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.

34 thoughts on “Jacqueline Winspear: Maisie Dobbs (2003) The First Maisie Dobbs Mystery

  1. I’ve seen this series at the book shop, and I’ll be honest and say that it doesn’t have much appeal for me. I’m not a fan of cozy mysteries–although I understand their popularity and appeal. Perhaps this was a good read after the Czech book.

    • To be honest, I switched between the two, something I rarely do but I felt like it.
      I can see why this has suchan appeal – or other cozies for that matter. I like them once in a while, and recently more than ususally. In any case, she is a great heroine.

        • Yes, it unfortunately influences a lot. I always need change, genres, tones, … anything really. I don’t read fiction books in parallel normally but I have always several non-fiction books going.

    • I was wondering if she meant this to be a series from the beginning as it feels so finished. It could have been a stand alone at first. You can easily read this and stop then. The historical elements are well done that’s why, as far as cozies go, it’s a bit different.

  2. I will be starting a Maisie Dobbs book today, A Lesson in Secrets, for a blog tour, and I can’t wait. I’ve heard such good things about this series. I’d wanted to read this one first, but I had to bring it back to the library. 😦 Since it counts for the WWI challenge, I’ll have to request it again!

  3. This sounds good for me at this time since I’m exhausted from work. Thanks for the review, I’d never heard of Maisie.

    PS: Crime fiction with a good description of WWI ? Try Anne Perry, No Grave As Yet. It’s well-written and gripping.

  4. I love Maisie. These are interesting, easy mysteries and the characters have really developed over time. This is one series that I read the books as soon as each new installment is published–a new one is due out later this month and I am already on the library list for it! If you want another series set around the time of WWI I highly recommend Elizabeth Speller–she has a couple of books out now (the first is The Return of Captain John Emmett–very well done!). You might also look for Charles Todd’s Bess Crawford mysteries–there are a few out–I’ve only read the first and keep meaning to read the two subsequent novels. This series is very similar to Maisie Dobbs as Bess is a nurse. This makes me want to pull out another book by either Speller or Todd now, but I am in the middle of Andrew Taylor’s second Inspector Thornhill mystery–these are set in post-WWII Yorkshire and are also very well done!

    • Thanks for the recommendations, Danielle. I was tempted to buy The Return of Captain John Emmett when I saw it in a book shop but the next time I went I had forgotten the name of the author. I will make a note now. I think Kailana posted about a Bess Crawford readalong. I’m going to read the first in the series soon as well.
      I’m glad to hear that the characters develop ove time. I was a bit worried about that.

  5. Oh, yay, I am so glad you read this series! I read the first one a couple years ago and then stalled for a while. Once I read the second one, though, I was hooked! I am so excited about the new one out in a few days. We are moving closer to WWII in the series, now. I hope you stick with the series.

    • I’m glad I tried it, thansk to you and /or Danielle or both. I liked Maisie as a character a lot. I was wondering where it would go from here. WWII seems a logical thing.
      I only know whether I will really go on reading a series after having read the second book. I still wonder if it wasn’t initiall meant as a stand alone, lthough PI novels rarely are.

  6. Nice review, Caroline! I like reading cozies once in a while. Maisie seems to be a great heroine. I also love the fact that the book has a WWI setting. It is interesting that the series has 9 books already! Must be having tons of fans!

    • Thanks, Vishy. I think she is very successful indeed and I understand why. There are many interesting aspects and the WWI parts are very good. I liked it and will at least read another one.

  7. This sounds great! I love mysteries and will definitely give these a shot. You’re the second blogger within a short space of time posting a positive review that I’ve come across, so there is some evidence by now that these should be worth a read 🙂

  8. This is one of those books that sounded exactly like something I would love, but sadly I could not get on with it at all. I loved the setting but had trouble suspending my disbelief about several aspects of the story. I’m glad you had more luck than I did, though!

  9. Maybe it’s like that Parker detective series I read earlier, the one by Connolly. Even though the book I read was the eight but it didn’t matter.

    • *sigh* that comment was supposed to be for your discussion with TBM but my mobileversion decide by itself to push it down here 😦

      Anyway, I think the story is quite interesting, a mix of history and mistery. What defines a mystery to be considered as cozy?

      • That happens sometimes.
        Ther are a few characteristic traits for a cozy. Often the detective is an amateur. There is often an element of humour, the crime is not described, they are never gruesome. There is a bit of a “the world is perfect despite the crime” feel. All the people, apart from the criminal are likable and the criminal isn’t really described. Ususally they are very good at atmospehere, psychlogy isn’t so importnat. It’s all about mood and setting. I couldn’t read too many of them. They are a bit too sweet after a while but ocasionally it’s fun.

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