Messenger of Truth (Maisie Dobbs Series #4)

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Overview

Sue Feder/Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery Award Nominee

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 it an accident, but the dead man's twin sister, Georgina, isn't convinced. When the authorities refuse to conduct further investigations, Georgina takes matters into her own hands, seeking out a ...

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Messenger of Truth (Maisie Dobbs Series #4)

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Overview

Sue Feder/Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery Award Nominee

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 it an accident, but the dead man's twin sister, Georgina, isn't convinced. When the authorities refuse to conduct further investigations, Georgina 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. She 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.

Jacqueline Winspear delivers another vivid, thrilling, and utterly unique episode in the life of Maisie Dobbs.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Set in 1931 London, Jacqueline Winspear's fourth mystery featuring Maisie Dobbs (Pardonable Lies et al.) finds the intrepid psychologist and investigator up against her most baffling case yet -- the allegedly accidental death of a controversial artist.

Just hours before celebrated British painter Nick Bassington-Hope is scheduled to open a much-anticipated exhibit of his latest work at the renowned Mayfair gallery, he's found dead. The local police rule the death accidental, as all the evidence points to a fall from a scaffold. But Bassington-Hope's twin sister, Georgina, isn't so sure -- in fact, she's certain that someone killed her brother. After being recommended by a Scotland Yard inspector, Dobbs is hired to get to the bottom of the artist's untimely death. But even as her personal life suffers tragedy after tragedy -- her longtime potential beau abruptly ends their "courtship," and her trusted assistant's young child dies of diphtheria -- Dobbs perseveres on and eventually uncovers disturbing secrets surrounding the brilliantly talented artist who could "touch the truth," secrets that some people would kill to keep from being revealed…

Fans who enjoy meticulously researched historical mystery sagas like Sandra Scoppettone's Faye Quick novels (set in 1943 New York City) and Philip Kerr's Berlin Noir trilogy (taking place in 1937 Berlin) will absolutely devour Winspear's Maisie Dobbs novels, which immerse readers in a richly described post-WWI England struggling with widespread unemployment, poverty, and political upheaval. Featuring an intuitive, compassionate, and downright endearing protagonist, these historical whodunits are simply irresistible. Paul Goat Allen
From the Publisher
"In Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear has given us a real gift. Maisie Dobbs has not been created—she has been discovered. Such people are always there amongst us, waiting for somebody like Ms. Winspear to come along and reveal them. And what a revelation it is!"—Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

"Maisie is a sleuth to treasure."—The New York Times Book Review

"Worth cheering about . . . [Winspear] keep[s] her series about the astonishing Maisie Dobbs alive and as fresh as new paint."—Chicago Tribune

"When people ask me to recommend an author, one name consistently comes to mind: Jacqueline Winspear. . . . What makes Winspear so special is her ability to write convincing historical fiction. Going beyond the correct details about headgear and slang from the 1920s and 1930s, she convincingly captures the interior lives of her characters. . . . Wonderful."—USA Today

"Maisie Dobbs, Winspear's brilliant psychological investigator, returns for her fourth adventure. . . . Definitely more of a political and psychological read than a simple whodunit."—Daily News

"What makes this book delightful is how Winspear shows Maisie's emotional development amid the bitter legacy of the Great War. Her growing fan base should enjoy this latest entry. Strongly recommended."—Library Journal

Publishers Weekly
Broadway and television veteran Cassidy continues the subtle, sharp vocal performance that earned her awards for the audio version of Winspear's last Maisie Dobbs mystery, Pardonable Lies. There's a lovely, old-fashioned lilt to Cassidy's reading, reminding listeners of the period (it's now 1931 in an England haunted at every level by the war that officially ended 14 years before). There's still a class battle going on, one that Maisie has straddled because of her unique background: a child of London's working class, put into service at 14, then rescued by a patroness who recognized her intelligence and sent her to study at Girton, Cambridge University's pioneering college for women. So Maisie can treat her working-class East London assistant with the same ease and understanding as she handles her current client a woman from a wealthy, eccentric family whose twin brother, an important artist, was killed in a supposed accident. The bonus interview at the end with Winspear makes listeners realize how similar a mindset Maisie and the author possess. Cassidy and Dobbs are a match made in audio heaven. Simultaneous release with the Holt hardcover (Reviews, June 19). (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This fourth installment in the Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series (after Pardonable Lies) finds our fearless psychologist/inquiry agent investigating the death of artist Nick Bassington-Hope. According to Detective Inspector Stratton, Nick's fall from a set of scaffolding was merely a tragic accident. Nick's twin sister, Georgina, however, insists he was murdered and hires Maisie to discover the truth. Maisie soon finds herself moved by Nick's powerful, often discomforting re-creations of his wartime experiences. But where is the painting on which he was working when he died? Maisie's probing questions and careful listening skills bring her close to danger as she uncovers a series of events leading back to World War I. Meanwhile, her relationship with Andrew Dene slowly unravels as Maisie realizes her work means more to her than he does. The mystery itself is rather transparent, but what makes this book delightful is how Winspear shows Maisie's emotional development amid the bitter legacy of the Great War. Her growing fan base should enjoy this latest entry. Strongly recommended.-Laurel Bliss, Princeton Univ. Lib., NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312426859
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Series: Maisie Dobbs Series , #4
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 94,462
  • Product dimensions: 5.94 (w) x 8.35 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear is the author of three previous Maisie Dobbs novels, Maisie Dobbs, Birds of a Feather, and Pardonable Lies. Maisie Dobbs won the Agatha, Alex, and Macavity Awards, and Birds of a Feather won the Agatha Award. Originally from the U.K., Winspear 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:

Read an Excerpt

MESSENGER OF TRUTH (Chapter One)

&#8217Good morning, Miss Bassington-'ope. Come on in out of that cold." Billy Beale, Maisie Dobbs's assistant, stood by the door to the first-floor office as Maisie allowed the visitor to ascend the stairs before her.

"Thank you." Georgina Bassington-Hope glanced at the man, and thought his smile to be infectious, his eyes kind.

"I've brewed a fresh pot of tea for us."

"Thank you, Billy, that will be just the ticket, it's brassy out there today." Maisie smiled in return at Billy as she directed Georgina into the room.

Three chairs had been set by the gas fire and the tea tray placed on Maisie's desk. As soon as her coat was taken and hung on the hook behind the door, Georgina settled in the middle chair. There was a camaraderie between the investigator and her assistant that intrigued the visitor. The man clearly admired his employer, though it did not appear to be a romantic fondness. But there was a bond, and Georgina Bassington-Hope, her journalist's eye at work, thought that perhaps the nature of their work had forged a mutual dependence and regard—though there was no doubt that the woman was the boss.

She turned her attention to Maisie Dobbs, who was collecting a fresh manila folder and a series of colored pencils, along with a clutch of index cards and paper. Her black wavy hair had probably been cut in a bob some time ago but was now in need of a trim. Did she not care to keep up with a hairdressing regime? Or was she simply too busy with her work? She wore a cream silk blouse with a long blue cashmere cardigan, a black skirt with kick pleats and black shoes with a single strap across to secure them. It was a stylish ensemble, but one that marked the investigator as someone who set more stock by comfort than fashion.

Rejoining Georgina, Maisie said nothing until her assistant had seen that the guest had tea and was comfortable. Georgina did not want to confirm her suspicions by staring, but she thought the woman was sitting with her eyes closed, just for a moment, as if in deep thought. She felt that same sensation of warmth enter her body once more, and opened her mouth to ask a question, but instead expressed gratitude.

"I'm much obliged to you for agreeing to see me, Miss Dobbs. Thank you."

Maisie smiled graciously. It was not a broad smile, not in the way that the assistant had welcomed her, but the woman thought it indicated a person completely in her element.

"I have come to you in the hope that you might be able to help me...." She turned to face Maisie directly. "You have been recommended by someone we both know from our Girton days, actually."

"Might that person have been Dame Constance?" Maisie inclined her head.

"However did you know?" Georgina seemed puzzled.

"We rekindled our acquaintance last year. I always looked forward to her lessons, and especially the fact that we had to go to the abbey to see her. It was a fortuitous connection that the order had moved to Kent." Maisie allowed a few seconds to pass. "So why did you visit Dame Constance, and what led her to suggest you should seek me out?"

"I must say, I would have had teeth pulled rather than attend her tutorials. However, I went to see her when..." She swallowed, and began to speak again. "It is in connection with my brother's...my brother's—" She could barely utter another word. Maisie reached behind her into a black shoulder bag hanging across the back of her chair and pulled out a handkerchief, which she placed on Georgina's knee. As the woman picked up the pressed handkerchief, the fragrant aroma of lavender was released into the air. She sniffed, dabbed her eyes and continued speaking. "My brother died several weeks ago, in early December. A verdict of accidental death has been recorded." She turned to Maisie, then Billy, as if to ensure they were both listening, then stared into the gas fire. "He is—was—an artist. He was working late on the night before the opening of his first major exhibition in years and, it appears, fell from scaffolding that had been set up at the gallery to allow him to construct his main piece." She paused. "I needed to speak to someone who might help me navigate this...this...doubt. And Dame Constance suggested I come to you." She paused. "I have discovered that there was little to be gained from badgering the police, and the man who was called when my brother was found seemed only too pleased when I told him I was going to talk to an inquiry agent—I think he was glad to get me out of his sight, to tell you the truth."

"And who was the policeman?" The investigator held her pen ready to note the name.

"Detective Inspector Richard Stratton, of Scotland Yard."

"Stratton was pleased to learn that you were coming to see me?"

Georgina was intrigued by the faint blush revealed when Maisie looked up from her notes, her midnight-blue eyes even darker under forehead creases when she frowned. "Well, y-yes, and as I said, I think he was heartily sick of me peppering him with questions."

Maisie made another note before continuing. "Miss Bassington-Hope, perhaps you could tell me how you wish me to assist you—how can I help?"

Georgina sat up straight in the chair, and ran her fingers back through thick, drying hair that was springing into even richer copper curls as the room became warmer. She pulled at the hem of her nutmeg-brown tweed jacket, then smoothed soft brown trousers where the fabric fell across her knees. "I believe Nicholas was murdered. I do not think he fell accidentally at all. I believe someone pushed him, or caused him to fall deliberately." She looked up at Maisie once more. "My brother had friends and enemies. He was a passionate artist and those who expose themselves so readily are often as much reviled as admired. His work drew both accolades and disgust, depending upon the interpreter. I want you to find out how he died."

Maisie nodded, still frowning. "I take it there is a police report."

"As I said, Detective Inspector Stratton was called—"

"Yes, I was wondering about that, the fact that Stratton was called to the scene of an accident."

"It was early and he was the detective on duty apparently," added Georgina. "By the time he'd arrived, the pathologist had made a preliminary inspection...." She looked down at the crumpled handkerchief in her hands.

"But I am sure Detective Inspector Stratton conducted a thorough investigation. How do you think I might assist you?"

Georgina tensed, the muscles in her neck becoming visibly taut. "I thought you might say that. Devil's advocate, aren't you?" She leaned back, showing some of the nerve for which she was renowned. Georgina Bassington-Hope, intrepid traveler and journalist, became infamous at twenty-two when she disguised herself as a man to gain a closer view of the lines of battle in Flanders than any other reporter. She brought back stories that were not of generals and battles, but of the men, their struggle, their bravery, their fears and the truth of life as a soldier at war. Her dispatches were published in journals and newspapers the world over and, like her brother's masterpieces, her work drew as much criticism as admiration, and her reputation grew as both brave storyteller and naive opportunist.

"I know what I want, Miss Dobbs. I want the truth and will find it myself if I have to. However, I also know my limitations and I believe in using the very best tools when they are available—price notwithstanding. And I believe you are the best." She paused briefly to reach for her cup of tea, which she held in both hands, cradling the china. "And I believe—because I have done my homework—that you ask questions that others fail to ask and see things that others are blind to." Georgina Bassington-Hope looked back at Billy briefly, then turned to Maisie once again, her voice firm, her eyes unwavering. "Nick's work was extraordinary, his views well known though his art was his voice. I want you to find out who killed him, Miss Dobbs—and bring them to justice."

Maisie closed her eyes, pausing for a few seconds before speaking again. "You were very close, it seems."

Georgina's eyes sparkled. "Oh, yes, we were close, Miss Dobbs. Nick was my twin. Two peas in a pod. He worked with color, texture and light, I work with words." She paused. "And it has occurred to me that whoever killed my brother may well want to silence me too."

Maisie nodded, acknowledging the comment deliberately added to intrigue her, then she stood up, moved away from the fire and walked across to the window. It was snowing again, settling on the ground to join the brown slush that seeped into shoe leather only too readily. Billy smiled at their guest and pointed to the teapot, indicating that perhaps she might like another cup. He had been taking notes throughout the conversation, and now knew his job was to keep their guest calm and quiet while Maisie had a moment with her thoughts. Finally, she turned from the window.

"Tell me, Miss Bassington-Hope: Why were you so reticent to keep your appointments? You canceled twice, yet you came to Fitzroy Square in any case. What caused you to renege on your contract with yourself on two—almost three—occasions?"

Georgina shook her head before replying. "I have no proof. I have nothing to go on, so to speak—and I am a person used to dealing with facts. There's a paucity of clues—indeed, I would be the first to admit, this looks like a classic accident, a careless move by a tired man using a rather precarious ledge upon which to balance while preparing to hang a work that had taken years to achieve." She paused briefly before continuing. "I have nothing except this." She pressed her hand to her chest. "A feeling here, right in my heart, that all is not as it should be, that this accident was murder. I believe I knew the very second that my brother died, for I experienced such an ache at what transpired, according to the pathologist, to be the time of his death. And I did not know how I might explain such things and be taken seriously."

Maisie approached Georgina Bassington-Hope and gently laid a hand on her shoulder. "Then you have most definitely come to the right place in that case. In my estimation, that feeling in your heart is the most significant clue and all we need to take on your case." She looked at Billy and nodded, whereupon he flipped over a new card. "Now then, let us begin. First of all, let me tell you about my terms and the conditions of our contract."

MAISIE DOBBS HAD been in business as a psychologist and investigator for almost two years, having previously been apprenticed to her mentor since childhood. Blanche Dr. Maurice Blanche, was not only an expert in legal medicine, but himself a psychologist and philosopher who had provided a depth of learning and opportunity that might otherwise have been unavailable to his protégé. Now, with a steady stream of clients seeking her services, Maisie had cause for optimism. Although the country was in the grip of economic depression, there were those of a certain class who barely felt the deepening crisis—people like Georgina Bassington-Hope—which in turn meant that there was still plenty of business for an investigator with a growing reputation. The only dark cloud was one she hoped would remain at a good distance. During the autumn of the previous year, her own shell shock had reared up, resulting in a debilitating breakdown. It was this malaise, compounded by a rift with Blanche, that had led to a loss of trust in her mentor. Though in many ways she welcomed the newfound independence in the distance from him, there were times when she looked back at the rhythm of their work, at the rituals and processes, with an ache, with regret. At the outset of a case, following a preliminary conversation with the new client, Maurice would often suggest a walk or, if the weather was poor, simply a change in the seating arrangement. "As soon as that contract is signed, Maisie, we shoulder the weight of our load, open the gate and choose our path. We must therefore move the body to engage our curiosity again after taking on the task of administrator."

Now, with the contract signed by both Maisie and Georgina Bassington-Hope and poor weather preventing all possibility of a walk, Maisie suggested the trio move to the table by the window to continue the conversation.

Later, after the new client had left, Maisie and Billy would unfurl a length of plain wallpaper across the table, pin the edges to the wood, and begin to formulate a case map of known facts, thoughts, feelings, hunches and questions. As the work went on, more information would be added, with the mosaic eventually yielding up previously unseen connections pointing to the truths that heralded closure of the case. If all went well.

Maisie had already jotted some initial questions on an index card, though she knew that many more would come to mind with each response from her new client. "Miss Bassington-Hope—"

"Georgina, please. 'Miss Bassington-Hope' is a bit of a mouthful, and if we are to be here for any length of time, I would rather dispense with the formalities." The woman looked from Maisie to Billy.

Billy glanced at Maisie in a way that made his discomfort at the suggestion obvious.

Maisie smiled. "Yes, of course, as you wish. And you may call me Maisie." Though she was not at all sure she was really open to such an informality, her client's preference must be honored. If she were relaxed, information would flow more readily. Both women now looked at Billy, who blushed.

"Well, if you don't mind, I think I'll stick to your proper name." He looked at Maisie for guidance, then turned to the woman again. "But you can call me Billy if you like, Miss Bassington-'ope."

Georgina smiled, understanding the predicament she had placed them in. "All right, then, Billy—and how about just 'Miss B-H' for me."

"Right you are. Miss B-H it is."

Maisie cleared her throat. "Well, now that we have that little conundrum out of the way, let's get on. Georgina, first I want you to tell me as much as you know about the circumstances of your brother's death."

The woman nodded. "Nick has—had—been preparing for this exhibition for some time, over a year, in fact. His work was becoming very well known, especially in America—there are still a fair few millionaires and they are buying up everything from poor old Europe, it seems. Anyway, Stig Svenson of Svenson's Gallery on Albemarle Street—he's more or less Nick's regular dealer—offered him a special exhibition that comprised both earlier and new works. Nick jumped at the chance, especially as he thought the gallery would be the ideal place to unveil a piece he has been working on, one way or another, for years."

Maisie and Billy exchanged glances, and Maisie interjected with a question. "Why was it perfect for his work? What did the gallery have that made him so excited?"

"Stig had just had the whole place ripped apart and painted—and Nick had already made it clear that he needed a certain amount of room for the new pieces." Georgina held out her arms to help describe the gallery. "Essentially, there are two sort of square bay windows at the front—they're huge—with a door in between, so you can clearly see in from the street, though you cannot view each individual piece. Svenson has—as you might imagine—a very modern, Scandinavian idea of how to use room. It's very bright, every inch of his gallery modeled to display a piece to its advantage. He's had the latest electric lighting installed, and fittings that direct beams in such a way as to create shadows and light to draw buyers in." She paused, to see if her audience of two were keeping up. "So, at the far end there is one huge blank wall almost two floors high for larger pieces, then on both sides a galleried landing, so that you walk in as if you are walking into a theater, only there are no seats and you are not on a gradient—and it's completely white. You can go to either side, up stairs to the landings, but there are screens to divide the room in sections so that you never actually see the whole pièce de résistance—if there is one—until the end. All very clever."

"Yes, I see." Maisie paused, tapped her pen against the palm of her left hand, then spoke again. "Would you describe his 'pièce de résistance' for us?"

Georgina shook her head. "Actually, I can't. As far as I know, no one had seen it in its entirety. He was very secretive about it. That was why he was at the gallery until late—he wanted to construct it himself." She paused thoughtfully, her hand on her mouth, then she looked up. "The only thing I know about it is that it was in several pieces."

"But I thought you said he was working on it when he died. Wouldn't it still be at the gallery?"

"Sorry, what I meant was that he was working on scaffolding, placing the many anchors that would secure the pieces when he brought them in. He had them in storage in London—frankly, I have no idea where."

"Who would know where? Svenson?"

She shook her head. "That's a bit of a mystery at the moment. No one can find the key, and no one knows the address. We just knew he had a lock-up or something somewhere. I know he wanted it all to be kept under wraps until the last moment so that it would draw even more attention—I think he imagined the gasps, if you know what I mean."

"I see, and—"

"The trouble is," Georgina interrupted, "he had already promised most of the collection—except that main piece—to a collector of his work, sight unseen."

"You mean, someone made an offer without first viewing the collection?"

"They'd seen preliminary sketches, but not of the centerpiece."

"Was it a significant offer?"

The woman nodded. "Some tens of thousands of pounds, to my knowledge."

Maisie's eyes grew large and, glancing at Billy, she thought he might pass out.

"...For a painting?"

Georgina Bassington-Hope shrugged. "It's what people will pay if they think the work will dramatically increase in value. And the buyer has the money, had already paid a deposit, which Svenson retains until delivery."

"Who was the buyer?"

"A man called Randolph Bradley. He's an American living in Paris, though he also has a home in New York. One of those back-and-forth people." She ran her fingers through her hair and looked away.

Billy rolled his eyes. "I think I'll put the kettle on again." He stood up and left the room, taking the tea tray with him. Maisie said nothing. Though she understood his annoyance at such amounts of money passing hands in such troubled times, she was dismayed that he had felt it necessary to leave the room. Maisie made small talk, a series of barely consequential questions, until he returned.

"Several pieces? So, was this 'piece' like a jigsaw puzzle, Miss B-H?" Billy set a cup of hot tea in front of Georgina and the customary tin mug in front of Maisie. He placed his own cup on the table and took up his notes again. Maisie was relieved that he had been thinking as he made tea, and not just fuming with resentment.

Georgina nodded. "Well, yes, you could say that. Before the war, Nick was studying art in Europe. He was in Belgium when war was declared, and he returned home very quickly." She shook her head. "Anyway, in Belgium he became very interested in the triptych form."

"Triptych?" Maisie and Billy spoke in unison.

"Yes," continued Georgina. "A triptych comprises three parts, a center main panel with smaller panels on either side. The stories depicted on the smaller panels give more detail to the scene in the main panel, or augment it in some way."

"Bit like the mirror on a dressing table, eh, Miss B-H?"

The woman smiled. "Yes, that's right—though a stained-glass window in a church might be a better description. Triptychs are often religious in nature, though many are quite gory, with scenes of war, or execution of someone important at the time—a king, perhaps, or a warrior."

"Yes, I've seen some in the museums. I know what you're talking about." Maisie paused, making a note to come back to Nicholas Bassington-Hope's background as soon as she had a sense of the circumstances of his death. "So, let's continue with his death—he was at the gallery—what happened, as far as the inquest revealed?"

"There was scaffolding against the main wall. All of the smaller, less important pieces had been placed, and Nick was working on the main wall, as I told you. The scaffolding was there so that he could situate the pieces correctly."

"And would he do this alone?"

"Yes, that was his plan. Though he had help with the scaffolding."

"Wouldn't Svenson have arranged for workers to set up the scaffolding?"

"No." Georgina paused. "Well—yes, usually he probably would, but this time he didn't."

"Why?"

She shook her head. "You don't know Nick. Has to do it all himself, wanted to ensure that his scaffolding was in the right place, that it was strong and that there was nowhere the work could be compromised by the structure."

"And he had help?"

"Yes, his friends Alex and Duncan helped."

"Alex and Duncan?" Maisie glanced at Billy to ensure that he remained attentive. If they both took notes, then nothing would be missed as they studied the cache of information later.

"Alex Courtman and Duncan Haywood. Both artists, Nick's neighbors in Dungeness, where he lived. His other friend, Quentin Trayner, had a twisted ankle and couldn't help. He'd fallen while bringing a boat ashore." She paused briefly. "The three of them always helped one another out. They were all artists, you see."

"And they all lived at Dungeness—in Kent? It's a bit bleak and isolated, isn't it?"

"And freezing cold at this time of year, I shouldn't wonder!" Billy interjected.

"There's quite an artists' haven there, you know. Has been for a few years now. In fact, when the Rye to Dungeness railway closed down—I think in '26 or '27—they sold off the railway carriages for ten pounds apiece, and a few artists bought them to set up as houses and studios on the beach." Georgina paused and her voice cracked, just slightly, so that both Maisie and Billy had to lean forward to better hear her. "I called it the 'place where lost souls were beached.'" Georgina leaned back in her chair. "They were men of an artistic sensibility who had been drafted by the government to do its dirty work, and afterward all four of them were left feeling sick about it for years."

"What do you mean?" asked Maisie.

Georgina leaned forward. "Nick, Quentin, Duncan and Alex met at the Slade, that's how they forged such a strong friendship. And they had all seen service in France. Nick was wounded at the Somme and was sent to work in propaganda after he'd healed—he was no longer fit for active duty. Alex worked there too. Then Nick was sent back over to Flanders as a war artist." She shook her head. "It changed him forever, that's why he had to get away after the war, to America."

"America?"

"Yes, he said he needed lots of space around him."

Maisie nodded and flicked back through her notes. "Look, Miss—Georgina—I suggest we complete our notes on the actual events of your brother's death today, then let us make another appointment to talk about his history. That will give you time to gather other items that might be of interest to us—journals, sketchbooks, letters, photographs, that sort of thing."

"All right."

"So..." Maisie stood up, placed her index cards next to her teacup and walked to the other side of the table to look across at the snow-covered square. "Your brother, Nick, was working late, preparing the gallery's main wall to hang a piece—pieces—of his art, which no one had seen yet. At what time did he arrive to do this work? Who else was with him? And what time, according to the pathologist, did he die—and how?"

Georgina gave a single nod as she sipped her tea, set her cup down again and began to answer Maisie's questions as directly as they were asked. "He had been there all day, since dawn, hanging the pieces. They had set up the scaffolding later in the day, according to Duncan and Alex, who said he told them to return to my flat around half past eight—it wasn't unusual for Nick to bring friends to stay at my flat and they had turned up the night before with their knapsacks. My home is a convenient London bolt-hole for all sorts of people." She paused, took another sip of tea, and went on. "The gallery caretaker, Arthur Levitt, said that he looked in on Nick around nine and told him he was ready to go home. Nick replied that he had a key and would lock up."

There was silence for a moment, a hiatus that Maisie allowed to linger in the air as the narrator sought strength to recount the loss of her brother. Georgina Bassington-Hope pulled at the handkerchief Maisie had passed to her earlier and shifted in her chair.

"Detective Richard Stratton from Scotland Yard was on my doorstep at eight the following morning, with news that there had been an accident. I don't think he usually deals with accidents, but came out all the same as he was on duty when the alarm was raised by Mr. Levitt when he came in and found Nick...."

Maisie spoke softly. "Can you tell me how he described finding your brother?"

"On the floor below the scaffolding. Part of the rail was broken and it looked as if Nick had leaned back a bit too far while checking the position of some anchors against a guide that he had already drafted on paper. His neck had been broken and it is thought that he died instantly when he hit the stone floor, probably around ten-ish, according to the pathologist." She shook her head. "Damn him for being so secretive! It was all this business of wanting there to be a big ooh-ahh when the triptych was revealed to the world that killed him. If he hadn't been there alone..."

"Georgina, let's summon a taxi-cab to take you home." Sensing a weariness in her client that was not physical but rooted in her soul, Maisie leaned across and placed her hand on Georgina's shoulder. "We'll speak again tomorrow—and perhaps we should meet at the gallery, if it isn't too difficult for you. Would ten be convenient?"

Georgina nodded, feeling the now familiar warmth flood her body again as Maisie touched her. Billy stood up and pulled on his overcoat before making his way out to Tottenham Court Road to hail a taxi-cab. Maisie helped Georgina into her coat and picked up the collection of index cards to pen some additional notes.

"Everything you've described points to an accident. The intensity of your sense that it was not a misstep by your brother that caused his death is compelling to me, which is why I am taking on this case. However, when we meet tomorrow, and in our future meetings—for there will be a few—I would like to know if you are aware of anyone who might harbor an intensity of feeling about your brother, or his work, which might have led to a desire to see him dead, either by accident or a deliberate act."

"Yes, I've been thinking about that, I—"

"Good. Now then. One final question today—may I have details of your family? I will need to meet them."

"Of course, though don't expect to make too much headway—they do not share my feelings and would be horrified if they knew I had come to an inquiry agent." She buttoned her coat as they heard the door slam and Billy make his way back up the stairs. "My parents live on an impossibly large estate just outside Tenterden in Kent. Noelle—'Nolly'—my older sister, lives with them. She's forty now, lost her husband in the war. She's nothing like the rest of us, very proper, very county, if you know what I mean. She's a justice of the peace at the local magistrates' courts, sits on all sorts of local committees and gets involved in politics; you've met the sort—bit of a know-all. And she heartily disapproves of me. My brother Harry is the baby, the child who came along when everyone least expected it, according to Emsy—that's Emma, my mother. Harry is twenty-nine now and a musician. Not classical, no, much to Nolly#8217;s dismay he plays the trumpet in dark places where people have fun and enjoy themselves."

Billy came into the room, a coating of fresh snowflakes across his shoulders. "Taxi-cab's outside, Miss B-H."

"Thank you, B—, Mr. Beale." Georgina Bassington-Hope shook hands with Billy, then addressed Maisie. "See you at ten tomorrow morning at Svenson's Gallery on Albemarle Street." She paused for just a moment, plunging her hands inside her coat sleeves once again. "I know you will find out the truth, Maisie. And I know you will find his killer, of that I am sure."

Maisie nodded, moved as if to return to her desk, then turned back. "Georgina, forgive me—one last question, if I may."

"Of course."

"You were obviously close to your brother, you've said as much, but, were you on good terms when he died?"

The woman's eyes reddened. "Of course." She nodded her head. "We were close, so close that we never had to explain ourselves to each other. We just knew about each other, to the point of perceiving what the other one was thinking, even when we were miles apart." Georgina Bassington-Hope looked at Billy, who opened the door to accompany her downstairs to the waiting taxi-cab.

When Billy came back to the office, he was shaking his head. "Well, what do you think about all that, Miss?"

Maisie was now seated at the paper drawn across the table to form the case map, working with colored pencils to add notes to a small but growing diagram. "It's too soon to say, Billy, too soon to even begin to draw conclusions." She looked up. "Come and help me pin this paper onto the table."

Billy smoothed his hand across the paper to remove folds before pinning the edges and studied his employer's preliminary notations as he worked. "What do we do next?"

Maisie smiled. "Well, here's what we'll be doing this afternoon—we're off to the Tate to learn a bit more than we know already about art."

"Oh, Miss..."

"Come on, Billy, an hour or two spent in contemplation of the great world of art will do us both the power of good on this gray old day."

"If you say so, Miss. You never know, you might find something nice for them bare walls of yours!" Billy patted the case map as he pressed in the last pin, then moved from the table and collected Maisie's coat, which he held out for her.

"I think the bare walls are there to stay for a while, Billy. Furniture is top of my list for the new flat at the moment." Maisie laughed as she buttoned her coat, collected her hat, scarf, gloves and document case. "Now then, let's go and find a triptych or two. With a bit of luck we'll find an amenable curator who will educate us about the people who can afford to buy such things without even looking at the goods or balking at the price!"

MESSENGER OF TRUTH. Copyright 2006 by Jacqueline Winspear.

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Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about Messenger of Truth are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Messenger of Truth.

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Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 24, 2014

    Messenger of Truth is the fourth book in the Maisie Dobbs series

    Messenger of Truth is the fourth book in the Maisie Dobbs series by British-born American author, Jacqueline Winspear. When the death of controversial artist Nicholas Bassington-Hope, from a fall whilst setting up his latest exhibition, is ruled as accidental, his twin sister Georgina is unconvinced. Georgina, an outspoken journalist, seeks out the help of Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. In the course of her investigations, Maisie meets the bohemian Bassington-Hope family, Nick’s fellow artists from the colony at Dungeness, his promoter, gallery owner Stig Svenson, and the collector who is determined to own all of his work, wealthy American Randolph Bradley. And while all the evidence points to an unfortunate fall, Maisie soon finds that plenty of possible motives exist for Nick’s murder. Nick was known for including real people in his paintings, careless of whom it might upset. Did his latest masterpiece, secreted away in an unknown lockup, offend the wrong person? Or did he fall foul of his younger brother’s contacts with the underworld? Was Randolph looking to increase the value of his collection (as the death of an artist is bound to do), or annoyed that he refused to sell the masterpiece?  What were his artist friends, of late noticeably wealthier, hiding? Were the recent quarrels with his siblings relevant? Maisie is left to determine the true story alone, as Billy Beale has problems of his own. DI Stratton is being less than helpful and things come to a head with Maisie’s suitor, Andrew Dene. This instalment touches on war artists, war propaganda, the atrocities of war, the scourge of childhood diseases, and the loss of art works to richer countries. Stolen heirloom diamonds, European works of art and smugglers all feature as Maisie delves into the world of art. Winspear develops her main characters further and gives the reader an original plot with enough twists to keep the pages turning. Winspear uses some wonderfully descriptive prose: her depiction of the converted railway carriage is particularly evocative. This is another excellent mystery that skilfully conjures the feel of post-war England and her inhabitants. Fans will look forward to the next book in the series, An Incomplete Revenge. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2013

    As usual, a superb mystery with an interesting cast of character

    As usual, a superb mystery with an interesting cast of characters ............... Maisie never disappoints!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2013

    maisie dobbs ...

    just gets better and better

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2012

    I just love maisie

    She has such courage not just in doing her job but also in seeing herself and her own faults and vulnerabilities. She is ahead of her time, forging new roads for other young women to follow. I do hope she finds love, some onexeho is willing to let her continue with her work, maybe someone that will share in her adventures, some one who is secretly very rich and who has no problem letting her be who she is.

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  • Posted March 14, 2012

    A bit too slow for my tastes

    Set in London after the Great War, Maise Dobbs has quite a mystery on her hands. Nicholas Bassingon-Hope, upcoming artist, has fallen to his death. His sister Georgina feels in her heart that her twin brother has been murdered and when the police do not believe her, she turns to Maisie. Without any clues to point to murder, Maisie takes the case, determined to bring peace to the Bassington-Hope family one way or the other.

    Before I write anything else, I have to state how much I LOVE this cover. It is so creative and looks a-mazing in person. I love reading mysteries that are also historical fiction because the mysteries are solved without any fancy technology. It just seems like good detective work. Maisie is so smart and analytical. It reminded me a bit of when I was younger and I was reading Nancy Drew. While I appreciated the writing and the backdrop of the story, the plot was a bit slow for my tastes. I felt like clues were being uncovered and the relevance wasn't explained to the reader until the big unfolding at the end. For me, this meant I didn't feel any excitement from the mystery. I didn't feel driven to turn each page. I also didn't connect or like Maisie very much. She appeared to be a character that was a bit to polished and judgmental for my tastes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2011

    Highly Recommended--a relaxing and fun read.

    I love historical fiction and mysteries, and Maisie Dobbs fits the bill. The WWI background is very interesting and with this book the author moves into the Thirties--another interesting era. The reader can't help but like Maisie Dobbs and her personal journey. She kept the reader guessing until the end with this book. She's easy to read, so sit back with a cup of tea and enjoy!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    A Great Detective Series

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is part of a series that the reader should begin by reading the first book, Massie Dobbs. I have read all the books in the series. The author brings in history, good writing and an English mystery.

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  • Posted April 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Maisie finds the Truth about a lot of Things

    From Maisies' first meeting with the parents of a missing son, to the end- she learns the "truth" about the case, her own relationships with her mentor, friends, and father. This, most recent publication from Ms. Winspear has widened our view of Maisie's world. Her case maps lead her and Billy Beales to an exciting conclusion to capture the antagonist and expand her relationship with the new Detective Inspector. The characters are sensitive and real, and set in the era before WWII. The setting lends insight to Maisie's character and actions as a woman in business for herself in that time. This book was a very satisfying read and I can't wait for the new one!

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  • Posted March 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    New Series for me

    First part of a series that is charming and educational. I'm not as conversant in WWI as I am with WWII and the whole British caste system which Maisie overcomes. So, I'm fascinated with something new and will keep buying the books until I catch up. Certainly good writing style and keep me interested enough to say I'll buy the other books.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    Satisfying good read

    This is a welcome addition to the series of Maisie Dobb stories. It is enjoyable to see Maisie's character develop as the series goes on. The characters are believable and realistic in their reactions and motives. The plot is unpredictable,and the ending is very satisfying. The historical element adds a bonus interest to the mystery, learning about England following the "Great War". Hope the author keeps on going!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2009

    I can't stop reading the Masie Dobbs series!!

    Maisie Dobbs is a modern woman even by 2009 standards. I always learn quite a bit of history through her mysyeries- this novel centers around the art world in post WWI

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2009

    Jacqueline Winspear is an Incredable writer

    I am captivated by all of her books. They are hard to put down and are a great reread.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2006

    Another Hit

    I have read all of the Maisie Dobbs books and have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one. They just keep getting better and better. Winspear's description of post war England if fascinating.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 14, 2006

    A TELLING PORTRAIT OF POSTWAR ENGLAND

    Those who had the good fortune to read or hear the first story in Jacqueline Winspear's acclaimed series (Maisie Dobbs 2003) were immediately won by an indomitable heroine. Believe those were close to the words I wrote at that time and I've not changed my mind - not one whit. Voice performer Orlagh Cassidy narrated the second in the series, Pardonable Lies, and for this she won and AudioFile Earphones Award. She gives another award winning performance with her narration of Messenger of Truth. She has that rare ability to give life to individual characters with a vocal nuance, and perfectly capture the accents of 1930s England. She's a pleasure! As many will remember Maisie is an investigator and in this, the fourth in the Maisie Dobbs series, she's retained to investigate the death of well known artist Nick Bassington-Hope. Nick died when he fell while hanging one of his works of art for an exhibition relating to the Great War. The question is, was his death an accident or was it planned by someone who pushed him as he worked? Maisie is hired by Nick's sister who isn't willing to accept Scotland Yard's decision that it was an accident. This investigation takes Maisie, who came from humble beginnings as a housemaid, into a strata of society with which she is not familiar. The author's portrait of postwar England is well worth the listen the mystery is frosting on the cake. - Gail Cooke

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2006

    An excellent exhilarating whodunit

    In 1930 in a Mayfair gallery in London, artist Nick Bassington-Hope falls to his death. Scotland Yard does a perfunctory inquiry before officially declaring that a tragic accident occurred. However, Nick's twin sister, journalist Georgina Bassington-Hope believes her controversial sibling was murdered. When the police ignore her, she decides to enlist the help of a private sleuth.------------------ Georgina asks fellow Girton College alumni, investigator Maisie Dobbs to look into her brother¿s demise. Maisie agrees, but soon finds herself looking closely at Nick¿s record during WWI, which leads to the beaches of Dungeness in Kent. However, an unknown adversary wants Maisie to end her inquiries or else. The threats and attempts on her life make the obstinate psychologist sleuth even more determined to uncover the truth because she believes Georgina¿s theory is right.----------------- Maisie Dobb¿s fourth historical mystery (see PARDONABLE LIES) is an excellent exhilarating whodunit that brings to life England between the two great wars. Maisie is at her best as she follows clues that lead her to Nick¿s activities during WWI. The support cast brings out the era as well as the best in the female sleuth. Fans of the series or anyone who appreciates a strong historical detective thriller will want to read the Maisie Dobb¿s novels, which are some of the best.---------------- Harriet Klausner

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    Posted April 22, 2009

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    Posted June 10, 2009

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    Posted March 13, 2010

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    Posted October 16, 2011

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    Posted August 29, 2011

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