Friday, June 22, 2012

Pardonable Lies

Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
3.5/5 stars
Henry Holt and Company, 2005
340 pages
Mystery; Historical
#3 in Maisie Dobbs series

Source: Library

I've been eying this series for a while and recently decided to give them a shot. I usually prefer to start with the first but my library didn't have that available when I was looking so I started with the third. That may have been a mistake as there were several areas of Maisie Dobbs' character that frustrated me; my knowledge would have been supplemented by those first two books and perhaps I would have enjoyed this more.

This book is set in 1930 but the shadow of the Great War still hangs over everything from the men with physical disabilities sustained by fighting to those who never returned to those who can't escape from their dark memories of their time spent over there. All three are present in this as psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs has to face her darkest thoughts from her time spent as a nurse, seeking a man pronounced dead but whose mother never gave up seeking confirmation he lived and interfaces with several men injured on the field of battle.

Really three cases intertwine in this book. First is the aforementioned case of the boy declared dead whose mother believed him alive. Her dying wish was for her husband to confirm he lives; he wants nothing to do with the kid but asks Maisie to do a search anyway so that he can fulfill his word. Knowledge of this case prompts one of Maisie's friends to ask for Maisie to find the place where her brother met his death in France. Lastly there is a case in England of a young girl accused of killing her "uncle" (really, a pimp who met her when her cruel stepfather sent her away from home). And as one last item on Maisie's plate, it seems as if someone is trying to kill her. So there's a lot going on.

I thought Winspear did an excellent job juggling the different plots and even as I could see some of the threads coming together, I couldn't put everything in place, leaving me to marvel at how she did that. These mysteries had many delicate parts and they were handled with care. I liked most of the people we were introduced to over the course of the investigations.

But I was not a big fan of Maisie. I think if I had more of her background from the first two books, I would have liked her more. As it stands though, I thought she was a little odd especially with reference to her intuitive powers which just seemed supernatural and out of place in this work so grounded in painful emotional realism. I was also confused by her romantic relationship-I guess I'm used to something a bit more passionate than the feelings she has for the guy. Really though, I'd rather have her fully committed or involved with no one at all as it's not necessary for the story.

Overall: Interesting mysteries and plot but difficult to like main character for me. I will still try some more of the books to see if I can reconcile myself to Maisie's personality.

Cover: I like the art on this although the colors don't really work for me. That feels like an odd criticism but I just don't find them pretty enough, especially compared to some of the other covers.


  1. It's pretty rare to find a story set in the 1930's, so right off the bat, I'm intrigued. I wonder what's behind her near-supernatural powers of intuition. Maybe it's covered in the first couple books, like you said. Great review!

  2. Hmmmm. I wonder if you went back and picked up the first one if you would like Maisie more, or at least understand some aspects of her a bit better? It's always frustrating for me when a romance is added when it doesn't seem vital to the plot, I'm a huge fan or romance so it's actually giving me a nervous tick to type that, but I'd rather the romance at least progress the plot in some way or, like you said, be absent altogether. Thanks for the review!

  3. Ohh, I hate it when the library does that! I always wonder why they would buy the second book but not the first in a series -- marketing strategy maybe? x) LOL I think that (hopefully) you would've enjoyed this more if you read the first few too, but I'm glad it wasn't an absolute bust. The amazing mystery and awesome intertwining skills are definitely my selling points! I love it when you can't piece things together before the reveal in a mystery -- that's the way it always should be, I think!

    Amazing honest review, B! I will be sure to start at the beginning if I read this series! ;) <3


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