A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear is the eighth book in the Maisie Dobbs series of cozy mysteries, but can be read as a stand-alone novel.  Set between the end of WWI and the beginnings of WWII, Dobbs is called upon by the British Special Branch to be their eyes and ears inside the College of St. Francis about events that would cause concern to the Crown.  Once installed as a junior lecturer of philosophy, a murder occurs that sets events in motion and tangles Dobbs in yet another mystery.

Dobbs runs her own private investigation agency in London, but she’s called away to a college in Cambridge on special assignment, leaving the office in the capable and reliable hands of Billy Beale.  Beyond the murder mystery and the search for anything that threatens national security, Dobbs is concerned about her father and her friend Sandra, who has just lost her husband in a freak accident.

“She wound down the window and gave a hand signal to indicate that she was pulling over to the side of the road, thus allowing an Austin Seven behind to pass, followed by the motor car that had been shadowing her for at least half an hour.  As soon as they passed, she turned back onto the road again and began to drive as close to the vehicle in front as safety would allow.” (page 3)

Winspear crafts an intricate novel of mystery that resonates with the reader as Dobbs is a strong woman making her way in a man’s world just after the war has ended and women are struggling to maintain their new found freedom.  Dobbs is a strong woman, though scarred, who is intelligent and observant.  Interestingly, Winspear demonstrates how idle gossip can provide just the nugget of information investigators need to close in on a killer.  While Dobbs is kept in the dark about the knowledge held by government officials, she manages to uncover their secrets and those of other government officials who view her as an inconsequential lecturer.

Although there are three or more stories going on at once, Maisie is always central and she juggles so many tasks with ease — almost like she is superhuman.  Pacifism, the treatment of conscientious objectors, and whether someone’s heritage plays a role in their loyalties are just some of the issues addressed in this novel.  A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear raises questions of how much should we idolize our mentors — after all they are just human — and whether we should vilify those that do not see the world in quite the same way that we do.  Moreover, she tackles the power of the written word and its impact on political parties, soldiers, and average citizens, plus how words can inflame already volatile situations.

About the Author:

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 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, Jacqueline embarked upon a life-long dream to be a writer.  Find out more about Jacqueline at her website, www.jacquelinewinspear.com, and find her on Facebook.

This is my 19th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.




This is my 8th book for the WWI Reading Challenge.


  1. I have been meaning to give this series a try. I like hearing that this can be read as a stand-alone so that I can start with any book in the series depending on what my library has in stock.

  2. The descriptions of these books remind me of Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series – I think I’d REALLY enjoy getting to know Maisie like I know Mary!

    Thanks for being on the tour Serena.

  3. Wow, that’s a lot of meaty stuff going on in a cozy mystery! Sounds like it’ll be a good book club pick.

    Glad you enjoyed the book! Thanks for sharing your thoughts as part of the tour.

  4. With all of the great reviews going on with the Maisie Dobb books I went a bit crazy at my library yesterday and grabbed two on audio!!

  5. I loved this book and can’t wait for our book club discussion! I want to jump into the new book, but I’m going to hold off until I read the first seven books. 😉

  6. I adored this book but I am a huge fan of Maisie’s. Just finished the new one and it’s great too! My review is coming on Monday.

  7. Can’t wait to get to this one — I just got the first Maisie book and will now consume so I can get to this one — I love that the series seems to improve as time goes on!

  8. Beth Hoffman says

    I mentioned to Anna that this book is on my list. I’m eager to read it!

  9. I’ve heard this series is wonderful. I didn’t realize it raises issues as well. I’ve got to try it soon!

  10. Dawn - She Is Too Fond of Books says

    I really enjoy this series – have read only the first 4 (of 8 or 9), but I’ll keep dipping into them between other books. Am glad you “met” Maisie!