A Lesson in Secrets (Maisie Dobbs Series #8)

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Overview

In the summer of 1932, the career of psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs takes an exciting new turn when she accepts an undercover assignment from the British Secret Service. Sent to pose as a junior lecturer at a private college in Cambridge, she will monitor any activities “not in the interests of His Majesty’s government.”

When the college’s controversial pacifist founder, Greville Liddicote, is murdered, however, Maisie is directed to stand back as her colleagues in ...

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Overview

In the summer of 1932, the career of psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs takes an exciting new turn when she accepts an undercover assignment from the British Secret Service. Sent to pose as a junior lecturer at a private college in Cambridge, she will monitor any activities “not in the interests of His Majesty’s government.”

When the college’s controversial pacifist founder, Greville Liddicote, is murdered, however, Maisie is directed to stand back as her colleagues in Scotland Yard spearhead the investigation. But she soon discovers that the circumstances of Liddicote’s death appear inextricably linked to the suspicious comings and goings of faculty members and students under her surveillance. To unravel this web, the investigator must overcome a reluctant Secret Service, discover shameful hidden truths about Britain’s conduct during the Great War, and face off against the rising power of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei—the Nazi Party—as the storm clouds of World War II gather on the horizon.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

It's the summer of 1932 and Maisie Dobbs has been wondering lately whether she is descending into the doldrums. Those bracing fears are jolted away when she receives an official request to begin undercover work probe activities "not in the interests of His Majesty's Government." After accepting a position as a junior lecturer in the Cambridge philosophy department, she begins observing as students and faculty members vie for political dominance. Matters reach a flash point, however, when her college's controversial pacifist founder and principal is murdered. As officials fumble on with their investigation, Maisie focuses on the Nazis in her midst. A breakthrough book for an award-winning British author whose popularity has grown steadily with each new release.

Tom Nolan
“The combination of period detail and intricate storytelling makes A Lesson in Secrets seem distant enough to be romantic but sufficiently modern to engage our sympathies.”
Parade
“Maisie is one of the great fictional heroines, equal parts haunted and haunting.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
“With an affecting storyline and graceful prose, Winspear has again created a powerful and complex novel, one that will linger in memory as a testament to her talent and her humanity.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780749040932
  • Publisher: Allison & Busby, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/28/2012
  • Series: Maisie Dobbs Series , #8

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Elegy for Eddie, A Lesson in Secrets, The Mapping of Love and Death, Among the Mad, and An Incomplete Revenge, as well as four other nationally bestselling Maisie Dobbs novels. She has won numerous awards for her work, including the Agatha, Alex, and Macavity awards for the first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs, which was also nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and was a New York Times Notable Book. Originally from the United Kingdom, she now lives in California.

Biography

Lovers of British mysteries and historical novels will find something to appreciate in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs books. Maisie, a housemaid-turned-student-turned-nurse-turned private investigator in early 20th-century London, manages to straddle Britain's class system by being a woman of exceptional "bearing" and intellect who happens to come from working-class stock. As an investigator, she's green, but sharp and ambitious. She's also surrounded by vividly sketched secondary players, such as her benefactor, Lady Rowan, and mentor Maurice Blanche.

In Winspear's first Maisie story, we learn the character's background: Forced by family circumstances to go to work as a housemaid at an early age, Maisie Dobbs' curiosity and intellect are noticed by her employer, Lady Rowan. Rowan takes care of her education, and she makes it to university – but the Great War interrupts her ambitions. She serves as a nurse in France, then returns to England and starts her career as a private investigator in 1929. Her first case seems like a simple investigation into infidelity; it grows into something larger when it leads realizes there's something amiss at a convalescent home for war veterans called The Retreat.

Winspear's talent didn't go unnoticed when her first novel was published in July 2003. Maisie Dobbs was named in "best" lists in both the New York Times and Publishers Weekly. It was also nominated in the best novel category for an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. There was an almost palpable sense of relief in the reviews, pleasant surprise that someone had offered not only a solid addition to the historical mystery genre, but had given it further depth and breadth. As an NPR reviewer put it, "[The book's] intelligent eccentricity offers relief."

Telling Maisie's stories using a warm third-person narrator, Winspear charms with her ability to convey the historical context surrounding her characters, particularly regarding the impact of the Great War. For this reason, and because her mysteries steer clear of graphic violence or sex, her books are often recommended for younger readers also. Far from hardboiled, Winspear's characters are very human, and she delivers a little romance and heartache along with the criminal wrongdoing.

Part of the appeal in Winspear's books also lies in her ability to bring a deeper, more philosophical atmosphere to the proceedings. Maisie is trained in Freudian psychology and is as interested in helping as she is in solving. A case referenced in the second Maisie story, Birds of a Feather, for example, "would not be filed away until those whose lives were touched by her investigation had reached a certain peace with her findings, with themselves, and with one another." Reading Winspear's Dobbs series may not bring inner peace, but there is something relaxing about spending time with her appealing characters.

Good To Know

Winspear also works as a creative coach. She writes on her web site, "As a coach I am engaged by those who want to establish clear intentions for their artistic endeavors, to support and encourage so that they sustain a level of energy and empowerment which is demonstrated in work that is rewarding, inspiring -- and finished!" Winspear also writes about international education.

Winspear loves outdoor pursuits such as horseback riding, hiking, sailing, and mountain biking; she's also an avid traveler, according to her web site bio.

In our interview, Winspear shared some fun facts about herself:

"My first ever job after college was as a flight attendant. I wanted to travel and could not afford it, so I decided to get myself a job where I could travel. I did it for two years and had great fun."

"My worst-ever job was in an egg-packing factory when I was 16."

"I love dogs, horses and generally all animals. I will always stop to check on stray dogs -- I once ended up in the emergency room with a tick embedded in me which had jumped off a dog I had rescued from a busy road. It was a deer tick, which carries Lyme Disease, so I wasn't taking any chances. Funnily enough, when I opened the only magazine in the emergency room, it was to a page carrying an article on tick bites and disease. It stated that you have six hours after the tick embeds itself, before it begins to release the bacteria that cause disease. I counted the hours from rescuing the dog, and by the time the doctor came in I was pleading, ‘Get this thing out of me!!!'"

"My favorite way to unwind is to go for a walk with my husband and the dog at the end of the working day, then we go to our local health club for a swim and to sit by the pool and read for a while. I love time with family and friends, but completely relish time on my own when I have no agenda to follow, no to-do's, just me and time alone."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Jackie Winspear
    2. Hometown:
      Ojai, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 30, 1955
    2. Place of Birth:
      Weald of Kent, England
    1. Education:
      The University of London’s Institute of Education
    2. Website:

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 69 )
Rating Distribution

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(34)

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(16)

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(8)

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(8)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 70 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The historical backdrop is super while the competing whodunit makes for an entertaining Depression Era thriller

    In 1932, Maisie Dobbs is feeling the ennui of a long summer with nothing critical to do as she no longer needs to worry about making money since her mentor Dr. Maurice Blanche died and left her with his vast estate. She knows part of her boredom is grief from Maurice's death. That abruptly ends when the British Secret Service appears for a special investigation into a pacifist who they believe he is betraying the country.

    Greville Liddicote wrote a children's book extolling the virtues of pacifism that the British government censored during WWI. Now he has opened a college in Cambridge whose mission is Pax Europe. Maisie goes undercover obtaining a position as a philosophy instructor so that she can watch the staff, faculty and students for seditious activity. However, the political war within the college already ugly turns deadly when someone kills Liddicote. While Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane and Detective Chief Inspector Richard Stratton struggle with their inquiry into the homicide, Maisie looks at extremist groups like the new Nazis party for the killer.

    The historical backdrop is super while the competing whodunit makes for an entertaining Depression Era thriller. Maisie's new wealth reduces her personal problems in terms of earning a living vs. doing a gratis case, but her change in personal circumstances leads to new issues like what to do now with her free time. Readers will enjoy Maisie's latest investigation as she attends school in Cambridge in which she learns A Lesson in Secrets can be fatal.

    Harriet Klausner

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2011

    Boring

    I've read several of the Maisie Dobbs Series, and enjoyed them very much. I was so excited when I purchased #8; however, I was BORED throughout, but stuck it out until the end. "A Lesson in Secrets," seemed to "drag" in it's entirety. Would not recommend as a book club review! Very disappointed!!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2011

    Disappointed

    I am a Massie Dobbs fan and have enjoyed the series. However, the current Massie Dobbs book is somewhat of a disappointment. It is very slow moving and just doesn't have the drama of the previous books. The other books I could not put down. A Lesson in Secrets has been a struggle. I read the entire book because I love the series, but it was just not as interesting as the other books in the series.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A terrific cozy mystery with a strong female protagonist

    We've followed Maisie from her days as a maid in Lady Rowan Compton's estate, through her schooling and tutelage under the brilliant Dr. Maurice Blanche, her WWI service as a nurse in France, opening up her own private investigations/psychologist office, and now working undercover for the British secret intelligence as a university instructor in the current novel.

    Maisie takes on the job working to discover if there are any terrorists at the University. She hesitates at first, but remembers her late mentor Maurice's words to her that she needs to be open to the unexpected. While at the school, the dean is murdered, and Maisie finds herself assisting the police in their investigation as well.

    The dean had written a famous children's book about soldiers putting their weapons down and refusing to fight. There were rumors that this book had caused a large mutiny in France during WWI, with British and German soldiers laying down their weapons. This book plays a big part in the mystery, one that is intriguing indeed.

    I liked how this novel not only took Maisie out of her comfort zone of work, but forced her to face personal challenges as well. Her friend Sandra lost her husband, and Maisie took Sandra into her home and offered her a job. Sandra uses her position with Maisie to investigate her husband's death. I would like to see Sandra stay on as part of Maisie's office staff.

    Maisie worries about her father's health, and his refusal to move in with her at Maurice's home frustrates her. It is ironic that Maisie is so in tuned with other people's secrets and feelings, yet her father is able to hide something big from her.

    Billy Beale, her faithful assistant, is stubborn as well. Maisie has offered Billy a downpayment on a new home, one that will change his family's life forever and for the better, but Billy is hesitant to accept. The men in Maisie's life are frustrating her.

    And then there is her boyfriend James Compton, son of her benefactor, Lady Rowan. He is supposed to be away on business in Toronto, but Maisie finds out he has been in London. Is their relationship in trouble?

    I always learn something of historical interest in these novels, and in this one, we learn that women played a big part in wartime intelligence. Over 10,000 women worked for the Secret Service in London during the war, reporting troop movements, sabotaging the German enemy, and consorting with the enemy to get information. I will definitely be looking for information on this subject.

    The rise of the German Socialist Party, the Nazis, is on the horizon, and we see the beginning of the debate between the Brits who, weary of the lingering WWI problems, do not to wish to get involved in Germany's issues, and those Brits who see the dangers of the Nazi Party and Hitler's rise. I can't wait to see where Winspear takes this in future books.

    I really enjoyed reading the Maisie Dobbs series; I like Maisie as a strong female character, one young ladies can look up to. Not only is Maisie interesting, but the secondary characters are as well, and Winspear introduces many new ones in each book, rather than just relying on the ones we already know.

    I've learned much about Britain following WWI, an era I was unfamiliar with. It seems that while the methods of war have changed over the decades, the effects of it on the people who fought it, and those who love them, remain the same.

    If you like historical fiction with a strong female protagonist, a

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Our erswhile heroine moves into the Secret Service

    Jacqueline Winspear has emphatically mastered the art of a mystery series with this latest addition to her list. Not only does her main character have a wealth of personality traits that are admirable, laudable, even enviable, she is attractive, wealthy (this is critical), and clever. She is as busy as we are, so we don't feel as though time is passing slowly, or that we are wasting time reading of her adventures. Meetings, letters, investigations, reading, meditation all take time, and she schedules herself very closely. She is the woman we would strive to be. It is interesting to see how she responds to queries, doubts, challenges, though I have to admit it is frustrating to see her push those lovely suitors away one by one, again and again. But not only do we have Maisie Dobbs herself to consider, we have her constellation of family and friends, who by this time in the series have become our own friends: employees, mentors, her father, her fiancé all have lives and backstories we revel in following. This time I am struck by the success of the formula: with many threads and much driving about, the pace leaves readers breathless. But the comforting commonsense calm of reason brings Alexander McCall Smith to mind, despite the difference in the subject matters of the series produced by each author. It is the tone that is reminiscent, one of the other. And that is high praise indeed. This latest in the series introduces Maisie to the Secret Service in the years before WWII. She takes on an assignment which requires the utmost secrecy, and I amused to read how many times she told friends and colleagues what she was doing was "hush-hush" for the government. How hush-hush is that? I guess they didn't really mean it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A wonderful and entertaining read!

    In 1932 London, Maisie is asked to help out the British Secret Service. She's sent to be an assistant professor at a college near Cambridge. Something is going on at the school and the Secret Service wants insider information. Before long there's a dead body and Maisie finds herself involved in finding the murderer. I love the gentle writing style and the background setting. These features make for an especially entertaining read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Another Outstanding Book from Winspear

    Jacqueline Winspear has written another wonderful mystery. Over the course of her 8 books, Maisie Dobbs had developed into a fascinating character. In this latest story, A Lesson in Secrets, Maisie accepts a teaching post at a small pacifist college in Cambridge at the request of the British Secret Service. When the founder of the college is murdered, Maisie looks into the secrets of his past. As usual, Winspear's description of the era and the locations are wonderful. I always get a feeling that I know what it would have been like to live in this era. Billy Beale continues as Maisie's assistant with a storyline concerning his family woven into the book. Winspear's books have sparked my interest in this period and I have read several books covering the same post-World War I era. Winspear compares favorably with Dorothy Sayers and has created a character who combines the detective skills of Lord Peter and the feminism and independence of Harriet Vane.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2013

    A nice story

    A nice story about 1930's but a little too tame for my taste.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    Maidie Dobbs is Addictive

    I have only recently found Jacqueline Winspear's wonderful Maisie Dobbs series, and I have now devoured all of them. Highly recommended.

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  • Posted July 28, 2012

    One more great book in a great series!

    Once again, Maisie Dobbs grows in talent and self-knowledge as she solves mysteries in her unique way.

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  • Posted June 21, 2012

    I LOVE all of the Maisie Dobbs novels!

    Please see my review for # 9 - "Elegy for Eddie"! It's the first review I wrote, and basically covers the whole series! Very enjoyable!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2012

    Satisfying

    Set after WW1, this series follows a brilliant and war scarred nurse as she becomes an investigator.

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  • Posted October 20, 2011

    Beware the Halls of Academe

    This latest entry in Winspear's wonderful Maisie Dobbs series is set in Cambridge at a lesser, fictional college, but Cambridge nonetheless. For this reviewer, who spent some of her halcyon days at the other Oxbridge university, A Lesson in Secrets is the best yet. Those of us who have spent our lives in its halls, know that the academy is simply Byzantium without the money. Maisie does at Cambridge what Wimsey and Vane do at Oxford -- tells its secrets and reveals its hidden doors. Another first with honors for Maisie and Ms. Winspear!

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  • Posted August 22, 2011

    Maise Dobbs, another hit!

    Maise Dobbs series are entertaining and educational.

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