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Messenger of Truth: A Maisie Dobbs Novel (Maisie Dobbs Novels) Paperback – June 12, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
In Winspear's winning fourth historical to star British psychologist and PI Maisie Dobbs (after 2005's Pardonable Lies), Georgiana Bassington-Hope, a pioneering female war reporter who was a classmate of Maisie's at Girton College (Cambridge), asks Maisie to investigate the death of her twin brother, Nicholas Bassington-Hope, a WWI veteran and artist. The police have ruled Nick's fall from a scaffold at a Mayfair gallery before his masterpiece could be unveiled an accident, but Georgiana suspects foul play. As Maisie delves into the art world and the dead man's unusual family, the author provides an insightful look at class divisions and dangerous political undercurrents of homegrown fascism in early 1930s Britain. Some might wish that the whodunit side of the story was more developed, but fans of quality period fiction will be well satisfied. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Class divisions and the trauma of war are compelling themes in Winspear's fourth offering featuring psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs (following Pardonable Lies, 2005). Dobbs, who earned a degree from Cambridge and served as a nurse during World War I, employs both meditation and intuition to crack difficult cases. (Her suspicions are often manifested in a "sensation at the nape of her neck, as if a colony of ants were beating a path from one shoulder to the other.") The novel opens in late 1930, as Georgina Bassington-Hope, a well-to-do former wartime journalist, consults Maisie following the death of her twin brother, Nick, a painter commissioned to design war propaganda after sustaining injuries in combat. (Georgina doubts police reports that claim her brother fell from scaffolding while installing a major exhibition at a local gallery.) As Maisie searches for clues among Georgina's relatives, she grows increasingly troubled by the family's shameless extravagance during trying economic times. A cast of vivid characters and plenty of rich period detail boost Winspear's somewhat lethargic plot. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
A complex intellectual puzzle
Georgina’s brother, Nick, was a brilliant painter whose work was beginning to earn him a fortune when he tumbled from a scaffold where he was about to hang his masterpiece. Maisie finds it difficult to obtain evidence that his death was anything but accidental: the case is a complex intellectual puzzle. Her thoroughness, obsessive attention to detail, and refusal to take anything at face value eventually lead Maisie into dark corners where the truth eventually emerges. The story is unsettling but it lacks the repeated violence of so much other detective fiction. Maisie works with her brains, not her fists.
Class resentment in Depression-era England
Messenger of Truth, the fourth in Jacqueline Winspear’s venerable series of Maisie Dobbs novels, is set in the closing days of 1930 and the early months of 1931. With the terrors of World War I still vivid in every mind, the Depression is in full force. Unemployment is rampant, and the fascist politician Oswald Mosley is gaining a following with his demagogic message. The ostentatious wealth of Georgina’s family contrasts with the desperation all around. Maisie’s class awareness rises as the gross inequities weigh on her more and more heavily. Having been born and raised close to the edge of poverty, Maisie has gained an education only through the lucky accident that the aristocratic family that employed her “in service” has given her opportunities for education and advancement closed to millions of others.
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