A Lesson in Secrets - Jacqueline Winspear Lackluster characterization and passive writing. Not my cuppa tea, but the mystery was good.

FTC: Review copy provided by the publisher

Sometimes coming to a series in the middle just doesn't work. This was one of those times. Although many love Maisie Dobbs, the book just didn't click with me. Everything was off: pacing, characterization, dialogue. It all seemed way too passive for my reading preferences.

A Lesson in Secrets is set in the slim amount of time between World War I and World War II. In fact, the aftermath of the first Great War is very much a part of what drives this book. Maisie is an investigator of sorts who is asked by the Intelligence Service to investigate a school founded by an author made famous by a pacifist children's book.

Although most of the book is shown through Maisie's POV, we never really get a chance to get inside her head. There's very little emotion there. And the secondary characters never really felt fleshed out to me. I read for characters and those fell flat in nearly every instance. It was like I was reading an after-action report instead of following along with her. Very detached.

I think I might have enjoyed the book a bit more if I'd followed the series from the beginning, because Maisie references characters off-screen or in previous adventures. I'm not sure if Winspear depended too much on readers already knowing the characters, but most I just couldn't bring myself to care about at all.

Jacqueline Winspear's writing is very cerebral. I prefer the visceral. But historical fiction fans might enjoy the way the time between the wars is shown with a subtle, heartbreaking touch. There's a lot to like here, but I just couldn't connect with it.

My Grade: C-