Review: Maisie Dobbs

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline WinspearMaisie Dobbs
Mystery/Detective Fiction, 320 pages
ISBN: 9780142004333 (paperback)
Published by Penguin Books, May 2004

FTC Disclosure: Bought, paid for, MINE

  • One of Publishers Weeklys Best Mysteries of 2003
  • New York Times Notable Book of the Year 2003
  • Edgar Award nominee for Best Novel 2003
  • Agatha Award winner for Best First Novel 2003

Maisie Dobbs isn’t just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence—and the patronage of her benevolent employers—she works her way into college at Cambridge. When World War I breaks out, Maisie goes to the front as a nurse. It is there that she learns that coincidences are meaningful and the truth elusive. After the War, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind.

Seems I’ve gotten myself into reading a series once again. This time a series much like some others I’ve read:  Maggie Hope mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal and the Bess Crawford mysteries and the Ian Rutledge series both by Charles Todd.  Many of these are set during or just after WWI. The Maggie Hope during WWII.

All are mysteries set in Britain, and all but MacNeal are British authors. Being a fan of Agatha Christie as well as TV dramas such as Foyle’s War, Poirot, Downtown Abbey, Land Girls, Midsomer Murders, Inspector Morse, Lewis….well, the list goes on and on – it’s no wonder I’d finally get to Maisie Dobbs. I’m a sucker for a British mystery and now I’ve found another series of books to add to the list above.

All are well written stories, the only difference being the attention to detail and the protagonists solving the mysteries. Only one, Maisie Dobbs, actually sets out to be a detective, so the plot and characters bear a bit more scrutiny. The detail for me is not just in the way the mystery is laid out, but being a fan of historical fiction, I do tend to be a bit harsh when it comes to historical accuracy. Except for a few minor items, all of these authors, and especially Jacqueline Winspear do a good job.

All in all, this is a historical fiction/mystery of a different color. Not only is Miss Dobbs a private investigator in a time and place where women were hardly seen in such a profession, she works her trade as much as a psychologist than she does as a detective, using intuition and implied psychic abilities to help deal with the challenges she faces. Through the understanding of psychology and the ability to mirror a person physically to better understand them mentally, she gains insights that others would never be able to otherwise. This is a unique aspect of her character that I liked immediately. This character, and thus her stories are far from cookie cutter and refreshing to read.

Suspending disbelief in regards to Maisie’s apparent psychic abilities isn’t too hard to achieve however, and I found this first book in the series enjoyable and a fairly quick read. No plodding plot or subplots complicating things too much, and just enough action to be interesting. I’m definitely going to read the next in the series (Birds of a Feather) to see how much Winspear develops Miss Dobbs and hope that she progresses as well as I hope she does.

Highly, highly recommended!





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