Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear’s Pardonable Lies

Posted January 5, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Jacqueline Winspear’s Pardonable Lies

Pardonable Lies


by

Jacqueline Winspear


historical mystery that was published by Picador Publishing on August 10, 2005 and has 342 pages.

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five-stars

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Maisie Dobbs, Birds of a Feather, Messenger of Truth, An Incomplete Revenge, A Lesson in Secrets, The Mapping of Love and Death, Among the Mad, A Dangerous Place, Journey to Munich, In This Grave Hour

Third in the Maisie Dobbs historical mystery series revolving around Maisie, a detective using meditation and psychology to solve her cases. This story takes place over the summer of 1930 in England and France.

In 2006, Pardonable Lies won the Macavity Award for Sue Feder Historical Mystery and was nominated for the Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award. In 2005, it was nominated for the Agatha Award for Best Novel.

My Take

Another pip from Winspear. It’s hard to believe that Winspear is a contemporary author writing today as she really brings this period to life. She really knows how to dig in and write so that I felt as though I was there in 1930 England. The evolution of the telephone. The manners, dress, and mores of the time period. All involving an independent woman who defied the odds and achieved an education and a career in a depressed economy.

Maisie has high standards and while she is disinclined to cut corners or do less than her best, she also knows when it’s best to present the truth that people want to hear. But the two cases involving soldiers in this story bring too much of her own war experience to mind. Traumas she would prefer to avoid, to leave in the past. Although, she does intensely grieve her mother’s death.

World War I was a horrible war from a soldier’s perspective and we’re already hearing the rumblings that will lead to World War II in this story.

Thank god, Avril has Maisie in her corner! The police have her convicted of murder and ignore the physical evidence under their noses.

While Maisie does employ her psychological observations, it seems less overt than in the earlier two stories. I’m not sure if it was because Maisie’s emotional state was overwrought with her remembrances of France or if Winspear was simply off her game.

The negatives…how could Stratton and the doctors who examined Avril have missed something so obvious? Maurice would know how dogged Maisie is. Heck, he taught her. So why not just come clean? Then there’s Maisie’s discoveries in France. A little too easy. I’d also like to know how someone, or who, managed to get to Maisie’s brake lines.

Side Note: There’s a mention of Conan Doyle dying a few months ago. I had no idea he had lived that long into the twentieth century!!

The Story

It’s three different cases that Maisie obsesses over: Avril’s pimp’s murder; proving Captain Ralph Lawton’s death; and, a favor to Priscilla to verify her brother’s death.

Maisie has been doing well in her business and it’s just when one is doing well, that the body, the mind, let down their guard, forcing one to deal with emotional issues of the past. It doesn’t help that friends have been keeping secrets.

Nor does it help when enemies rise up, seeking revenge.

The Characters

Maisie Dobbs is doing well with her detective agency. One in which she incorporates the meditative benefits of yoga and the psychology taught her by Maurice Blanche. She’s still living in the Comptons’ Belgravia mansion and still driving her little red MG.

Dr. Andrew Dene is the orthopedist at the hospital in Hastings whom Maisie is seeing. He’s serious about her, but also smart enough not to push and to give her lots of leeway.

Frankie Dobbs, her father, is doing fine after his scare in Birds of a Feather, raising Derby winners in Kent with Lady Rowena Compton. She and her husband, Lord Julian, spend most of their time on their estate in Kent. Their son, James Compton, is overseeing family business in Toronto. George is the family chauffeur; Eric is the London footman who cares for the cars when George is in the country; Sandra is the most senior below-stairs employee with Carter, the butler, down at Chelstone; and, Teresa is the servant who was poisoned.

Billy Beale is Maisie’s assistant. He’s married to Doreen and they have their sons. Dr. Maurice Blanche is the man who took her under his wing at the behest of Lady Rowena. Basil Khan is the Ceylonese wise man who taught her all about meditation and yoga.

Priscilla Evernden, now Partridge, was and is Maisie’s best friend from college. She went off the deep end into a bottle of alcohol with all her losses just after the war, but then she met Douglas Partridge, a famous author and poet whom she married. They have three boys — Timothy Peter, Thomas Philip, and Tarquin Patrick — and live in Biarritz. Her boys sound so lively. Her parents died of flu and her brothers all died in the war. But Pris has no idea where her brother, Captain Peter Evernden‘s body was buried or if he is missing in action. She does know where Patrick and Philip are buried. How horrible war is. Losing one’s entire family like this…

Detective Inspector Richard Stratton hasn’t quite given up asking Maisie out. Detective Sergeant Caldwell would prefer to shoot her.

Avril Jarvis is a thirteen-year-old girl accused of murdering her “uncle”.

Sir Cecil Lawton is a QC and a friend of Lord Julian’s. He’s made his wife a deathbed promise to prove one way or another that their only surviving son is dead or alive. Brayley is Lawton’s fiercely loyal manservant. Captain Ralph Lawton‘s plane crashed in France and it burned to ashes. But there’s more to it than that. The Hon. Jeremy Hazelton is an MP and a childhood friend of Ralph’s. He came back from the war in a wheelchair and is ably supported by his wife, Charlaine. He does seem to be a politician with a heart. Even if he does cheat.

Mrs. Browning, Miss Darby, and Miss Hartnell are all psychics pandering to those who are grieving. It’s only with Madeleine Hartnell that Maisie feels a chill down her spine. Harry Price is head of the Laboratory of Psychical Research; his assistant Archibald Simpson is quite helpful.

André Vernier is the Parisian concierge who still remembers his clientele from thirteen years before. Madame Eva is a Vietnamese woman who runs Café Druk, a club that caters to a particular clientele; Captain Henri Desvignes is in charge of the police in Sainte-Marie just outside Reims; Madame Thierry runs the pension in Sainte-Marie; Madame Chantal Clement and her thirteen-year-old granddaughter, Pascale Clement are the village’s first family. Suzanne was Madame’s daughter who was executed by the Germans. Patrice was their crippled gardener. Daniel Roberts is an excellent mechanic. Brian Huntley is an Englishman involved in the secret service. Ted Tavistock, an Australian, and his French wife Josette run a pension near Bailleul where Maisie was stationed during the war.

The Cover and Title

The cover is in Art Deco style with Maisie in a dark blue cloche and coat, perched at the rail of a ship, its yellow funnel highlighted against the subdued, yet brilliant blue sky.

The title refers to those Pardonable Lies told us by friends who believe they have good reason to withhold the truth.

five-stars