Sunday, September 2, 2012

P is for Pardonable Lies

The Maisie Dobbs series, written by Jacqueline Winspear, is set in England in the years following World War I. The focus is primarily on how much the Great War affected the lives of everyone in Europe. I enjoy reading about World War II in fiction. Recently, I have found that reading about the events of World War I and the intervening years between the two wars is also beneficial to gaining more understanding of the reasons for World War II.

I recently read one of the books in the series, Pardonable Lies. From the description of the book at the author's website:
In the third novel of this unique and masterly crime series, a deathbed plea from his wife leads Sir Cecil Lawton, KC, to seek the aid of Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. As Maisie soon learns, Agnes Lawton never accepted that her aviator son was killed in the Great War, a torment that led her not only to the edge of madness but also to the doors of those who practice the dark arts and commune with the spirit world. Determined to prove Ralph Lawton either dead or alive, Maisie is plunged into a case that tests her spiritual strength, as well as her regard for her mentor, Maurice Blanche.

I am in a quandary as I write this review. I did enjoy reading the book. I definitely plan to continue reading the series. But I have enough issues with the mystery plot and the way the book is written to find it hard to recommend this series.

I liked Maisie as a character and she is growing on me with each book I read. Her development from the lower classes (a maid) to a more elevated position in society is an example of how the class system was changed after World War I, although I would think it was unusual.

I find the portrayal of London, rural England, and other parts of Europe during the years following World War I to be interesting and well done. Maisie was a nurse during the war and suffered losses and experienced traumas that continue to haunt her. Almost everyone that Maisie encounters has been affected by the war. I learn new facts about World War I and Europe during that period with every book in the series. I believe that the author has done exhaustive research into the times.

In those areas, I want to keep coming back for more.

In my recent review of Birds of a Feather, I listed my reasons for finding the mystery plot unsatisfying.
  • Maisie has psychic gifts. Although she strives (at least in the books I have read) not to use them, she does use feelings and prickles on the back of her neck to guide her to the solution. 
  • The author withholds clues that Maisie has discovered. Some of my favorite mystery authors do that, but I found it very annoying in these books. 
And in Pardonable Lies, there are a lot of coincidences, way more than I am comfortable with. There are too many plot threads, some related to Maisie's cases, some related to her personal relationships.

My recommendation:
If you ignore the mystery aspects, and view this strictly as a historical novel, it is a good book.

If you are reading this for the mystery, maybe not. Depends on your tastes. Many mystery readers are not bothered by the issues I found to be negatives in a mystery, and it is a very popular series. I think it is definitely a series worth trying. I am usually in favor of reading a series in order, but I have found that to be less important in this series.

This post is my submission for the Crime Fiction Alphabet for 2012 for the letter P.   Please visit the post at Mysteries in Paradise to check out other entries for this letter.

I also read this as part of my commitment for the World War I Reading Challenge at War Through the Generations.


Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

I enjoy the Maisie Dobbs books, mainly for the social history of the interwar years. I haven't read all the books and those I have read have not been in order - it didn't matter. They have made me want to know more about the period.

Anonymous said...

Tracy - I very much enjoy historical mysteries and I do have to admit I like the Maisie Dobbs character a lot. So I'm glad you've highlighted the books. I've learned a lot about that era in the ones I've read.

Peggy Ann said...

That is the key to reading Maisie dobbs! Ignore the mystery. I did not do that and was disappointed. Good tip Tracy!

Scott said...

Good choice. Nice to see a different era being highlighted.

srivalli said...

I am not really sure I would enjoy a mystery book where I will have to ignore the mystery. I have borrowed Birds of Feather from library if I like it, I will read this one too.

TracyK said...

I will be interested in how you like Birds of a Feather. I do like these books, I just felt like the mystery elements did not live up to my expectations. Usually I am not so picky.

Anna and Serena said...

Thanks for the honest review. I've got your review linked on the WWI challenge reviews page and a snippet will appear on the main page on Sept. 12.