Jacqueline Winspear: Maisie Dobbs (2003) The First Maisie Dobbs Mystery

I’m not sure who mentioned Maisie Dobbs first. Either Danielle on A Work in Progress or Kailana on The Written World. Whoever it was I’m glad she did as Maisie is an amazing heroine. I really like her and the way she goes about her job. The period details are captured in a very descriptive way, reading often felt like watching a movie.

The story begins in London, 1929. Maisie Dobbs has opened her first office. She is a private investigator and psychologist who has been trained by a master of the art, Maurice Blanche, a friend of Lady Rowan, on whose estate Maisie used to be a maid.

Her first investigation leads her to follow the wife of Christopher Davenham. He suspects her to have a lover. What Maisie finds out is quite different from what Davenham and the reader think and will lead Maisie to investigate a crime and confront her with her own past.

The second part of the novel rewinds to 1910-1917. In 1910 Maisie is just a girl who lives alone with her father after her mother has died. She is unusually intelligent and her parents wanted to send her to college later but the mother’s illness has swallowed up all of their money and Maisie is sent to Lady Rowan as a maid. They soon find out about Maisie’s fondness for reading and learning and give her a private tutor, Maurice Blanche. Blanche is a special fellow with an eye for people and an unusual capability of seeing behind the masks.

Maisie finally goes to university and is about to embark on a splendid academic career when WWI breaks out. Like so many other young women she volunteers as a nurse and is sent to France where the man she has recently fallen in love with is serving as a doctor.

Maisie’s life story, the crime and its solution are all rooted in WWI. While I didn’t think the crime was gripping I thought the way the book revealed what happened to Maisie during the war was suspenseful. I truly admired the way it managed to convey an idea of WWI. Maisie and many other characters still suffer from various ailments or traumas. This, for example, is Maisie at the beginning of the novel.

Lucky, thought Maisie. Except for the war, I’ve had a lucky life so far. She sat down on the dubious oak chair, slipped off her shoes and rubbed her feet. Feet that still felt the cold and wet and filth and blood of France. Feet that hadn’t felt warm in twelve years, since 1917.

Facial wounds play and important role. The wounds and how society and the wounded handle them. But the horror of the trenches, the constant rain, mud and cold are rendered as well.

It’s certainly a novel that appeals to many people. To those who like cozy mysteries, to those who are interested in WWI. Fans of the upstairs-downstairs theme will love the middle section. Maisie Dobbs is a likable and clever character and to get to know the way how she reads people is fascinating. Her way of working is a mix of psychological analysis and psychic abilities that I enjoyed a great deal.

There are by now 9 books in the series and the fans and followers are numerous.

Because of its lovely design and a lot of information it is worth to visit Jacqueline Winspear’s Website.

If you are interested, March is Maisie Month on Facebook.

Maisie Dobbs is my third contribution to Anna and Serena’s War Through the Generations challenge.