Sunday, March 22, 2015

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Released: July 2003

Maisie Dobbs is the first novel in the cozy mystery series of the same name by Jacqueline Winspear. I can't recall exactly how Maisie Dobbs came to be on my wish list, but I suspect it may have been on behalf of a recommendation provided by Nancy Pearl—the author of Book Lust. Winspear's writing style and prose reminds me very much of that by Alexander McCall Smith and Nancy Atherton. This book is amazing, and I'm excited to talk about it!


Dreamworld's Synopsis

The tall, regal, and beautiful raven-haired Maisie Dobbs arrives in London during spring of 1929 to open her own detective agency after having been tutored in this profession by a psychologist. Her first case has her investigating the daily activities of Celia Davenham, a woman whose husband suspects she is cheating on him. Maisie's sleuthing leads her to a far-off cemetery where Celia spends most of her day mourning a mysterious grave simply marked, "Vincent." After arranging an "accidental" meeting with Celia, Maisie learns that the once-dashing and handsome Vincent had taken his own life after being permanently disfigured during the Great War. Maisie's discovery leaves her reminiscing about her own personal experiences as a nurse on the front lines.

As Maisie ponders the mystery behind Vincent's death, Winspear takes us back to the years 1910 through 1917 to reveal how Maisie became a detective after volunteering as a nurse during World War I. We learn how Maisie transitioned from a pauper into an educated, respectable, and proper young lady who sacrificed her own well-being to help wounded men during the war. On the battlegrounds, Maisie meets Simon Lynch, a doctor with whom she falls deeply in love. Readers are left to wonder whether Simon is alive or dead in present day (1929) as Maisie continues to recount her past. Near the end, we learn that Maisie's own background plays a major role in her being able to solve the mystery behind Vincent's real demise.

Dreamworld's Review

Maisie Dobbs isn't your traditional cozy mystery. The novel's style is much like the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith and the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton. Once you start reading, you'll feel a great calm wash over your body thanks to Winspear's eloquent and serene prose. If war books tend to reach your soft spot, you better keep a box of tissues nearby, because this one could induce lots of tears.

I appreciate how Winspear reveals very little about Maisie at first, and slowly peels away Maisie's layers until you get to her core, revealing an extremely bright and loving woman. I absolutely can't wait to read the rest of the series — I loved Maisie Dobbs so much I've already purchased the next three books in the series.

There's a lot to take away from this novel. I was pleased to see that Maisie Dobbs received starred reviews from a number of major review publications, was nominated for the Edgar Award, and was the Agatha Award winner the year it came out in 2003. If you've been reading this series, I'm curious as to what you think about it, too! Please leave me a comment and share your thoughts.

The books that follow Maisie Dobbs in this series are:
Birds of a Feather (2004 - Book 2)
Pardonable Lies (2005 - Book 3)
Messenger of Truth (2006 - Book 4)

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