Friday, March 25, 2011

23. A Lesson in Secrets

By:  Jacqueline Winspear
Rated 5 Stars

In this book Masie is asked by the Secret Service to take a job at Cambridge as a Philosophy professor at a college dedicated to the furthering of peace.   Masie is tasked with the job of finding out if the staff or students are part of the Communist party and are engaged in activities that are a threat to the Government.

Sure enough, Maisie is not there more than a day or two before a man is murdered and Scotland Yard is called into investigate.  Maisie engages in a delicate dance between investigating subversives for the Secret Service and assisting Scotland Yard (unasked) solve the murder. Maisie turns up a group of students sympathetic  to the growing SDP in Germany and warns the Secret Service about their activities.  The Secret Service is more concerned with ferreting out Communists than they are Fascists and this creates a certain amount of conflict between Maisie and the SS.  At that point my brain switched over to real life and I remembered that it was in just this very period in time that Trinity College in Cambridge was the place that  The Cambridge Five met and became the most effective  espionage agents against the British and American interests in the history of spydom. Using 20/20 hindsight perhaps the SS and Winspear should have expanded Maisies mission to include both groups.  But then no one had a clue at the time that that nest of vipers was forming its self so I guess being clueless is appropriate.

This book is not heavy on plot.  The main mystery was the murder and the spy hunt merely peripheral it seemed to me.  Meantime, back at the ranch (London) another mystery develops and is left to Billy to investigate.  I thought that much more could have been done with this mystery but perhaps Winspear thought Maisie had her hands to full already.

But is was a lovely visit into Maisie's world.  Winspear is a master at creating an atmosphere that drips with authenticity and her secondary characters are always credibale, both new and those from previous books who have become old friends.

One of the things I like most about Maisie is that she is never static.  She is not stuck in time but moves on with her life appropriately, according to the situation that is unfolding in Britain at the time each book is set.

Publisher's Summary

Maisie Dobbs' first assignment for the British Secret Service takes her undercover to Cambridge as a professor—and leads to the investigation of a web of activities being conducted by the emerging Nazi Party.
In the summer of 1932, Maisie Dobbs' career takes an exciting new turn 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 Richard 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 Great War, and face off against the rising powers of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei—the Nazi Party—in Britain.
As the storm clouds of World War II gather on the horizon, this pivotal chapter in the life of Maisie Dobbs foreshadows new challenges and powerful enemies facing the psychologist and investigator