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29th December
written by Steph
Pardonable Lies

I’ve mentioned before that one of my literary vices is mystery novels set in England, generally during the turn of the 20th century.  I’m by no means a know-it-all Agatha Christie fan, but I devoured a bunch of her books when I was a young teen, and have recently made it my mission to eventually read all of her books in chronological order (note: I have not yet decided whether I will pick a particular detective, and go through all of his/her adventures before picking a new one and starting afresh, or legitimately just reading them all in order, featured detective be damned!).  I never would have thought that murder could be so soothing, but for me, detective novels in the style of Agatha Christie are the ultimate comfort read.  I haven’t really delved too far into the mystery genre, as I tend to focus on reading “serious” literature, but one good contemporary author I’ve found is Jacqueline Winspear who has created the intrepid “Psychologist & Investigator”, Maisie Dobbs. Pardonable Lies is the third installment in the Maisie Dobbs series (currently five books have been published, with a sixth due out in 2009).  In this outing, Maisie winds up involved in three investigations (proving the innocence of a young girl up for murdering her uncle, proving the son of a well known barrister did indeed die in WWI, and finding out where her good friend Priscilla’s brother actually died in WWI… also, someone is out to kill Maisie who may or may not be related to the aforementioned cases, so that in and of itself is a mystery), some of which intertwine and become interrelated.  I found the WWI-related mysteries much more believable than Maisie’s cases from previous novels, though I also did guess a few of the twists along the way.  That being said, I certainly wasn’t able to crack any of the cases before Maisie did, as Winspear doesn’t develop her stories in such a way so as to provide her readers with adequate information to try to solve the mysteries on their own.  I found the WWI mysteries to be well done and satisfying, and feel that certain plot points that were revealed during them would be exciting to explore further in future books.  In contrast, while the prospect of Maisie’s life being in real danger throughout the novel made for rapid page-turning, I felt that mystery was resolved in a less than satisfying way, and relied too much on back story that no reader would know. In general, this was a solid addition to the Maisie Dobbs series.  I find these novels to be very consistent, in that my likes and dislikes about them tend to be the same across books.  I enjoy the introspective look at WWI, which I find very genuine and affecting, and I personally think learning about Maisie’s past and how it and WWI have shaped her is just as rewarding as solving any of the central mysteries.  Winspear is very good at fleshing out Maisie’s character, so I feel like I connect with her a great deal, and she is very good at effectively evoking  a living, breathing London in the 1930s.  Unfortunately, I do sometimes find Maisie to be a little bit too much of a goody-goody who can do no wrong.  She can be rather severe and I find the whole new-agey intuitive means of reading people to be rather flakey and annoying, but this book had less of that, which I appreciated (let me clarify: Maisie uses this “people reading” skill less than she has in books past, but the book itself seems to suggest that there are people who have the gift of second sight… not exactly what Maisie has, which some might consider to just be extreme empathy, but rather there are some who might actually possess insight that is somewhat supernatural in nature… I hope the series doesn’t go in that direction).  Having a sleuth who can get by on his or her little grey cells alone is totally fine by me! All told, I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, which is already waiting on my bookshelf.  I am curious to know whether Winspear intends to ultimately take Maisie into WWII and beyond, as clearly the foundation for it is steadily building in the 1930s (during which this book is set); I guess I’ll just have to keep reading!  Pardonable Lies can be read and enjoyed by those who are new to Maisie Dobbs, but without a doubt, those who have read the previous books will have heightened appreciation for the new light it sheds on the series. Rating: 4 out of 5

1 Comment

  1. 12/30/2008

    Happy Belated Christmas and Boxing Day! I am glad to hear your holidays went well. I love the idea of renting a cabin, it sounds lovely.

    As a know-it-all Christie fan (I think I deserve the title, given my quickly-growing collection!), I can say that I really, really, really like the Maisie Dobbs. And I have you to thank for it (I always tell people you are the only person whose recommendations are always spot-on)! This third installment further cemented my appreciation of the series, especially given that the second was a bit disappointing. I encourage you to read the rest quickly, because her sixth is coming out 2/17!

    I miss you bunches. Let me know when would a good time to meet up. We can go get yummy food, go book-shopping, and catch up! It would be fantastic!

    Sons and Lovers is my only exposure to Lawrence. I really don’t like any of the characters, but I felt it was well-written and really descriptive. However, it took about a quarter of the novel to feel “pulled in”. I’d recommend it because it tells a story about a very unique relationship. I’m reading the new Wally Lamb right now. I was incredibly excited about it (his first two novels are two of my favorites ever) and sadly, it’s been disappointing so far. It’s somewhat well-written and evocative (one of the Columbine scene was pretty hard to digest) but it feels “off”. The characters are hard to relate with, particularly the protagonist. I’m about halfway through and its organization is begininng to lessen. Still, I plan to finish it.

    I hope you have a wonderful New Year’s Eve! I’ve never had a party before and have made no preparations, so I’m starting to get a bit worried. Fortunately, I have tomorrow off to run around like a crazy person to get ready.

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