Thursday, March 8, 2012

Messenger of Truth

Messenger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear
Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours via Picador
Description from Goodreads:
London, 1931. On the night before the opening of his new and much-anticipated exhibition at a famed Mayfair gallery, Nicholas Bassington-Hope falls to his death. The police declare the fall an accident, but the dead man's twin sister, Georgina, isn't convinced. When the authorities refuse to conduct further investigations and close the case, Georgina - a journalist and infamous figure in her own right - takes matters into her own hands, seeking out a fellow graduate from Girton College: Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator.
The case soon takes Maisie to the desolate beaches of Dungeness in Kent, as well as the sinister underbelly of the city's art world. And while navigating her way into the heart of the aristocratic yet bohemian Bassington-Hopes, Maisie is deeply troubled by the tragedy of another, quite different family in need.

In Messenger of Truth, Maisie Dobbs again uncovers the dark legacy of the Great War in a society struggling to recollect itself in difficult times. But to solve the mystery of the artist's death, she will have to remain steady as the forces behind his death come out of the shadows to silence her.

Following on the bestselling Pardonable Lies, Jacqueline Winspear delivers another vivid, thrilling, and utterly unique episode in the life of Maisie Dobbs.

My take:

March is Maisie Month and I am reviewing Messenger of Truth, the fourth Maisie Dobbs book. I had read the first Maisie book and absolutely loved it, so I was eager for the opportunity to read and review another Maisie book.

Messenger of Truth takes place in 1931 in London and Dungeness in Kent. When a controversial young artist, Nicholas Bassington-Hope, falls to his death, his twin sister, Georgina doesn't believe the official police finding of accidental death. She hires Maisie to look into his death and find out what really happened. It sounds simple enough. Things get much more complicated as Maisie begins her investigation. The plot slowly unfolds with the numerous characters divulging their stories and eventually their secrets. As usual, Maisie uses her own special methods most of which she learned while apprenticing with her mentor, Dr. Maurice Blanche. Maisie has recently broken away from Blanche due to a rift and an emotional episode she experienced in an earlier book.  Maisie continues to try to be strong and independent while creating a challenging, interesting career for herself.

As I read the book, I was struck by how appropriate the title of the book was. The artist, Nick, uses his art to tell the truth as he sees it. His art has become controversial because he uses real people’s faces in his pieces and refuses to water down what he sees to be true. Maisie also is a messenger of truth in her work, by finding out the truth in her cases. Georgina, Nick's sister is a journalist who also seeks to tell the truth she saw during war time.

The plot of the book kept me interested, but the way the story unfolds piece by piece, with Maisie methodically uncovering stories, secrets, hopes, fears, really held my attention. I don't want to give too many plot points away, but the story worked for me. I wasn't completely surprised by the conclusion, but it was satisfying. 
 As with the first Maisie Dobbs book, I really loved how Maisie always holds herself to a high standard and holds herself accountable to herself. She examines her own emotions, the causes of them and faces them even if she might be more comfortable not facing them at all.
There are many recurring themes in the Maisie Dobbs books.  In Messenger of Truth, the contrast between the classes is handled quite well. Billy Beale, Maisie's assistant provides a strong counterpoint to the wealthy Bassington-Hopes. Billy is struggling to feed his own family as well as his wife's sister's family because of lack of work. Billy’s young daughter is gravely ill and he can barely put food on the table.  The strong contrast between his situation and the wealthy, eccentric, artistic Bassington-Hope family who can spend their time painting and writing while he can’t afford to treat his daughter’s illness is quite poignant. To bring it even more to the forefront, the wealthy American who can pay a fortune for a painting when Billy can't put meat on the table helps to bring out the reality and gravity of the situation of the lower economic class.

Another theme is, naturally, the after effects of war - on Billy, on Maisie herself, on the artist Nick, on his sister Georgina - on the entire country. This theme is dealt with in each of the books and is always done well and with sympathy and understanding.   Finally, Nick forces everyone to face some very stark and ugly truths about war and how it affected his own family.
I found this book to be very enjoyable and I would highly recommend the Maisie Dobbs books to everyone.  I am quite anxious to read the rest of the books in the series.

About Jacqueline Winspear




Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in the county of Kent, England. Following higher education at the University of London’s Institute of Education, Jacqueline worked in academic publishing, in higher education, and in marketing communications in the UK.
She emigrated to the United States in 1990, and while working in business and as a personal / professional coach, Jacqueline embarked upon a life-long dream to be a writer.
A regular contributor to journals covering international education, Jacqueline has published articles in women’s magazines and has also recorded her essays for KQED radio in San Francisco. She lives in California and is a regular visitor to the United Kingdom and Europe.
Jacqueline’s novels thus far—Maisie Dobbs, Birds of a Feather, Pardonable Lies, Messenger of Truth, An Incomplete Revenge, and Among the Mad, The Mapping of Love and Death, and A Lesson in Secrets are set in the late 1920s and early 1930s, with the roots of each story set in the Great War, 1914–1918. Her work has been nominated for numerous awards.
Find out more about Jacqueline at her website, www.jacquelinewinspear.com, and find her on Facebook.




3 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this one too. I recall thinking after I read it how good Winspear is at naming her novels. I never get confused which story goes with which novel, as I often do during series I read. I've read all but the upcoming one and enjoy this series so much.

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  2. I enjoyed your explanation of the title - I always appreciate when a book's title has multiple meanings and really makes sense with the story.

    I'm glad you enjoying Maisie's continuing adventures! Thanks for being on the tour.

    - Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours

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  3. I'm a huge fan of Maisie too. I've read the first 4 books so far but I like to have some time and space between books so that each storyline stays fresh and uncomplicated. I was delighted to see a new book coming out soon.

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