Maisie Dobbs, the main character of Winspear's 'Pardonable Lies,' is a most unusual Englishwoman for her time, the years following World War I, during which she has built a successful career as a sleuth. Her business card reads “Investigator and Psychologist.” An unusual power that she has on certain people comes out in the book's opening, when a terrified young woman accused of a murder is calmed by Maisie’s presence in the police interview room. Not even by a smile, but by an expression in Maisie’s eyes, plus a touch from compassionate hands.
She is close to a longtime mentor who embraces Eastern philosophy. When stumped by a difficult problem, Maisie withdraws to meditate or will seek the counsel of this highly regarded mentor.
Getting this young girl freed is one challenge, but Maisie works on it behind the scenes while pursuing two unusual assignments, both of which challenge her to find out what happened to two young men officially reported as killed in the war. .Maisie cuts a stylish figure, driving a shiny white MG and dressing fashionably as she travels by train, car, and boat between diverse locales in England and France. Author WInspear must be somewhat of a fashionista herself, as the reader is treated to frequent descriptions of elegant outfits the characters, male and female, are wearing.
It’s easy to become fascinated by Maisie and to root for her as we learn of her modest beginnings, the loss of Simon, her true love, in the war which disabled him both physically and mentally, and her work as a nurse, attending countless young men who have lost limbs and been disfigured on the battlefield. Nightmares still haunt her and it’s clear that she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. She is now being pursued by a country doctor named Andrew who hasn’t brought himself to propose yet though he obviously loves this courageous young heroine.
Winspear is a gifted writer whose previous two Maisie Dobbs novels have won record numbers of awards, for best novel and best first novel. Pardonable Lies is a complicated tale of family secrets, hidden motives, suspense, and well-defined characters which easily hold the reader’s interest. No grisly murders here, but an admirably literary writing style unfolding an unusual tale.