Maisie Dobbs

Created by Jacqueline Winspear

In her spawling, ambitious eponymously-titled historical novel, we first meet MAISIE DOBBS, a young working class girl in 1920s England with a love of books and learning. Once, a long time ago (much of the book flashes back to her younger years), Maisie worked as a housemaid for social activist Lady Rowan Compton, who took the young girl under her wing, rewarding her with an education. Maise eventually earned a degree from Cambriodge, but then World War One came along, throwing a spanner into the works. Instead of furthering her education, Maisie found herself working as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse. In the years following the war, Maisie was hired by her Lady’s good friend, Maurice Blanche, a rather well-known forensic scientist, philosopher and investigator who runs a private detective agency.

The meticulously researched debut opens in early 1929, with Maisie just having opened her own Trade and Personal Investigations office in Bloomsbury. Not so much a mystery, perhaps, as the story of a woman and her life and times (although there is a juicy little mystery in it, all about WWI vets and a possible cover-up by the British Army). Maisie is a appealingly intuitive and compassionate detective, and the book received all sorts of praise for its piercing and evocative treatment of the Great War and its tragic and sustained aftermath.

By the sequel, 2004’s Birds of a Feather, Maisie is a full-fledged private detective, complete with her own office and a brass nameplate on the door which reads “Maisie Dobbs, “Psychologist and Investigator,” and the series has thundered on, leaping from strength to strength, now firmly entrenched in the Second World War; a personal, sort of eyewitness social history of the U.K. not unlike that of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins.

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in England and later worked in publishing and as a marketing communications consultant in the U.K. before emigrating to the United States. She now lives in California.

UNDER OATH

  • “… a delightful mix of mystery, war story and romance set in WWI-era England.”
    — Publishers Weekly
  • “Winspear does a beautiful job of re-creating the atmosphere and class strata of early-20th-century England, while never overburdening her story with details. Dedicating this novel to her grandparents, both of whom were injured during World War I, the author keenly explores the lasting damage that was inflicted on soldiers long before post-traumatic stress disorder became a catchphrase. But, as its title makes clear, Maisie Dobbs focuses on one woman and her development as an innovative and forward-thinking individual. Much less time is spent here exploring her actual detective work, and that’s unfortunate. It would have been interesting to observe the nuances of investigating a crime in a society so ruled by sex, class and social structures. Still, Maisie proves to be an engaging and original character. Now that her background has been fully revealed, perhaps we’ll see more of her detection practices in the future.”
    — Cindy Chow, The Rap Sheet

NOVELS

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

One thought on “Maisie Dobbs

  1. I’ve read a few of these…and really like them. I enjoy the time period setting, and have looked for others in the same timeframe. Nice to “get away” from some of the current timeframe hard violence often found in today’s crime fiction.

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