Avoiding painful truths.

Book Review for “Pardonable Lies” (Maisie Dobbs #3) by Jacqueline Winspear.

Summary: A deathbed plea from his wife leads Sir Cecil Lawton to seek the aid of Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. As Maisie soon learns, Agnes Lawton never accepted that her aviator son was killed in the Great War, a torment that led her not only to the edge of madness but to the doors of those who practice the dark arts and commune with the spirit world. In accepting the assignment, Maisie finds her spiritual strength tested, as well as her regard for her mentor, Maurice Blanche. The mission also brings her together once again with her college friend Priscilla Evernden, who served in France and who lost three brothers to the war — one of whom, it turns out, had an intriguing connection to the missing Ralph Lawton.”

Age: Adult; Genres: Fiction, Mystery; Settings: Era/s: Historical, Location/s: United Kingdom and France; Other Categories: Novel, Series, Female Sleuths/Investigators, The Great War (WWI).

Pardonable Lies

Yes, I did buy a copy of this third book in this series, but I’m starting to wonder if I’ll be searching for any of the others. There are actually several reasons why I’m saying this, and not because I didn’t enjoy this book, because in truth, I did. However, …

Reading a series of books does require a level of commitment that I’m not totally sure I’m ready to make in this case. It also means that you’re totally invested in the main character, and while I like Maisie, I’m not really sure how invested I am in her. I keep remembering that first novel where this very lower-class girl gets taken under the wings of wealthy benefactors, and yet, Maisie feels so… high-brow in these subsequent books. That means I’m starting to distrust Winspear’s portrayal of Maisie, and that’s a problem. Furthermore, I was surprised to read in the blurb that Dobbs is not only an investigator, but also as a psychologist! I checked and historically speaking, the title existed before the 1920s and there were female psychologists out there already. But I’m guessing the term (especially among women) was sparsely used at the time, and even today, it isn’t used among anyone who hadn’t formally studied in that area. So, along with her seemingly fancy airs in general, calling herself a psychologist seems pretentious and not totally presumptive! This does seem to jive with the title of this book, but I’m not sure how pardonable practicing psychology without some lever of forma study is forgivable. Granted, back then things were far less regulated than they are today, so… fine.

Another thing… Winspear mentions Hitler once or twice in this book, and I’m not sure I want to read this type of book which will take place during WWII.

In addition, another thing that kind of bothered me here was that Maisie kept meditating to calm and focus herself. Again, I’m sure that many people practiced this at the time, but it still felt anachronistic to me, and highly irregular for someone with the type of tenacious personality that Maisie showed in the first book. Maybe this is my own prejudice, but Maisie has to deal with some pretty gruesome and unpleasant situations. Sure, meditating might be helpful to her own peace of mind, but it might also prove somewhat detrimental when needing to ask the types of hard questions that require painful answers to get to the truth. Plus, when she comes up against her own painful past, she seems to forget all about meditation, just when it was most required. I’m probably wrong here, but it just felt uncharacteristic, and I don’t remember her doing that much meditating in the previous books.

Also, in this book, Maisie has to solve not one, not two, but three different mysteries. Now, there’s nothing really wrong with that, except when you start off thinking that one of the problems is going to be the main mystery, and it gets sidetracked into something truly minor. You see, to get help with what I thought was going to be the prime focus case, Maisie takes on another case as a return favor for that assistance. With this, she relegates most of the investigation work to her assistant Billy, and goes full force into the other two cases, both of which take her to France where she served as a nurse during the Great War. While this gives us a chance to get some interesting intrigue going (including attempts on Maisie’s life), it also made for a mostly disappointing conclusion to the first case.

Again, I know this sounds like I didn’t enjoy this book, but I assure you that I did. I like Winspear’s writing very much and how she twists things for extra interest. However, I’m wondering if she didn’t bite off more than she could chew with this book. In the process, I also found things about Maisie that didn’t sit totally right with me. But that’s just me, and I’m sure that fans will adore this one as much as all the others. I’ll still recommend it to her fans, but I really have my doubts if I’ll be reading more of these books. I’d give it 3.75 stars if I had that graphic, but I don’t, so I will round it up to four for that.


This book is available (via the following affiliate links) from Amazon, Blackwell‘s, Foyles, The Book Depository UK and Book Depository US (both with free worldwide delivery), Waterstones, WHSmith, Wordery UK and Wordery US, Kobo US (eBooks and audiobooks), Booksamillion.com, iTunes (iBooks and audiobooks), new or used from Alibris, used from Better World Books (promoting libraries and world literary), as well as from as well as from Bookshop.org and UK.Bookshop (to support independent bookshops, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) or an IndieBound store near you.

This novel qualifies for the following reading challenges: Historical Fiction Reading Challenge (#7).

hist fic 2023 t2

Start your own WordPress blog today!

6 thoughts on “Avoiding painful truths.

  1. This would be the next book for me in the series (I read 1 & 2 a few years ago)… but I just don’t think I’m interested enough to continue. I really enjoyed the first book, with its introduction of Maisie and her backstory, but I didn’t buy some elements of how she investigates and solves crimes as portrayed in #2… and honestly, I can’t bring myself to invest in yet another long, ongoing series at this point!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have also read about 4 or 5 of the Maisie Dobbs books and each time I enjoy them, but don’t love them. I haven’t read one in a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Helen Murdoch Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.