A Lesson in Secrets: Book summary and reviews of A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

A Lesson in Secrets

A Maisie Dobbs Novel

By Jacqueline Winspear

A Lesson in Secrets
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  • Published in USA  Apr 2011,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

In the summer of 1932, Maisie Dobbs' career goes in an exciting new direction when she accepts an undercover assignment directed by Scotland Yard's Special Branch and the Secret Service. Posing as a junior lecturer, she is sent to a private college in Cambridge to monitor any activities "not in the interests of His Majesty's Government."

When the college's controversial pacifist founder and principal, Greville Liddicote, is murdered, Maisie is directed to stand back as Detective Chief Superintendent Robert MacFarlane and Detective Chief Inspector Stratton spearhead the investigation. She soon discovers, however, that the circumstances of Liddicote's death appear inextricably linked to the suspicious comings and goings of faculty and students under her surveillance.

To unravel this web, Maisie must overcome a reluctant Secret Service, discover shameful hidden truths about Britain's conduct during the war, and face off against the rising powers of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei - the Nazi Party - in Britain.

A pivotal chapter in the life of Maisie Dobbs, A Lesson In Secrets marks the beginning of her intelligence work for the Crown. As the storm clouds of World War II gather on the horizon, Maisie will confront new challenges and new enemies - and will engage new readers and loyal fans of this bestselling mystery series.

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Media Reviews

"Winspear strikes the right balance between cozy mystery setting and her intelligent, street-savvy PI. The story adroitly presents a post–World War I world while foreshadowing the next global conflict." - Library Journal

"Series fans will be pleased with both Maisie's latest investigations and the developments in her private life." - Booklist

"Maisie's... positive personal developments end up making her less interesting as a protagonist than formerly." - Publishers Weekly

"A pivotal historical moment forced to take a back seat to the heroine's wardrobe and intuition." - Kirkus Reviews

"The forward-looking focus of Winspear's latest will be exciting for her many fans, who will be eager to accompany Maisie on what promises to be an intriguing, dangerous and sobering journey." - Norah Piehl, BookReporter.com

"I find I miss that sense of discovery I had in reading Winspear’s earlier books... But as ever, Winspear delivers a rich, layered and engrossing mystery." - Bookyurt

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Sharon Padilla (Jacksonville, FL)
A Lesson in Secrets
As a longtime fan of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs, I really enjoyed this 8th book in the series. Maisie's career takes an unexpected turn when she receives an assignment from the British Secret Service to go undercover as a professor in a small university in Cambridge.
She encounters a group of Nazi party sympathizers , whose activities are suspicious and far reaching. Her experiences there and through her agency in London keep the reader on tenterhooks to the very end.
This is a great read for anyone who enjoys detective stories, especially those with historical overtones.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Philip K. (San Anselmo, Ca)
The creative miss Dobbs
This is the first Masie Dobbs book I've read. I wanted to read it because of my interest in the effects of WW 1 on English society as well as my passion for detective literature about that period. Unfortunately while Maise has a compelling history and proper wisdom for an English amateur detective the writing is less than stellar with numerous Gramatical errors that are disconcerting. Moreover the mystery is banal and slimly developed. One positive note is that Ms Dobbs is a likable creative character whose back story is unusual and time spent with her
Justifies further reading of the series.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Rita K. (Bannockburn, IL)
How did I miss knowing about Maisie Dobbs
I haven't read any of Jacqueline Winspear books before, and after reading A Lesson in Secrets, I see what I have missed. I thoroughly enjoyed Maisie Dobbs and plan my summer reading catching up on her earlier adventures.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Pepper E. (Lawrenceville, NJ)
Came to series late
I acquired this book as an Early Reviewer. I had seen books from this series and was intrigued. To arrive at #8 in a series, you have to have created a worthy and interesting character.
Part historical fiction and part mystery, I never felt I learned much about the years leading up to WW2 nor did I feel that page turning pull, but I thought Maisie was an interesting character.
Because I came to the series late, I worried I would not know enough about the characters to enjoy the story, but the author brought the novice up to speed where it mattered. I had an pre-conceived image of Maisie as a Jessica Fletcher type, maybe because she was so proper and devoutly good. I was glad to find out she broke from that mold a bit (she spends the night with her boyfriend) but Maisie is exceeding generous and thoughtful, a la Alexander McCall Smith's female detective.
In that vein, I found the story slow and steady. In the end, I felt I could go back to earlier books in the series.
Reading other reviews, I see that Winspear has some true devotees, so that makes me want to put her in my "Want To Read" column. The pace of the writing would have me choose this series when I was looking for a comfortable and familiar distraction.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Elly M. (Roswell, NM)
A Lesson in Secrets
Maisie Dobbs is a treat - an endearing protagonist - and her adventures in "Secrets" were ambitious and fun to read.

Having read only the first in the series prior to this most recent, I was afraid "Secrets" might not stand alone. Unfounded fear, for it does indeed. It is a fast moving story wherein Maisie's new assignment with the British Secret Service adds yet another dimension to her active life, leaving the door open, I suspect, for more challenges and adventures in this charming series.

It is a joy to read Jacqueline Winspear's writing. She carries you through her novels in a manner that is guaranteed to capture your interest.

Finally, I would like to add, it is especially refreshing to read a novel written in impeccable English - totally void of sentences ending in a preposition!

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Lois P. (Logan Library, Logan, UT)
A Lesson in Secrets
Maisie Dobbs is back! I've been an armchair traveler as Winspear has carefully moved this engaging series forward bringing Maisie, her family, and friends to life. Here Maisie, recruited as an undercover philosophy teacher at the university of Cambridge in pre-WWII England, negotiates landmines of greed, selfishness, political intrigue, murder-- and romance--with her usual grace. Will there be a fairy-tale ending for Maisie? I'll be patiently waiting to find out!

...18 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Jacqueline Winspear Author Biography

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in the county of Kent, England. Following higher education at the University of London's Institute of Education, Jacqueline worked in both general and academic publishing, in higher education and in marketing communications in the UK.

She emigrated to the United States in 1990, and while working in business and as a personal/professional coach, she embarked upon a life-long dream to be a writer.

A regular contributor to journals covering international education, Jacqueline has published articles in women's magazines and has also recorded her essays for KQED radio in San Francisco. She currently divides her time between Ojai and the ...

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