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Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs Series #3)
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Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs Series #3)

4.5 40
by Jacqueline Winspear

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In the third novel of this bestselling series, London investigator Maisie Dobbs faces grave danger as she returns to the site of her most painful WWI memories to resolve the mystery of a pilot's death.

A deathbed plea from his wife leads Sir Cecil Lawton to seek the aid of Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. As Maisie soon learns, Agnes Lawton never


In the third novel of this bestselling series, London investigator Maisie Dobbs faces grave danger as she returns to the site of her most painful WWI memories to resolve the mystery of a pilot's death.

A deathbed plea from his wife leads Sir Cecil Lawton to seek the aid of Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. As Maisie soon learns, Agnes Lawton never accepted that her aviator son was killed in the Great War, a torment that led her not only to the edge of madness but to the doors of those who practice the dark arts and commune with the spirit world. In accepting the assignment, Maisie finds her spiritual strength tested, as well as her regard for her mentor, Maurice Blanche. The mission also brings her together once again with her college friend Priscilla Evernden, who served in France and who lost three brothers to the war—one of whom, it turns out, had an intriguing connection to the missing Ralph Lawton.

Following on the heels of the triumphant Birds of a Feather, PARDONABLE LIES is the most compelling installment yet in the chronicles of Maisie Dobbs, "a heroine to cherish" (Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review).

Editorial Reviews

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 series

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

“Maisie's most assured outing to date . . . The mood and atmosphere of the period ring with authenticity, and the class tension that underlies many of Maisie's dealings lends the narrative extra sparkle.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“For readers yearning for the calm and insightful intelligence of a main character like P. D. James's Cordelia Gray, Maisie Dobbs is spot-on.” —The Boston Globe

“A prim 1930s British gumshoe is one of the freshest, most modern heroines in recent memory. Maisie Dobbs takes her place in the upper echelon of literary female detectives, right next to Kinsey Millhone and Kay Scarpetta. . . . Pardonable Lies is as stylish as a whodunit gets.” —BookPage

“I couldn't put the book down and rushed out right away to get the other two. Maisie Dobbs is a joy.” —The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“Will thoroughly delight existing fans and should garner her new ones . . . Winspear carefully crafts each sentence, building toward a thrilling and emotional conclusion.” —Library Journal

“If you haven't read the Maisie Dobbs stories, you are missing a treat.” —The Ledger Independent (Kentucky)

“Fans of Miss Marple and Precious Ramotswe are sure to embrace Maisie, a pitch-perfect blend of compassion and panache.” —Booklist

“To give an idea of how much I liked Pardonable Lies, I immediately went to my local bookstore and ordered the first two in the series. Long live Maisie Dobbs!” —Mystery News

“Maisie is immediately captivating. . . . Dobbs ponders the mysteries of life as well as the mysteries she is hired to solve. . . . Surprisingly eloquent, evening moving.” —Saint Paul Pioneer Press

“Jacqueline Winspear's historical mysteries prove exactly what this subgenre can achieve, offering a prism of the past and a mirror of the future. . . . Fascinating.” —Sun-Sentinel

“A fine examination of a young woman making her way amid the economic and social dislocations of 1930s Britain . . . Pardonable Lies is a reflection, a meditation even, on how those of us who have experienced war carry with us the scars that can reopen in an instant.” —The Sunday Patriot-News

“Winspear again treats us to a story broad in scope and rich in detail and suspense. . . . An excellent series.” —The Orange County Register

“Filled with convincing characters, this is a complex tale of healing, of truth and half-truth, of long-held secrets, some, perhaps, to be held forever. Winspear writes seamlessly, enriching the whole with vivid details of English life on a variety of social levels.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Winspear twists the suspense to a high pitch in this dark and moody tale that will please newcomers to the series as well as Winspear's many fans.” —Rocky Mountain News

A dying plea spurs Maisie Dobbs's tantalizing investigation. Agnes Lawton never truly believed that her beloved aviator son, Ralph, had died on a World War I battlefield. Now on her deathbed, she implores her knighted husband to find the truth about her offspring's disappearance. For psychologist/detective Dobbs, the case has troubling personal dimensions. Her search not only forces her to grapple with her own painful memories of the Great War; it leads her to doubt the merits of her mentor, Maurice Blanche.
Publishers Weekly
Agatha-winner Winspear's engrossing third Maisie Dobbs novel maintains the high quality of its predecessors, Maisie Dobbs (2003) and Birds of a Feather (2004). In late 1930, the London "psychologist and investigator" gets involved in three cases: proving the innocence of a 13-year-old farm girl, Avril Jarvis, accused of murder; undertaking a search for Sir Cecil Lawton's only son, a pilot shot down behind enemy lines in WWI, whose body was never recovered; and looking into the circumstances of the death of her university friend Priscilla Evernden Partridge's brother in France during the war. Maisie must go back to the region where, 13 years earlier, she served as a nurse, and confront her memories of mud, blood and loss. Filled with convincing characters, this is a complex tale of healing, of truth and half-truth, of long-held secrets, some, perhaps, to be held forever. Winspear writes seamlessly, enriching the whole with vivid details of English life on a variety of social levels. Agent, Amy Rennert. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
A pilot's death forces London investigator Dobbs to face the trauma of her World War I memories, as well as grave danger in this third volume of the best-selling series. Winspear lives in Southern California. With a 12-city author tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-It is 1930 and Maisie Dobbs has been operating her detective cum psychiatric agency for more than a year. Her mentor, Maurice Blanche, a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, has retired and she has been successful on her own. But a new case threatens to take her back to a place she has been trying to forget: France, where she was a nurse during the Great War. She has been hired by a successful QC (Queen's Counsel) to prove that his only son did die in the war and was not still alive as his recently deceased wife believed. The case seems to pit her against Blanche, and she becomes as fearful of him as of the strange man following her. This case and one she casually takes on for a friend seem to converge frighteningly, and she is emotionally and physically exhausted by the time she wraps them up. Teens will get a great feel for the time between the World Wars and the social and economic milieu as the Depression approaches and the losses of 1914-'18 seem more trenchant. Maisie is indomitable and inspiring, and she must try to find space in her increasingly busy life for her father and her beau while helping her clients to deal with the scars they carry. A thought-provoking series entry, the story contains revelations of secret missions, homosexuality, the lives of persons from all layers of society, and a winning heroine who is not perfect and is willing to learn from her mistakes.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
The New York Times on Maisie Dobbs

Startlingly original...A deft debut novel...Be prepared to be astonished at the sensitivity and wisdom with which Maisie resolves her first professional assignment.

Product Details

Publication date:
Maisie Dobbs Series , #3
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.45(w) x 8.24(h) x 0.67(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The young policewoman stood in the corner of the room. Plain whitewashed walls, a heavy door, a wooden table with two chairs, and one small window with frosted glass rendered the room soulless. It was a cold afternoon and she'd been in the corner since coming on duty two hours ago, her only company the rumpled and bent girl sitting in the chair that faced the wall. Others had come into the room to sit in the second chair: first, Detective Inspector Richard Stratton, with Detective Sergeant Caldwell standing behind him; then Stratton standing while a doctor from the Maudsley Hospital sat before the girl, trying to get her to speak. The girl—no one knew her age or where she had come from because she hadn't spoken a word since she was brought in this morning, her bloodstained dress, hands and face showing a month's worth of dirt—was now waiting for another person who had been summoned to question her: a Miss Maisie Dobbs. The policewoman had heard of Maisie Dobbs, but with what she had seen today, she wasn't sure that anyone could get this young scrubber to talk.

The policewoman heard voices outside the door: Stratton and Caldwell and then another voice. A smooth voice. A voice that was neither loud nor soft, that did not need to be raised to be heard or, thought the policewoman, to get someone to listen.

The door opened and Stratton came in, followed by a woman she presumed to be Maisie Dobbs. The policewoman was surprised, for the woman was nothing like she had expected, but then she realized that the voice had revealed little about the owner, except that it had depth without being deep.

Wearing a plain burgundy suit with black shoes and carrying a worn black leather document case, the visitor smiled at both the policewoman and Stratton in a way that almost startled the uniformed woman, as her eyes met the midnight-blue eyes of Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator.

"Pleased to meet you, Miss Chalmers," said Maisie, though they had not been introduced. The warm familiarity of the greeting took Chalmers aback. "Brrr. It's cold in here," added the investigator, turning to Stratton. "Inspector, can we bring in an oil stove? Just to take the edge off?"

Stratton raised an eyebrow and inclined his head at the unusual nature of the request. Amused at seeing her superior caught off guard, Chalmers tried to hide a grin, and the seated girl looked up, just for a second, because the woman's voice compelled her to do so.

"Good. Thank you, Inspector. Oh—and perhaps a chair for Miss Chalmers." Maisie Dobbs removed her gloves, placing them on top of the black bag, which she set on the floor, before pulling a chair around so that she was seated not opposite the girl, on the other side of the table, but close to her.

Strange, thought Chalmers, as the door opened and a constable brought in another chair, left the room, and returned with a small paraffin stove, which he placed by the wall. They exchanged quick glances and shrugged shoulders.

"Thank you," said Maisie, smiling.

And they knew she had seen their furtive communication.

Now, sitting alongside the girl, Maisie said nothing. She said nothing for some time, so that after a while Chalmers wondered what in heaven's name she was there for. Then she realized that the Dobbs woman had closed her eyes and had changed her position slowly, and though she couldn't put her finger on it, it was as if she were talking to the girl without opening her mouth, so that the girl—as if she couldn't help herself—leaned toward Maisie Dobbs. Blimey, she's going to talk.

"I'm getting warmer now." It was a rounded voice, a west-country voice. The girl spoke deliberately, with rolled r's and a nod when her sentence was finished. A farm girl. Yes, Chalmers would have pegged her for a farm girl.

But Maisie Dobbs said nothing, just opened her eyes and smiled, but not with her mouth. No, it was her eyes that smiled. Then she touched the girl's hand, taking it in her own. The girl began to cry and, very strange again, thought Chalmers, the Dobbs woman didn't reach out to put an arm around her shoulder, or try to stop her or use the moment as Stratton and Caldwell might have. No, she just sat and nodded, as if she had all the time in the world. Then she surprised the policewoman again.

"Miss Chalmers. Would you be so kind as to poke your head around the door and ask for a bowl of hot water, some soap, two flannels, and a towel, please."

Chalmers gave a single nod and moved toward the door. Oh, this would surely give the girls something to chew over later. They'd all have a giggle about this little pantomime.

A bowl of hot water was brought to the room by the police constable, along with the flannels, soap, and towel. Maisie removed her jacket, placed it over the back of the chair, and rolled up the sleeves of her cream silk blouse. Reaching into the bowl, she rubbed some soap on a wet flannel and squeezed out the excess water. Then she lifted the girl's chin, smiled into her reddened and bloodshot eyes, and began to wash her face, rinsing the flannel and going back again, dabbing the hot cloth on the girl's temples and across her forehead. She washed her arms, holding first her left hand in the hot flannel and working the cloth up to her elbow, then reaching for the girl's right hand. The girl flinched, but Maisie showed no sign of noticing the movement, instead massaging her right hand with the cloth, gently working it along her arm to the elbow, and then rinsing again.

It was as she knelt on the floor, taking one filthy bare foot after the other and washing the dirt and grime away with the second flannel, that the policewoman realized she had become mesmerized by the scene unfolding before her. It's like being in church.

The girl spoke again. "You've got right soft 'ands, miss."

Maisie Dobbs smiled. "Thank you. I used to be a nurse, years ago, in the war. That's what the soldiers used to say: that my hands were soft."

The girl nodded.

"What's your name?"

Chalmers stared as the girl—who had been sitting in that room without so much as a cup of tea since she was brought in twelve hours ago—replied immediately.

"Avril Jarvis, miss."

"Where are you from?"

"Taunton, miss." She began to sob.

Maisie Dobbs reached into the black bag and brought out a clean linen handkerchief, which she placed on the table in front of the girl. Chalmers waited for Maisie to take out a sheet of paper to write notes, but she didn't; instead she simply continued with her questions as she finished drying the girl's feet.

"How old are you, Avril?"

"Fourteen next April, I reckon."

Maisie smiled. "Tell me, why are you in London and not Taunton?"

Avril Jarvis sobbed continuously as Maisie folded the towel and sat next to her again. But she did answer the question, along with every other question put to her over the next hour, at which point Maisie said that was enough for now; she would be taken care of and they would speak again tomorrow—only Detective Inspector Stratton would have to hear her story too. Then, adding fuel to the tale that Chalmers would tell the other policewomen lodging in rooms upstairs at Vine Street, the Jarvis girl nodded and said, "All right, then. Just so long as you'll be with me, miss."

"Yes. I'll be here. Don't worry. You can rest now, Avril."

Copyright © 2005 by Jacqueline Winspear. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Winspear is the author of the Maisie Dobbs novels, Maisie Dobbs and Birds of a Feather, which won the Agatha Award for Best Novel. A New York Times Notable Book, Maisie Dobbs was nominated for a record eight awards, including the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel, and won both the Agatha and Macavity Awards for Best First Novel, as well as the Alex Award for an adult novel suitable for young adults. Born in England, Winspear now lives in California.

Brief Biography

Ojai, California
Date of Birth:
April 30, 1955
Place of Birth:
Weald of Kent, England
The University of London¿s Institute of Education

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Pardonable Lies 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 41 reviews.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
The third Maisie Dobbs novel, Pardonable Lies, is a bigger book, and delves more deeply into Maisie's past and her personal life. When a man asks Psychologist/Private Investigator Maisie Dobbs to help him fulfill a deathbed promise to his wife to find out if their son, who was declared killed during World War I was really dead, Maisie takes the case. Coincidentally, Maisie's friend Priscilla has come for a visit and asks Maisie to find out the circumstances behind her brother Peter's wartime death in France. Maisie and Priscilla both served in France during the war, and Maisie was wounded in an incident that caused her boyfriend to become brain damaged. He now lives in a permanent vegetative state in a hospital. All this shakes Maisie, and she reluctantly takes the cases, and heads back to France to face her demons. The scene where Maisie is in the cemetery where so many men lost their lives during the war is emotionally powerful, and reveals a new level of depth to Maisie. All the horrors of war come rushing back, and Maisie is overcome with emotion. I think many people who have faced trauma will understand Maisie's experience. Maisie has been presented as a character so in control of her emotions, this incident makes her more vulnerable. Wisnpear ratchets up the tension in this novel as it appears that someone is trying to kill Maisie. Who and why this is happening is a puzzle, as there is more than one suspect. The title, Pardonable Lies, refers to a few things. Maisie and her mentor Dr. Maurice Blanche have a falling out when Maisie discovers that he hid from her some aspects of his intelligence work during the war. This rift is important, and I wonder if it will permanently affect their relationship. Maisie is very scrupulous, and her integrity is paramount to her. When she discovers two secrets related to Priscilla's brother and her client's son, she has to decide which is more important- protecting someone or telling the truth. Her internal struggle makes for a powerful story. I'm enjoying getting to better know Maisie through these novels. In this one, we see Maisie struggle more with her emotions, having to face her past. I liked her friendship with Priscilla, unique because Maisie doesn't seem to have many friends her own age. I also like getting historical context. Following World War I, when ships were no longer needed for battle, many of them were converted for pleasure travel. Although the world financial depression hurt the economy, travel to the Riviera, Africa and the Mediterranean became cheaper and easier. This opened up the world to many people who hadn't traveled much before. Pardonable Lies gives us a deeper look at Maisie's life and I found it the strongest of the series so far. This series would be great for high school girls, Maisie is a terrific role model.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have now read five books in this series and am looking forward to reading book #6! I thoroughly enjoy the main character, and I believe that the author has written Maisie in many layers, not just the superficial. The supporting characters are well written from Maisie's assistant to her father. Lastly, the fact that you catch clues throughout the books, but not "who dunnit " until the very end is another plus for me. If you enjoy a series with characters that change and grow, as well as a mystery set within a historic period (1920-1930s), these books are for you. Read and enjoy!
Black_Cat_Lover More than 1 year ago
To be honest, I read the first two of the series via the library (on ebooks) but they didn't have the third. I guess it says something that I bought it! Not great literature but I enjoy the view into post WWI England and Maisie and Billy are good company. The plots are well done but they are only part of the story. The development of the two characters, their lives and growth as people is part of it too. However, I'll be getting book 4 at the library. These are a little light -- and are such quick reads -- that I'm not tempted to continue purchasing them at $10 a pop.
SherreyM More than 1 year ago
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review. Opinions expressed are mine. “My child, when a mountain appears on the journey, we try to go to the left, then to the right; we try to find the easy way to navigate our way back to the easier path.” He paused. “But the mountain is there to be crossed. It is on that pilgrimage, as we climb higher, that we are forced to shed the layers upon layers we have carried for so long. Then we find that our load is lighter and we have come to know something of ourselves in the perilous climb.” Pardonable Lies, the third in the Maisie Dobbs series, has so much going on in the story and so much going for it. I found myself flipping pages faster than usual in a Maisie Dobbs mystery. I felt Jacqueline Winspear focused a great deal more on Maisie’s intellect, sensitivity, and sense of duty. In Pardonable Lies, Maisie commits to two clients about family members lost during the war. Although she uncovers some truths her clients may not wish to hear, she manages to report back to them without necessarily burdening them with all she has learned. While solving the two military cases, Maisie finds herself drawn to help a young woman from an outlying village charged with murder. Maisie’s eye for detail and her keen sense of leaving no stone unturned may likely save Avril’s life for something better than she ever expected. Jacqueline Winspear is a gifted writer. She handles descriptive language such that her reader feels a sense of time and place, and we can almost see the locale of each scene. Her research into the settings post-WWI give us a clear sense of the damages done and the impact on the people. I’m already looking forward to the next in the series although each one I’ve read thus far can stand alone. Don’t hesitate to start reading wherever you choose. A mystery lover will find these books highly enjoyable. Once again I say well done, Ms. Winspear!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She's so intelligent and the books really well written. I loved how it can together.
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cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
Pardonable Lies is the third book in the Maisie Dobbs series by British-born American author, Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator, uses her unique skills to tease from a thirteen-year-old girl the circumstances of her “uncle’s” death. Avril Jarvis is the prime suspect, but Maisie doubts her guilt, and sends Billy Beale to Avril’s hometown of Taunton to do some investigating. Meanwhile, Lord Julian Compton asks aisie to take on a case for a friend, Sir Cecil Lawton, QC. Maisie’s brief is to confirm that Cecil’s son, Ralph, died in a plane crash in France during the Great War, some 13 years ago. A reunion with her college friend, Priscilla Partridge (nee Evernden) sees Maisie also agreeing to establish the fate of her eldest brother, Peter, ostensibly another Great War casualty. After some initial research into Ralph Lawton’s background in England, Maisie reluctantly travels to France, the scene of her own wartime traumas. Her mentor, Maurice Blanche, insists on accompanying her, a move Maisie finds rather unsettling; she is unsettled, too, by several incidents which lead her to believe her life is in danger. Once again, the narration proceeds at a deliberate pace to cement a plot with several twists. While some details soon become obvious, there are a few intriguing surprises in store for the reader. Maisie’s trust in Maurice is compromised; she is involved in accidents in her beloved MG; poisoned chocolates, missing War Office records, a popular politician, secret passages, a gay men’s club, psychics and a secret diary all feature. As always, Winspear creates a 1930’s world that feels authentic, including rumblings about Nazi Germany. She continues to fill out the background of her regular characters in this enthralling historical mystery.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So much history related to WWI and it's aftermath included in this mystery novel. With several cases being investigated by the sleuth, Maisie Dobbs, the author juggles it all to make for a fascinating read! I had to reread this one after reading the sequels.
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cwall886 More than 1 year ago
Truly an outstanding series. This edition (#3 in the series) presents a more "polished," sensitive, and engaging Maisie. This an absolutely TERRIFIC read, the mystery is engrossing, and the book is hihly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read - Winspear's historical info on WW1 and the toll the war reaped on the population make it a bittersweet story, but one that captures your interest.
bobsocean More than 1 year ago
A very well written book about Maisie's trials and tribulations and haunting ghosts of her war experiences. Quite a story which hung together very nicely. Enjoyed the exprience and the characters that seemed to come to life with every page. Not normally read this sort of thing, but it kept me turning the pages, and looking forward to picking the book up again and again. I highly recommend this experience to others.
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