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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Messenger of Truth: A Maisie Dobbs Mystery (Maisie Dobbs Mystery 4)
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HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 September 2006
Set in post-World War I England, the Maisie Dobbs mysteries keep getting better and better--more fully developed, more complex, and more illustrative of life in that between-wars era. In this fourth novel, Maisie, a former army nurse, now in her late twenties, is an "inquiry agent," or private detective, who has been contacted by wealthy Georgina Bassington-Hope following the death of her brother Nick. Nick, a highly regarded artist, died in a fall from the scaffolding he was using to mount a new exhibition, and Georgina, defying her family and the police report, believes he was pushed.

Using straight-forward, workmanlike prose, author Jacqueline Winspear develops the story and a cast of characters which offers a broad cross section of the society between world wars--from the wealthy Bassington-Hopes, who can afford to be frivolous in their arty lives, to the family of Billy Beale, a poor man who supports his large family as Maisie's assistant. The exotic world of artists, gallery owners, and buyers, comes alive, as does the world of fishermen on the Kentish coast, where Nick Bassington-Hope has his studio, and the reader quickly develops an awareness of the stratification pervading society and the concern for one's "place" in it.

As Maisie begins her investigation of Nick's death, Winspear juggles several overlapping plot threads simultaneously. Nick's exhibition was to feature his "masterpiece," thought to be a triptych about his experiences in the war, a work of art so secret no one has ever seen it--and no one has found it since his death. The relationships of Nick Bassington-Hope with his family and friends; the problems of Billy Beale's family in an overcrowded and unhealthy tenement; Maisie's new suitor and romance; the centuries-long history of smuggling on the Kentish coast; and the search for Nick's missing masterpiece keep the action lively from beginning to end, with plenty of tugs at the heartstrings as sorrowful events, some associated with the war, unfold.

Maisie, as proper and chaste as the heroines of novels actually written in the 1930s, is imaginative and independent, always polite and "lady-like." Genuinely fond of Billy Beale's family, she nevertheless maintains a professional distance as his employer, not wanting to insult his pride. The novel feels "cozy," in its intimacy and family orientation, with care paid to characters' feelings and domestic conflicts. Though the novel has moments of excitement, the reader is left, at the end, with as much appreciation for its charm as for its mystery. Mary Whipple
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on 4 March 2010
I loved the three previous books. Not just because they are mystery books and unusual "crimes" to solve. But also because they are a piece of social history, female history and because there is a little bit of budding romance in the three first ones. When I picked this one up I thought that romance would go on and it was one of the reasons why I hurried to finish number 3 so I could find out how Maisie's romance with Doctor Andrew Dene would progress. Hopeless romantic as I am. Because of this fact I became deeply disappointed when from the start of the book it stood clear that Maisie planned on breaking off the relationship for the simple fact that she does not want to make any sacrifices. She is married to her work and does not want a compromise. I felt disappointed in Maisie and especially in the author from then on, in the book. Not only did I feel cheated but it became a very cold read.
Maisie is so terribly alone. She has in this book moved to her flat that has nothing in it to make it a home or cozy. She has no friends, no social life what so ever, eats, breathes and sleeps her work. Her loneliness seeps through the pages and made me depressed. When her co-worker Billy Beale tells her about how he suddenly has to feed 6 extra people on his salary and share his home of two rooms with theses extras, the book gets even more depressing. The final straw is when his baby daughter dies thanks to the crowdedness in his flat and the lack of money for a doctor. I started wondering whether I should finish the book or not. And what to do with the next two I have already purchased.
The mystery to solve in this book sort of almost get a second place in the book. An artist that painted uncomfortable truths died falling from a scaffold and his sister wants to know if it was an accident or murder. Maisie does solve the crime slowly but I had a difficult time getting in to the puzzle solving and she left some threads hanging at the end that one wonders about. It's a good read if one thinks that a woman should be single and have no life but if one wants to read about a warm character with a balanced life, this book in the series of Maisie Dobbs is somewhat of a disappointment. I usually read a Maisie Dobbs book in 2 days, them being page turners, but this one took weeks to finish.
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on 8 October 2017
Arrived promptly. Good enough packaging. Still reading the story but griping as ever. Love that the stories are so detailed. They are not quick reads which I think makes for a refreshing change.
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on 12 June 2017
fab books
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on 6 August 2017
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on 21 June 2017
Use of languageis good. Enjoyed all the Maisie Dobbs books immensely. All to a high standard in my taste. Absorbs you into the characters. Well done J Winspear.
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on 30 November 2006
Aspiring young artist Nick Bassington-Hope is at the height of his popularity when he is found on the floor of the Svenson Gallery, his neck broken. He was working late in the night before the opening of his first major exhibition in years and it appears fell from scaffolding that had been set up in the gallery to allow him to construct his main piece.

The police conclude that it was a terrible mishap and a verdict of accidental death is recorded. But Nick's twin sister Georgina is convinced that her beloved brother met with foul play. There is little to be gained from badgering the police, particularly Detective Inspector Stratton of Scotland Yard, who was placed in charge of the case, so in desperation Georgina enlists the help of investigative agent and psychologist Maisie Dobbs.

The indefatigable Maisie, this thirty-year-old woman of independent means, is perhaps the only person who can perhaps lead the poor Georgina across the threshold from her doubt-ridden wilderness and through the door of truth. Maisie is only too happy to take on the case. Stubborn, willful and determined, solving Nick's murder becomes a personal challenge for Maisie, if nothing else, to prove that a woman in the 1930's can be equally successful at solving these crimes as men.

Nick's paintings were controversial at best and he had a habit of exposing certain uncomfortable truths about certain individuals within his work. Together with her cockney assistant Billy Beale - who has problems of his own - Maisie begins to unravel the mystery of Nick's death, steadily unraveling clues that stretch from Dungeness in Kent to the murky underbelly of London's art world, and to the shadowy edges of international war profiteering.

Nick's paintings were much more than a record, a moment in time to be placed in an archive, "a mirror and a reflection of the very soul of war and of death," immediately, Maisie notices that on one or two pieces Nick had depicted people he knew - their faces - in scenes they couldn't possibly have posed in.

Everyone assumed that Nick's final piece, the grand illumination, was in the form of a triptych, the painting, however, has mysteriously gone missing. The plot thickens when upon searching Nick's painting studio in Dungeness, she sees that he painted the faces of smugglers on the murals on the walls of his cottage and he even used the fictional character Dr Syn from the books by Russell Thorndyke to inspire an illustrated story.

Was Nick's final work really a triptych as everyone assumed or had the secretive artist something else up his sleeve? Detective Stratton certainly believed that Nick was a victim of his own ineptitude and that Georgina, in her neurosis, is merely set to make a nuisance of herself. Maisie, however, is not so convinced and soon turn her attentions to Nick's immediate family, the eccentric Bassington-Hopes, who have cemented a reputation for their progressive and highly controversial opinions.

Maisie finds the Bassington-Hopes intoxicating and she learns much about Nick's wartime service and how he felt the need "to do his bit" for King and country. The easy intimacy of their stories and the sharing of family events also warm her. But could she be blindsided by them, unable to discern something important with her usual integrity? And what about Harry? Nick's elusive brother, his name is seldom mentioned? And what is the secret that Piers, Nick's seemingly affable father, is perhaps holding back from Maisie?

Winspear's novel is certainly richly atmospheric, beautifully recreating the days of 1930's England, portraying a country still suffering the ravages of the Great War, haunted by it's legacy and reeling under the bitter stain of unemployment and the gnawing hunger of want. As the great art wheelers and dealers gather to make great fortunes fresh off the backs of the poverty stricken old world aristocracy, people like Billy Beale and his family struggle to survive, trying desperately to scrape a living together around the Docks of the Thames.

Basically a well-written mystery, Messenger of Truth also tells a scintillating tale of class and women in post war England. Maisie, in the course of solving a mystery, is forced to confront her very own priorities. She's intellectual, sensitive and hard working and there's no doubt that she values her newfound independence, her expectation of a certain freedom becoming more deeply engrained, it's very unusual for a woman of this time.

Maisie is also terribly mindful of the web of connection that exists among this rarefied community of people, those who have money and power, where the artist often wields uncommon influence. It is to Maisie's credit that she continually rises above the fray, withstanding the ill intentions of others, and at the last moment, she recognizes the blind spot where feelings of doubt and lack of trust had been seeded; it's a deceptive and illusory performance that goes on despite the shadow of Nick's death. Michael Leonard November 06.
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on 27 February 2007
Receiving a polite brush-off from the police, Georgina Bassington-Hope seeks help from Maisie Dobbs in her quest for the murderer of her brother the artist Nick Bassington-Hope. There is however no evidence to support Georgina belief that her brother has been murdered. But in the light of Georgina's passionate belief Maisie accepts the case.

Maisie Dobbs is an investigator and a psychologist and her first task is to know Nick Bassington-Hope. To this end she sets out to meet his closest friends and his family, and to visit the scene of his death - the Mayfair gallery where he was setting up his much-anticipated exhibition. A veteran of the Great War Nick's major work which was to receive it's first showing the day after his death, but it is mysteriously missing, and no one can locate it.

Maisie's investigation takes her from Mayfair to the beaches of Dungeness. Although the year is 1931, the tentacles of the Great War still cast a long shadow over both the Bassington-Hope's and Maisie, who is still fragile from her breakdown. I have enjoyed all the books in this series but this is the best.


Lizzie Hayes
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Maisie Dobbs is approached by Georgina Bassington-Hope to investigate the apparently accidental death of her brother Nicholas. The police have already investigated but Georgina is not convinced that it was an accident. Against a background of a worsening economic situation and problems for her assistant, Billy Beale, Maisie must try and get to the bottom of the mysteries which apparently surround the dead man as well as resolving some problems in her own private life.

This is an exciting story with some poignant moments which certainly brought tears to my eyes. The way Maisie and Billy interact is very cleverly done and I love reading about the way they work on their cases. Maisie herself is an enigmatic characters and something if a fish out of water as she started off life as a servant but had made her way in the world thanks to the support both emotional and financial of the Compton family. She has her own successful business in an era when women were expected to stay at home and bring up their families.

If you like mysteries with an historical background and with more psychological depth than the average then try the Maisie Dobbs mysteries. Each book can be read as a standalone novel but it is interesting to watch the development of the series characters if you read the books in the order in which they were published.
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on 29 August 2017
Very light reading a good summer book
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