Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs Series #3)

Pardonable Lies (Maisie Dobbs Series #3)

by Jacqueline Winspear

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312426217
Publisher: Picador
Publication date: 06/27/2006
Series: Maisie Dobbs Series , #3
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 57,704
Product dimensions: 5.55(w) x 8.19(h) x 0.76(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About 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.


Ojai, California

Date of Birth:

April 30, 1955

Place of Birth:

Weald of Kent, England


The University of London¿s Institute of Education

Read an Excerpt

Pardonable Lies

A Maisie Dobbs Novel

By Winspear, Jacqueline


Copyright © 2006

Winspear, Jacqueline

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0312426216

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, toget 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.


Excerpted from Pardonable Lies
by Winspear, Jacqueline
Copyright © 2006 by Winspear, Jacqueline.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. Three significant figures in Pardonable Lies—Avril Jarvis, Pascale Clement, and the younger Maisie Dobbs of the detective's own tormented recollections—are all about thirteen years old. Why does the novel choose this moment in the three girls' growth and develop-ment as a focal point for observation? Do the three girls have anything in common apart from age?

2. Although a number of mothers, including Agnes Lawton, Irene Nelson, Mrs. Jarvis, and Maisie's own mother, are essentially absent as characters, they exert profound influence over events in the novel. What is the significance of the theme of the absent mother in Pardonable Lies?

3. In quite a few classic detective novels, including The Maltese Falcon and Farewell, My Lovely, homosexual characters experience violent or disrespectful treatment. Does the treatment of homosexuality in Pardonable Lies fundamentally differ from that in older detective fictions? How and why?

4. Compare Maisie's current relationship with Dr. Andrew Dene and the role that her crippled ex-lover Simon continues to play in her life. Which is more important to Maisie, and why?

5. Maisie lied about her age to go to war and now routinely risks her life as a private investi-gator. Nevertheless, Priscilla Evernden observes that Maisie has "kept to the safe places." Is she right? Explain.

6. Many of the characters in Pardonable Lies, including Maurice Blanche, Ralph Lawton, Jeremy Hazleton, and Maisie herself, engage in elaborate deceptions. Is there a deception in the novel that you consider less "pardonable" than the others? Why?

7. Is there a deception in the novel that you consider more "pardonable" than the others? Why?

8. Like Jacqueline Winspear's previous novels, Maisie Dobbs and Birds of a Feather, Pardon-able Lies is haunted by inescapable memories of World War I. In a sense, the war is the great crime from which the legal offenses and ethical transgressions of Winspear's novels are the offshoots. How are the webs of falsehood and deception in this novel a response to the experiences and traumas of war? Do the lies in the novel make the aftermath of the war easier to bear, or do they compound the war's original immorality?

9. Although Jacqueline Winspear frequently focuses on the physical and psychological scars of warfare, Pardonable Lies offers instances of something beautiful or noble that has emerged from the horror. Examples include the birth of Pascale Clement and Ralph Lawton's heroic service in the Flying Corps. How does the novel's introduction of these silver linings enrich or complicate Winspear's depiction of the war and its aftermath?

10. Maisie often uses her training as a psychologist to take decisive control of a situation. Nevertheless, she sometimes experiences social situations in which she feels a lack of control. What are some of these situations, and why does she find them daunting?

11. The daughter of a costermonger, Maisie has risen somewhat above the limitations often encountered by members of her class. However, issues pertaining to class persist in the novel. Compare Jacqueline Winspear's treatment of aristocratic characters like Sir Cecil Lawton and Priscilla Evernden with her rendering of characters like Billy Beale and Lady Rowan's servants.

12. Maisie, who gives such extraordinary courage and support to others, must continually battle an inner sense of her own inadequacy. What are the sources of this feeling, and does she triumph over it?

13. Maisie knows a great deal about comforting others. Consider, however, the persons from whom she derives comfort. Do they have anything in common? To whom does she turn for particular kinds of support, and why?

14. In Chapter 8, Maisie asks herself, "What do I believe in?" Is this question answered in the novel? Does Maisie have beliefs that either strengthen or hinder her in her work or in her life?

15. Jacqueline Winspear offers a number of detailed descriptions of her characters' clothing. Given that Maisie is such a cerebral character, highly focused on the inner workings of the mind and heart, what may be the purpose of such external descriptions in the novel?

16. What role do Maisie's nightmares play in the unfolding of the plot and her character?

Customer Reviews

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Pardonable Lies 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 43 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.
arelenriel on LibraryThing 3 months ago
Maisie Dobbs is a really excellent detective. I would class her somewhere along the same lines as Miss Marple. Most of the mysteries in this series center around Maisies experiences during WWI and its aftermath. Good summer read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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