginative and independent, always polite and "lady-like." Genuinely fond of Billy Beale's family, she nevertheless maintains a professional distance as his employer, not wanting to insult his pride. The novel feels "cozy," in its intimacy and family orientation, with care paid to characters' feelings and domestic conflicts. Though the novel has moments of excitement, the reader is left, at the end, with as much appreciation for its old-fashioned charm as for its mystery. n Mary Whipple
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
This is Jacqueline Winspear's fourth novel about Maisie Dobbs, "psychologist and investigator." Fans of the series may be slightly disappointed, but should still enjoy it. First-time readers will wonder what all the fuss is about. For, as I suspected already in the third novel, PARDONABLE LIES, the narrative span is becoming difficult to sustain over four books.
But Winspear's sense of period seldom lets her down, and there are still many interesting things here: her view of the vibrant art scene between the wars or the heady night world of jazz clubs and cocktails, contrasted with the effect of the Depression on the out-of-work poor and the lamentable state of public health. And those parts of the story which have to do with the rags-to-riches rise of the heroine (housemaid, war nurse, Cambridge graduate, private investigator) are mercifully shorter -- though Maisie's emotional problems would mean very little to those who had not read the earlier books. But Winspear seems caught on a difficult watershed: on the one hand, continuing to write about the legacy of the First War, which no longer has the resonance that it had in her first books; on the other, exploring the life of a nation moving inexorably towards the Second. There are aspects of both here, but they do not blend easily. If she is to continue, the author needs to move forward rather than back -- and also develop the inner life of her heroine so as to make her interesting for who she is now, rather than as the product of previous books in the series.
Readers who want to read more about the role of artists in the first War -- an important element in this book -- might be interested in REGENERATION by Pat Barker. Although Barker's novel deals with poets (Sassoon and Owen among them) rather than painters, it tackles head-on the conflict between war's brutality and artistic sensitivity, which has been a persistent theme in Winspear's books, and a moving one.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2007
I just finished reading this book, and had to contribute my two cents. I loved this book! I think it is the best yet in a series that is head and shoulders above most mystery series. Maisie, already a complex character to begin with, becomes richer and deeper in this recent book. So many facets of the deepening worldwide depression are interwoven with the echoes of World War 1, even as faint echoes of the rise of fascism in Germany are making themselves felt, creating a many-layered mystery. In response to the reviewer who felt that Maisie was not as likeable in this book, I did not find that to be the case at all. I DID notice something of that transformation in the previous book in this series, Pardonable Lies, but then, Maisie was undergoing something of an emotional breakdown at that juncture, making it a somewhat darker book. In this book, Maisie seemed to be back on track, and beginning to open to new ideas and possibilities which perhaps the author will explore in later books. I can't wait for the next one!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2006
The fourth installment in the ever popular Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator, "Messenger of Truth" may not be as thrilling and as riveting as "Birds of a Feather" (still my favourite entry in this series), but it stands up well and made for an absorbing and enjoyable read.
When her twin brother, Nicholas, falls to his death while mounting his latest work for an upcoming exhibition, journalist Georgina Bassington-Hope refuses to believe that Nicholas' death is an accident. Instead, she's certain that Nicholas was murdered. Talented and single-minded, Nicholas was well known for upsetting and angering people with his opinions and his art. The police, however, are quite satisfied that Nicholas' death was an accident; and because she cannot get them to reopen the case, Georgina seeks out Maisie's help in discovering who murdered Nicholas and why. Soon, Maisie is delving into the unfamiliar world of artists and night clubs in an attempt to understand Nicholas, his work and what happened the last few hours before he met his death. Was Nicholas murdered because of his art, or because he was involved in something nefarious and dangerous...
While I can see why the previous reviewer was disappointed with this latest Maisie Dobbs installment, I rather enjoyed "Messenger of Truth" myself. Not only was the mystery subplot a very intriguing and tantalising one, but a wonderful bonus here for me, I thought that Jacqueline Winspear did a fantastic job of capturing the darkness and excesses of the period. "Messenger of Truth" takes place in the early 1930s, when fascism was on the rise, but while Winspear touches on this lightly, she focuses more on the grim realities of that the poor faced -- lack of jobs, disease and poverty -- and the obliviousness of the moneyed and powerful and their pursuit of pleasure and divertment. This social commentary makes a nice counterpoint to the mystery at hand of who killed Nick Bassington-Hope and why. Unlike the previous reviewer, however, I did not think that Maisie has become a money chasing social climber. The very fact that she faces and questions her sudden enjoyment of luxuries and pleasurable divertments points to the fact that Maisie's character isn't about to undergo a fundamental change. I rather wished, though, that the unfolding of the mystery subplot had been a little more even, more clear-cut, more developed, and more energetic. Winspear's brilliant use of vivid imagery, period detail, atmosphere and introspection, however, made up quite a bit for this lack. All in all, "Messenger of Truth" was an enjoyable and fairly absorbing read that fans and newcomers are sure to enjoy.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 23, 2007
This is the fourth Maisie Dobbs book I've read, and while I really enjoyed the first three, this book was very boring. I couldn't wait for it to end. In fact, by the end, I didn't even care who murdered Nicholas! The whole story felt poorly conceived, with events and people sort of thrown together randomly - and then the ending popped out of nowhere. I just don't think it was well written.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2006
Jacqueline Winspear's latest Maisie Dobbs book is extraordinary in several ways. First, her writing pleases and captures the heart of the reader. Secondly, as Maisie grows with each book, the reader is allowed insight into the very soul and essence of the main character, and I suspect, the author.
Winspears's book could not be more timely. The vehicle she uses is the world of art and the murder of an inspired artist. But, the message is about the horrors of war. While many want to romanticize the war because they are the "observers back home", the truth is the antithesis, the sheer horror of the `boots on the ground experience'. The artist depicts the reality in his art to the chagrin of many.
Maisie morphs during the process of investigating the case by realizing the whimsy of the rich and the plight of the poor. There are many philosophical musings uttered by the main character that tend to influence the reader to commence thinking in loftier tones. What is the greater good for society, for those less fortunate through no fault of their own and more importantly, what can be done to solve the inequities? Maisie does find answers, in most unique places. More importantly, if you have read all the Maisie Dobbs books, you will become a part of the seasoning and development of Maisie.
There is more than one messenger in "Messenger of Truth". Do not miss this one - and if you have not read the three books that came before this, you will want to do so. Growing with Maisie is the richness of reading Jacqueline Winspear.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2011
Controversial WWI war correspondent Georgiana Bassington-Hope employs Maisie Dobbs to investigate the death of her brother Nick, a celebrated and successful artist, who fell and broke his neck just as he was about to present a much anticipated new collection of his work. Did Nick really fall from the art gallery's scaffold where he was about to unveil his missing masterpiece? Or did something more sinister occur?
Maisie launches into the investigation, seeking out the mostly eccentric Bassington-Hope family, Nick's bohemian artist friends and well-heeled clients, and finds herself in the middle of more than one mystery. All the while Maisie is adjusting to the fruits of success, professionally speaking. She has ready cash at her disposal, a new flat that needs to be furnished, a red runabout that draws attention, and at least one man who is interested in being part of her life on an ongoing basis.
Maisie also finds herself rubbing elbows with a real, home-grown fascist leader, with her assistant Billy's struggling family, with her dad, and with her former employers. So there is a lot going on in this crime mystery. More than enough in the way of plot to keep reading. So, one would think.
But here is the problem. Maisie does not elicit empathy, nor does she display it. Yes, she comes to the aid of those who are in trouble, both in her professional capacity and in her personal life. But at several key moments where one would expect ranges of emotion from joy or sadness, fear or grief, from even the most reserved person, we find that Maisie glances over the surface like a pebble skipping over a pond.
For example there is a tragic death unrelated to the main mystery of the plot, one that would move most people to tears (and should but does not bring the reader to tears). Why? Because Maisie reacts, but in a way that does not go deeply to the emotions. Then again, there is a moment of decision about her relationship with a man who has been courting her attentively and tenderly. Again, Maisie doesn't seem to have much in the way of tender feelings to draw upon.
One might argue that Maisie is clinical or analytical in her approach and does not allow her feelings to enter into her professionalism, and that could be a way to approach her distinctiveness as a detective. Colombo is messy but fools the people. Monk is a cleanliness freak. Poroit is an egghead. Miss Marple is a nosey parker. Maisie is detached. Yes, those kinds of running quirks do work. Even so, if the author is going to make the decision that a goodly portion of the book will deal with Maisie's personal life, then Maisie needs to be more personable, more of a flesh and blood person.
Moreover--and this is even more of a challenge in detective fiction--because Maisie does not have the ability to bounce ideas off of the usual mystery detective side-kick (Watson with Holmes, Hastings with Poroit, Hamish with Rutledge, etc.), much of what the reader gets in the way of information from Maisie comes from her interior musings. There needs to be more fire and ice in those musings.
In summary: When it comes to compassion, Maisie is thoroughly modern. Her interior is sparsely decorated, indeed.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2007
Another well plotted novel in the Maisie Dobbs series, Messenger of Truth begins with the death of controversial artist Nick Bassington. His twin sister and greatest fan, feminist wartime journalist Georgina Bassington-Hope, is convinced he was murdered despite the official verdict of accidental death and after much hesitation she calls on Maisie to investigate.
Georgina Bassington-Hope is a graduate of Maisie's alma mater, Girton College, and the two use this to their advantage by implying that Maisie is an old college friend, allowing Maisie to ask questions without arousing suspicion. Maisie soon discovers that there may be a connection between some missing artwork and the artist's death. She follows this trail which leads her to the beaches of Dungeness and a possible smuggling connection, and then into the seedy underbelly of London's art world.
Closer to home, Maisie must also deal with the tragedy of another family closer to her heart and she is torn between the demands of her personal life versus those of the professional.
While the plots of Jaqueline Winspear's novels focus on solving mysteries, the stories behind the crimes are rooted in the social changes created by the First World War. Some readers might wish that the whodunnit aspect take more of a center stage but fans of fine historical fiction will be most satisfied.
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 26, 2006
I am a fan of this series, having read and enjoyed them from the first book. that said, I was disappointed in this one. Maisie behaves in an unconvincing manner in this one, her actions (dare I say stunts) smack more of Nancy Drew than Maisie Dobbs. Her use of intuition and empathy in solving cases which has always set this series apart from other women sleuth books is sadly lacking, and her disregard of and almost cruelty to recurring characters, and her obvious lust for the more material things in life do not ring true to her former self. I do hope this is a glitch in the series and the author is not going to change Maisie into a money chasing social climber.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2006
In this book Maisie's view of the world continues to expand as she encounters social strata new and almost unknown to her. While she judges harshly a few of the characters, she is fascinated by others, as their actions introduce her to ideas and ways of living that so far had been utterly out of her reach. But her financial and social reach is growing with her success, and no longer does her mentor carefully screen her actions and acquaintances. While Maisie continues to fight for the underdog, she doesn't want to be one anymore, but isn't sure which way to go next - that's what really made this book for me - Maisie's growth as a person. The mystery plot is perhaps a little weak and ancillary threads a stretch, but overall the book was very good.