For months now I've been reading other bloggers' reviews of Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs mysteries. Everyone likes them. So, I looked in the box of books given to me a while ago and found Messenger of Truth. This isn't the first in the series, but I don't usually have the opportunity to read a series in order so I plunged right in.
This story is set in London in 1931. The setting is of a changed city after World War I where some women have taken on new types of jobs but the poor are still almost Dickensian in their lives and the rich are oblivious to their plight. Maisie has, after a breakdown, set herself up as a psychologist and inquiry agent (Private Eye) with an assistant, Billy Beale, who is a poor man with a large family to support. He feels fortunate to have a job and is immensely loyal to Maisie. She has also rented her own apartment, though the heat is iffy in this very cold winter.
Her client in the story is Georgina Bassington-Hope (love the name) whose brother, Nick, an artist, has died in an apparent accident. He fell from large scaffolding erected to mount his latest work, what everyone suspects is a triptych. There is a younger brother, Harry, who plays the trumpet and is eternally in debt to dubious people, and an older sister, Noelle, who is the practical member of an artistic, creative family. She is also a war widow. The parents, both artists, are still alive, living in the old family home.
All of these characters are splendidly drawn. I must admit I've been catching myself talking like a Londoner in the 1930s. Along with the immediate mystery of whether Nick fell or was murdered, there is a pervasive, lurking suspicion involving the rise of Hitler's Nazi Party in Germany. What does it all mean for Europe and particularly England?
We are introduced to Nick's best friends, also artists, Billy's family, Maisie's father, and her beau. Lots of characters, but reading the book is something like sitting in a comfortable room beside a roaring fire on a cold winter day as a good storyteller weaves a magical tale. I thought it started out slowly but the characters were interesting enough to draw me in until I was deeply involved. I want to read the older books now, but not having done so didn't dampen my enthusiasm about Messenger of Truth at all. No wonder my book blogging friends rave about Winspear's books.