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Books by the Blogger:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
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Winspear, Jacqueline: Pardonable Lies

  

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Henry Holt © 2005, 352 pages [amazon]
4.5 stars

Pardonable Lies is the third installment in Jacqueline Winspear's series of historical mysteries featuring Maisie Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator. (Read my review of Maisie Dobbs, the first book in the series.) This outing finds Maisie juggling three cases. The first and least demanding of her attention involves a fourteen-year-old girl who's been charged with murder. More interesting, and more dangerous for Maisie, are the two cases that require her to confront her ghosts. Both an old friend and a prominent barrister charge Maisie with investigating the fate of their loved ones, a brother and son respectively, who were listed among the dead of the Great War. What happened to the men in fact proves to be more interesting than anything that was reported to their families by telegram. Looking into their deaths brings Maisie back to France, which in 1930 hardly resembles the shell-shocked landscape she knew during the War, when she'd served, and nearly died, working as a nurse at a casualty clearing station.

What happened to the men in fact proves to be more interesting than anything that was reported to their families by telegram.Pardonable Lies is well written and nicely plotted and steeped in period detail. The Maisie Dobbs books are cozies, which is to say that they are gentle reads, no wallowing in the gory specifics of blood and guts. But Pardonable Lies is not a light book, exactly. Maisie is indeed haunted by her experiences in the War, as are the people she is in daily contact with. The aftershocks of a war that claimed so many lives and ripped Europe apart are felt everywhere and provide the series with an affecting backdrop. And there are occasional references in this third book to the political goings-on in Germany, the emergence of Hitler and the growing influence of the Nazi party, which remind the reader--if we'd needed the reminder--that Maisie's world is a precarious place, destined soon enough for a second terrible war. Maisie doesn't know this yet, of course, and her ignorance--the ignorance of all of Winspear's characters--adds to the book's poignancy.

As we learned in the first Maisie Dobbs mystery (I have not yet read the second), Maisie was trained in a sort of holistic detection by an enigmatic wise man, Maurice Blanche. We learn more about Maurice's history in this installment, as Maisie's investigations lead to some trouble with her mentor. Among Maisie's skills are her ability to sense an interlocutor's emotional state by adopting his or her posture--something I find a little hard to swallow but which isn't made too much of in Pardonable Lies. We also learn here that Maisie has the ability to sense the presence of spirits. We are told, in fact, that Maisie is attended by two spirits herself. Readers may find the supernatural elements in the book off-putting, but again, these are not emphasized and are not essential to the plot. My qualms about the intrusion of the supernatural into Maisie's story aside, I quite enjoyed Pardonable Lies. It won't keep you up late reading, but it's a solid, enjoyable historical.

Review summary: Pardonable Lies is the third installment in Jacqueline Winspear's series of historical mysteries. This outing finds Maisie juggling three cases, two of them related: both an old friend and a prominent barrister charge Maisie with investigating the fate of their loved ones, a brother and son respectively, who were listed among the dead of the Great War. What happened to the men in fact proves to be more interesting than anything that was reported to their families. The cases bring Maisie back to France, which in 1930 hardly resembles the shell-shocked landscape she knew as a nurse in 1914. Winspear's books are cozies: there is no wallowing in the gory specifics of blood and guts. But Pardonable Lies is not a light read. The aftershocks of a war that claimed so many lives and ripped Europe apart are felt everywhere and provide the series with a poignant backdrop.

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Book-blog.com reviews by Debra Hamel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

Comments

1.

I read the first of this series (via a book club selection, would not have chosen it) and did not enjoy it. Too superficial and unrealistic. I haven't been tempted to read more....

2.

My review of the first one is here: http://dhamel.typepad.com/book_blog/2004/12/maisie_dobbs_by.html

I don't like the super-natural elements, as I suggest above, and it may be that she's moving away from that a little bit. My impression is that there was less of that in the third than in the first, but my reading of these was separated by almost two years so I may be mistaken.

I like the books, but they are quiet reads, so I have to be in just the right mood for them.

3.

I nearly finished with book 2, Birds of a Feather. I really enjoy this series.

4.

Thanks for the note, booklogged. I see it was one of your sitting-around-on-the-pile books! I haven't taken up that challenge, because pretty much *all* my books have been sitting around on the pile for a while....




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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.