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
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

  • Published in USA  Apr 2011
    336 pages
    Genre: Mysteries

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this book

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.

Read a Sample

Click to the right or left of the sample to turn the page.
(If no book jacket appears in a few seconds, then we don't have an excerpt of this book or your browser is unable to display it)

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!


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

The information about A Lesson in Secrets shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Cloggie Downunder

Another great read
A Lesson In Secrets is the eighth book in the Maisie Dobbs series by British-born American author, Jacqueline Winspear. After being (somewhat ineptly) followed for some ten days, psychologist and investigator, Maisie Dobbs finds herself recruited into the Secret Intelligence Service by Brian Huntley (as was hinted by her late mentor during his last days), to work a job in conjunction with Robbie MacFarlane of Scotland Yard Special Branch. Having signed the Official Secrets Act, she is to pose as a psychology lecturer at The College of St Francis whilst observing for activities that are not in the interest of the Crown. But when she has been there only a week, the Principal of the College, Greville Liddicote, a staunch pacifist, is murdered. And a little research reveals quite a few possible suspects.

While Maisie is away, Billy Beale manages the Investigations business, although he is to some degree distracted by the impending birth of his fourth child. Luckily Maisie is able to convince her reluctant employee to become her tenant in a new cottage in which she invests some of her newfound wealth. A former flatmate comes to Maisie in distress: recently widowed, and with some doubt about the accidental nature of her husband’s death, Sandra accepts a job but remains unsettled. Maisie’s relationship with James Compton encounters a few hurdles.

In this instalment, Winspear touches on conscientious objection, mutiny amongst the troops, Nazism, fraud, organised crime and protection rackets, the role of women in the resistance and a nerve disorder that sounds a lot like Multiple Sclerosis. Maisie is frustrated at the Secret Service’s focus on Communism at the expense of Fascism, and Robert Stratton makes a surprise move. A baby is born and Maisie visits Wandsworth Prison. As always, Winspear blends historical fact with fiction while her plot takes a few twists before the murderer is revealed. It will be interesting to see where the next book, Elegy for Eddie takes this resourceful heroine. Another great read.

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.

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.

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!

Fran Tessmer- formerly at San Diego Public Library

Reflection at Cambridge
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, the latest in the Maisie Dobbs series. More than some of the preceding novels, this one is quiet and reflective in tone, perhaps to accompany the more introspective tone of a university. Maisie, of course, is the central character and it is her intelligence, her temperament, and her insights which the author focuses us on. All of the other characters, while adding interest, and in most cases, being necessary to the plot's development, are secondary to Maisie. So it is that we see Maisie fully confident in her new professional duties, while still not ready to make important personal commitments.

I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who likes character driven, historical mysteries set in England, particularly those set between World War I and World War II. In addition, this book, or the series as a whole, could easily be used for discussion by a book club.

Grace S. (Harrison Township, MI)

Another Engaging Maisie Dobbs Novel!
In A Lesson in Secrets, Maisie Dobbs continues to evolve both professionally and personally. Within the backdrop of World Wars I and II, Maisie skillfully unravels a tangle of multi-layered, intriguing, and puzzling events and in the process, thoroughly engages and satisfies the reader.

...19 more reader reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

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 ...

Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Jacqueline Winspear's Website

Other books by Jacqueline Winspear at BookBrowse
  • Pardonable Lies jacket

10 more...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more mysteries...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Comet Seekers
    by Helen Sedgwick

    A magical, intoxicating debut novel, both intimate and epic.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.