Because I was a bit slow in jumping on board this series, I have just read the fourth book, Messenger of Truth. Once again, investigator/psychologist Maisie Dobbs is asked to investigate a murder, or perhaps I should say possible murder. The young man who died was Nick Bassington-Hope, a young man who was forging a name for himself as an artist of some repute. When he died he was alone in an art gallery setting up for the installation of what he thought was going to be his greatest work yet. By all appearances he had been high up on the scaffolding when he fell and died. The police were called and it was declared to be an open and shut case of accidental death.
His twin sister, Georgina, is not convinced though. She believes that there was foul play and that her brother may have been murdered. The art piece that he was installing was one that he knew would upset people but no one was going to see it before the big unveiling at the art gallery. In fact, no one even knows where the major piece is. There is an American buyer who is keen to purchase, but Nick had made it clear that he wanted it to be donated to a public institution like the War Museum.
In the course of trying to work out how Nick Bassington-Hope died, Maisie is pulled in several different directions. There is his arty but dysfunctional family who draw Maisie into their colourful lives and to the darker London underworld, his friends who lived near the seaside in converted railway carriages (that sounded rather fab!) complete with strange goings on, as well as Nick's own history as a war artist and the legacy that left on his psyche, and the strange behaviour of the police.
Personally, Maisie is still recovering from an emotional breakdown the year before, a floundering romantic relationship and an icy distance to her mentor who has previously meant so much to her and been so helpful when he has acted as a sounding board for her in the past.
One of the things I really enjoy about this series is the way the legacy of World War I is explored. Just over 10 years after the war has ended, life continues to be heavily influenced by those dreadful years and now there is additional hardship as the effects of the Great Depression really begin to affect the lives of many, especially Maisie's assistant Billy. I also like the way that Maisie continues to develop as a character. It is clear that she has a lot more development to go too, which makes her an interesting character to read about. She clearly still is impacted heavily by her war time experiences, and sometimes she is not willing to concede that. She is a career driven woman in a time where the norm was still to get married and have children, but the times are changing and not only because there is a shortage of eligible men thanks to the war.
While I do enjoy these books, there are things that don't always work. For example, Maisie relies a lot on 'intuition' to help her move her cases forward - things like being able to sit in the space of a person and see their actions to help her find clues - and whilst this might be interesting, it doesn't always make sense when something comes completely out of the blue. Ultimately, the solution to the mystery made sense, but the pieces fell together in quite a rush in some ways. The other story lines also got a bit distracting at times too.
I did have reservations about this instalment, but they are not strong enough to prevent me from continuing on with the series. I just read the synopsis for the latest book and I have to say that I was intrigued. What a pity I still have five more books to read in the series in order to get to it!
London, 1931. When controversial artist Nick Bassington-Hope is found dead, the police believe it is an open and shut case and his death from a fall is recorded as'accidental'. But his sister is not convinced, so she turns to Maisie Dobbs for help, drawn by the investigator's growing reputation for her unique methods of solving crimes.
Moving from the desolate beaches of the English coast to the dark underbelly of post-war London, and full of intriguing characters, Maisie's new investigation entertains and enthrals at every turn.
Adapted from my original review
You can read Kelly's thoughts about this book here, and Julie's here.