Maisie Dobbs is the first book in Jacqueline Winspear’s successful Maisie Dobbs mystery series. The series, which recently added book number 15, features a British female sleuth who solves mysteries in the 1920s/1930s. Although this first book had a few rough spots, it was interesting enough to make me want to read the next book in the series to see how things progress.
Maisie Dobbs has an unusual background. As a teenager, she caught the eye of her employer, Lady Rowan, when Lady Rowan caught her reading philosophy in her home library. Recognizing potential, Lady Rowan becomes Maisie’s patron and sponsors her education. This education includes private tutoring from an enigmatic man who seems to be part spy, part zen master. Maisie often draws on the lessons she learned from him while investigating cases. Maisie eventually attends Cambridge, but takes a leave of absence in order to serve as a battlefield nurse during World War One. Ten years later, she opens up her own detective agency.
World War One figures prominently in this book. As a nurse, she saw a lot of men die and saw many more horribly injured. This left a permanent stamp on her. It shapes her character. Additionally, the case she investigates involves war veterans who are struggling with PTSD as well as severe, disfiguring facial scars. This aspect of the book was interesting to me. I don’t read many books with WWI as a backdrop.
This particular time period was also one of significant social change. The barriers between social classes were being knocked down. Additionally, women were slowly gaining more freedoms, including expanded employment options. Maisie represents both of these phenomena.
So the time period of the book was intriguing to me.
The novel was a little bit of mystery and a lot of back story. I guess you should expect that from the first book in a series, but I think it could have been executed better. The book starts by introducing the mystery but then cuts away to a really long section about Maisie’s personal history. I would have preferred to have that broken up and interspersed with the present day stuff more. And because there was so much back story, the mystery part was pretty light. I’m looking forward to hopefully a more substantial mystery in book two of the series.
The flash backs gave me a good sense of Maisie’s background, but I still don’t have a good sense of her personality. She seemed a little wooden. Other characters were better developed. Hopefully this is something that unfolds as the series progresses.
These couple of rough spots weren’t enough to turn me off to the series. I can definitely see the potential. I’ll give the second book a shot and see how things develop.
Thanks for the recommendation, Virginia J.
Have you read any books in the Maisie Dobbs series? Please share your thoughts below.