Saturday, February 26, 2011

book review: Messenger of Truth

The backstory: Messenger of Truth is the fourth historical mystery in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series. I'm reading the entire series as part of Book Club Girl's Maisie Dobbs read-along. (Links to my reviews of Maisie Dobbs, Birds of  Feather, and Pardonable Lies.)

The basics: Georgina Bassington-Hope, who attended Girton at a different time than Maisie, hires Maisie to look into the death of her artist brother, Nick, which was deemed accidental.

My thoughts: After the third Maisie Dobbs mystery being my least favorite, I hoped the series would rebound a bit for me. In the opening pages I discovered a delicious trifecta  of a suspicious death, art and a client with a hyphenated last name (I have a fondness for hyphenated names that has only increased since Mr. Nomadreader and I hyphenated our names.) Yes, these point of intrigue may be rather nomadreader-specific, but you must admit, art and murder are steeped with intrigue.

This novel (and case) felt more structured to me:
"Wasn't this whole case like creating one of those murals, building a picture across uneven terrain, telling a story by adding detail to give life and momentum to the masterwork?"
Overall, there was a nice mix of personal and professional, and it felt authentic. For the first time in the series I recall, the reader gets someone else's interior monologue: a glimpse into Dene's thoughts. It was fascinating to see Maisie through the eyes of someone else, as she often shields the reader from all of her emotions.

There is still a fair share of life lessons and wisdom:
"I don't particularly like the man. However, I do respect him. I suspect his feelings toward me are the same. I've come to the conclusion that liking a person we are required to have dealings with is not of paramount importance, Maisie. But respect is crucial, on both sides, as is tolerance, and a depth of understanding of those influences that sculpt a character."
Although I figured out the mystery before it was revealed, I still found the mystery to be quite compelling. Perhaps because of my fascination with the art world I was even more intrigued. There is immense appeal for me of a family with hyphenated names comprised of artists. The Bassington-Hopes were fascinating, and Winspear did a nice job fleshing out so many characters we may not see again.

It was also nice to see Maisie reading for pleasure again. One of my favorite parts of Maisie Dobbs was seeing Maisie enjoy books, and I hope this trend continues in the future books.

Favorite passage: "Her independence was gained early, more by default than by design, and as time went on, like many women of her generation, her expectation of a certain freedom became more deeply ingrained."

The verdict: I adored the art-themed mystery as well as the personal aspects of the story for Maisie and the Beales. After being somewhat disappointed with the last Maisie Dobbs novel, The Messenger of Truth is a return to excellence. I'm perhaps most impressed with the titles of these novels. Their meaning is often obtuse until the mystery is solved, but I find myself easily recalling the events of the book and being wowed by the layered meanings of the titles.

Rating: 4.25 stars (out of 5)
Length: 336 pages
Publication date: August 22, 2006 (it's in paperback now)
Source: I bought the Kindle edition

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  1. I haven't read any of the maisie Dobbs series, but I'd heard such good things about them that I gave the audio of (something with a feather?) to my friend who had eye surgery this summer. She loved them, so now I really think I should read at least one myself. Glad to know you didn't like the one before this too much.

  2. So glad to see that the series redeemed itself for you. My husband loves this series, more he says for the character and the settings than for the mysteries themselves.

  3. I also am glad that the series picked back up for you after your issues with the third book. I am not sure I will continue on with this series after having read the first book, because while I find Maisie and her life fascinating, the mystery aspect just didn't really excite me like I thought it would. I will be interested in reading your further thoughts on the series as you progress though!

  4. Interested this book and i like it. Very nice your idea for books. thanks

  5. Yes, the titles are excellent, aren't they? I agree, Pardonable Lies was a bit of a disappointment in the series (I stepped away for almost 2 years after reading it), but Messenger of Truth is much improved. :)

  6. what a great review! And I too love how the titles have so many meanings. I also really liked seeing Maisie read - it's so fun to imagine books we know as classics being read as contemporary literature.


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