Book Review: A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqeline Winspear

21 Mar

Book cover: A Lesson in SecretsGenre: Detective fiction

Series: Maisie Dobbs #8

Publisher: HarperCollins (Harper)

Pub date: 22 Mar 2011

Source: Publisher

I’m going to make this a quick review. This book landed in my hands quite by accident. The folks at Harper had a bit of mailing mix-up and sent me one book I had requested and 2 I hadn’t. This latest Maise Dobbs happened to be one of those I hadn’t requested, but I read it nonetheless and liked it quite a lot.

Synopsis (from Marketing copy)

In the summer of 1932, Maisie Dobbs’ career goes in an exciting new direction when she accepts an undercover assignment directed by Scotland Yard’s Special Branch and the Secret Service. Posing as a junior lecturer, she is sent to a private college in Cambridge to monitor any activities “not in the interests of His Majesty’s Government.”

When the college’s controversial pacifist founder and principal, Greville Liddicote, is murdered, Maisie is directed to stand back as Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane and Detective Chief Inspector Stratton spearhead the investigation. She soon discovers, however, that the circumstances of Liddicote’s death appear inextricably linked to the suspicious comings and goings of faculty and students under her surveillance.

To unravel this web, Maisie must overcome a reluctant Secret Service, discover shameful hidden truths about Britain’s conduct during the war, and face off against the rising powers of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei—the Nazi Party—in Britain.


What I liked:

I loved the strong female protagonist who defies convention, not just by her choice of profession but also her lifestyle. Set at a time just before WWII, the threat is looming large. England can no longer ignore the rise of Nazi party and the Hitler sympathizers who have cropped up all over especially among the youth. Maisie goes undercover as a professor in  a liberal college that stands for peace – to unearth any activities that are against crown and country.

From what I understand, other Maisie Dobbs novels are more detective fiction, whereas here, Maisie is sent in as part of an intelligence effort.

It was an easy read, suspenseful, filled with red herrings that keep you guessing along with Maisie.

What I didn’t like

Maisie does come across as a bit of an excessive do-gooder – managing to take people under her wing, convince them to take charity from her without it appearing as charity etc. But I couldn’t help but like her and her attitude.


Good fit for fans of murder mysteries and spy novels or for someone who is interested in the history surrounding WWI. Readers who have met the wonderful Miss Dobbs in her earlier adventures will also enjoy this latest novel where her role undergoes a change to fit the need of the times.

I have decided not to start another series right now – I’m juggling too many as it is, but I will definitely revisit Maisie Dobbs and her adventures when I can.

Rating: 3.75*

*See my Rating policy

Do you agree with my review, or do you think I’m way off? Just want to say hi? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

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3 Responses to “Book Review: A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqeline Winspear”

  1. vivek tejuja March 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    hi Puj,

    i have been wanting to read this for a while. I think I will pick it up soon. How do you manage to get RC’s from Harper Collins as they refuse to send books to India for review? 🙂

    • stargazerpuj March 22, 2011 at 8:19 am #

      I hadn’t even heard of the series before. I quite liked the character of Maise Dobbs. And I can’t reveal my sources 🙂


  1. Book Review: Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear « Stargazerpuj's Book Blog - May 2, 2012

    […] is only the second Maisie Dobbs book I’ve read, (Review for A Lesson in Secrets) but already there is a feeling of going back to old friends. In this story, Maisie is dealing with […]

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