Click here to read reviewer Steven Rosen's take on A Lesson in Secrets.
Much is laid bare in the latest Maisie Dobbs adventure: a manís duplicity, a young soldierís question, another manís stand for peace, and a mutiny of enemies. Filled with secrets and lies, an innocuous childrenís book changes the course of
many lives. Innocent people are fraught with angst as Maisie is enlisted by the British Secret Service to spy at a salubrious, up-and-coming Cambridge university.
Although Maisie now has a good measure of financial independence
after inheriting wealth in the form of a considerable property portfolio from her mentor, Maurice Blanche, her mood is not as settled as she would have liked. Fate has stepped her on a path she could never have imagined when she is
assigned by Chief Inspector MacFarlane and Brian Huntley of Scotland Yard to investigate the activities of the College of St. Francis.
Founded by Greville Liddicote and funded by wealthy parents of several young men killed in the Great War, St. Francisís mission is to emphasize the maintenance of peace. Dunstan Headley, the major benefactor, supports the college and its mission to promote understanding, but he refuses to deal with the deputy principal and Liddicoteís right-hand man, Dr. Matthias Roth,
a German rumored to have strong ties to the bourgeoning Nationalist Socialist Movement.
Into this rabid political mix enters the inimitable Maisie, ostensibly employed at the College as a junior lecturer in philosophy but in reality working as an undercover agent for MacFarlane. Intellectually stimulating and professionally challenging, spying will be sure to test Maisieís skills to the limit. Time
is, of course, of the essence. When a pivotal character turns up dead, Maisie is placed in charge of finding the killer.
Moving between the aftereffects of the seditious childrenís book to the questionable reputation of Greville Liddicote to a mutiny on the Western Front, Winspearís chapters unfold in a wash
of paranoia and suspicious allegiances. Troubling undercurrents are tied to the political leanings of a new generation. Not just an eccentric group of teachers with pacifist leanings, St. Francis is also cultivating a group of local Germans
- all members of the Nationalist Socialist Party with links to British fascist supporters.
As clouds scud across a summer-blue sky, Maisie faces a host of complex challenges as she travels between Cambridge and London in her beloved MG.
Calling upon all of her inner strengths, she prepares to weather the storm of speculation surrounding Greville Liddicote and his personal secretary, Rosemary Linden, who seems to know far more about what is going on at the College than she is willing to let on.
More than ever before, the geography of time binds Maisie to circumstance, fate, a nation and a world in a constant state of flux. A sinister prelude, the novel bridges the Great War
and the years preceding the inexorable march of Hitler. Although the rise of fascism is far beyond Maisieís control, her caring nature and ability to always see the good in people imbues this novel with much tenderness and warmth.