A Lesson in Secrets – Book Review

Another in the Maisie Dobbs series of detective stories set in the 1930’s.  This time she is working on an undercover assignment along with Special Branch and the Secret Service. 

Taking on the role of a junior lecturer at St Francis’ college in Cambridge, she has to monitor activities which are ‘not in the interests of the Crown’, particularly those linked to the rising power of the Nazis in Germany.  Who is sympathetic to the National Socialists and are they seeking to influence young Cambridge scholars? 

Then the College’s controversial pacifist principal, Greville Liddicote, is found murdered.  There are lots of suspects, especially when it becomes clear that Liddicote was not quite as clean cut as he had appeared.  Just what was the story behind the book he wrote in the first world war?  Why had his secretary disappeared?  And what will become of the relationship between Maisie and James Compton?  Where will it lead? 

The detective element in this story is far less strong than in earlier ones, there seems to be too much of a focus on political/secret service issues.  Maisie as a character does not come through as clearly as in earlier stories, even though she is working much more on her own without the aid of her assistant Billy. 

Personally, I found it a little less satisfying than earlier stories. Having said that it is a good, gentle read which the many fans of Jacqueline Winspear’s stories will enjoy.