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Pardonable Lies: A Maisie Dobbs Novel    by Jacqueline Winspear order for
Pardonable Lies
by Jacqueline Winspear
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Pardonable Lies follows Maisie Dobbs and Birds of a Feather as the third in a historical mystery series about the engaging Maisie Dobbs. This episode begins in 1930. Still haunted by her experiences as an underage nurse in World War I, Maisie applies her psychological and detection skills to run her own investigative business, ably assisted by Billy Beale. She keeps her romantic interest, Dr. Andrew Dene, at arms length - easy to do since she's mostly in London and he lives and works in Hastings.

Maisie takes on several different cases this time. So, when someone starts following and attacking her, it's very hard for her to work out their motivation. The police call her in on the first case, to persuade thirteen-year-old Avril Jarvis, accused of murder, to speak. Maisie's gentle approach succeeds, and she takes an interest in the case, concerned over the girl's past abuse and current desperate situation. Indeed, it's partly to ensure that Avril has competent legal representation, that Maisie accepts the commission of prominent lawyer, Sir Cecil Lawton, to prove that his son Ralph died in the war - Lawton promised his wife on her deathbed to find out the truth. Maisie's mentioning the case to her good friend, Priscilla, results in a third mission, to determine exactly how Priscilla's brother died, also in the Great War.

Sir Cecil's wife Agnes was convinced that her son lived on and, as many others did, consulted spiritualists. Maisie visits several of them, who are clearly charlatans, and then meets one, Madeleine Hartnell, who is just as clearly not. Hartnell refuses to share what was between her and her client, but tells Maisie, 'you have two from the other side who protect you, though one has not passed over' (referring to Maisie's mother and to her fiancé, Simon, a doctor whose mind was shattered by wartime horror). Indeed, Simon's spiritual intervention saves her life soon afterwards. Maisie finds links to secrets, an ambitious MP, and the intelligence services. And she discovers that the two men whose deaths she's investigating knew each other in France.

Maisie applies the meditation techniques taught her by Ceylonese Khan, and seeks his company and advice. Her old friend and mentor, Maurice Blanche, hovers on the sidelines, concerned for his protegée's involvement in cases that would bring back dreadful memories of her own, but also with his own ax to grind. Of course, she solves all three mysteries, but measures out surprising truths in careful doses. Maisie Dobbs is a remarkable, indomitable heroine, who pursues her investigations on many different levels. Don't miss this brilliant series.

Listen to a podcast interview with Jacqueline Winspear at

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