Synopses & Reviews
Sue Feder/Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery Award Nominee
London, 1931. On the night before the opening of his new and much-anticipated exhibition at a famed Mayfair gallery, Nicholas Bassington-Hope falls to his death. The police declare it an accident, but the dead man's twin sister, Georgina, isn't convinced. When the authorities refuse to conduct further investigations, Georgina takes matters into her own hands, seeking out a fellow graduate from Girton College: Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator.
The case soon takes Maisie to the desolate beaches of Dungeness in Kent, as well as the sinister underbelly of the city's art world. She again uncovers the dark legacy of the Great War in a society struggling to recollect itself in difficult times. But to solve the mystery of the artist's death, she will have to remain steady as the forces behind his death come out of the shadows to silence her.
Jacqueline Winspear delivers another vivid, thrilling, and utterly unique episode in the life of Maisie Dobbs.
The night before an exhibition of his artwork opens, controversial artist Nick Bassington-Hope falls to his death. His twin sister seeks out Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator, for help. Before long the case leads Maisie into the sinister underbelly of the citys art world.
About the Author
Jacqueline Winspear is the author of three previous Maisie Dobbs novels, Maisie Dobbs, Birds of a Feather, and Pardonable Lies. Maisie Dobbs won the Agatha, Alex, and Macavity Awards, and Birds of a Feather won the Agatha Award. Originally from the U.K., Winspear now lives in California.
Reading Group Guide
1. Messenger of Truth presents the problems of two very different families, the Beales and the Bassington-Hopes. What qualities make each family appealing? If they were real, which family would you rather associate with, and why?
2. How do the various physical settings of the novel — for instance, Nicks converted railway carriage, his parents strangely decorated mansion, and Stig Svensons gallery — contribute to the mood of the scenes that occur in those places?
3. In what ways is Maisie Dobbs, a woman with working-class roots who has found a home in an intensely logical profession, able to find common ground with the arty, aristocratic Bassington- Hope family? What hidden similarities attract her to Georgina and her dead brother?
4. After being wounded in the war, Nick Bassington-Hope helps the war effort by producing propaganda art, although he personally finds the war immoral and revolting. Is his performance of this work an honorable service to his country or a dishonorable betrayal of his own principles? Why?
5. Nolly Grant, the eldest of the Bassington-Hope children, is rude and dismissive when she meets Maisie, and she is generally seen as the odd person out in her family. How, despite these facts, does Winspear create sympathy for this initially cold and off-putting character?
6. In what ways do the relative ages of the Bassington-Hope children appear to influence their personalities and their interactions with one another?
7. In a rather poor attempt at humor, Harry Bassington-Hope calls Maisie one of Georginas "Amazons." In what ways does Maisies status as an independent woman work against her? On the other hand, are there ways in which her feminine approach to her work makes her more effective than a man would be in her position?
8. Were you surprised by the outcome of the subplot concerning Lizzie Beale? Why? What depth or dimension does this subplot add to the themes and structure the novel?
9. As a "Messenger of Truth," Nick Bassington-Hope creates art that is extremely realistic and literal, even down to using the faces of friends and family members in his paintings. In so doing he risks invading the privacy of his subjects. Does art need to be this literal and potentially intrusive to be effective? If not, why does Nick insist so strongly on this freedom? Do his artistic goals justify the private harm that he may cause?
10. A subtle though recurrent image in Messenger of Truth is the metaphor of the dance. Nick writes on one of his American sketches, "I can dance with life again." Maisie is literally reluctant to dance, but at the end of the novel, she adopts Nicks earlier statement, signaling a desire to reengage with the world. How does the imagery of the dance relate to the novel as a whole?