Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs Series #1)

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Overview

10th Anniversary Edition with a special Afterword by the author

Maisie Dobbs got her start as a maid in an aristocratic London household when she was thirteen. Her employer, suffragette Lady Rowan Compton, soon became her patron, taking the remarkably bright youngster under her wing. Lady Rowan's friend, Maurice Blanche, often retained as an investigator by the European elite, recognized Maisie’s intuitive ...

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Maisie Dobbs (Maisie Dobbs Series #1)

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Overview

10th Anniversary Edition with a special Afterword by the author

Maisie Dobbs got her start as a maid in an aristocratic London household when she was thirteen. Her employer, suffragette Lady Rowan Compton, soon became her patron, taking the remarkably bright youngster under her wing. Lady Rowan's friend, Maurice Blanche, often retained as an investigator by the European elite, recognized Maisie’s intuitive gifts and helped her earn admission to the prestigious Girton College in Cambridge, where Maisie planned to complete her education.
 
The outbreak of war changed everything. Maisie trained as a nurse, then left for France to serve at the Front, where she found—and lost—an important part of herself. Ten years after the Armistice, in the spring of 1929, Maisie sets out on her own as a private investigator, one who has learned that coincidences are meaningful, and truth elusive. Her very first case involves suspected infidelity but reveals something very different.
 
In the aftermath of the Great War, a former officer has founded a working farm known as The Retreat, that acts as a convalescent refuge for ex-soldiers too shattered to resume normal life. When Fate brings Maisie a second case involving The Retreat, she must finally confront the ghost that has haunted her for over a decade.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for Maisie Dobbs

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Agatha Award Winner for Best First Novel
Macavity Award Winner for Best First Novel
Alex Award Winner

“Compelling…powerful. [Maisie Dobbs] testifies to the enduring allure of the traditional mystery…even though I knew what was coming this second time 'round, its final scene is still a punch in the gut.”
—Maureen Corrigan for NPR’s Fresh Air, speaking on the 10th Anniversary edition of Maisie Dobbs

"[A] deft debut novel . . . Romantic readers sensing a story-within-a-story won't be disappointed. But first they must be prepared to be astonished at the sensitivity and wisdom with which Maisie resolves her first professional assignment."
The New York Times

"The reader familiar with Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency . . . might think of Maisie Dobbs as its British counterpart . . . [Winspear] has created a winning character about whom readers will want to read more."
The Associated Press

"[Maisie Dobbs] catches the sorrow of a lost generation in the character of one exceptional woman."
Chicago Tribune

“A fine new sleuth for the twenty-first century. Simultaneously self-reliant and vulnerable, Maisie isn't a character I'll easily forget.”
—Elizabeth George, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of the Inspector Lynley series

“The book is much more than a cosy mystery—it is also about women's growing emancipation and the profound changes to society after the First World War.”
Mail on Sunday

“A delightful mix of mystery, war story and romance set in WWI–era England . . . A refreshing heroine, appealing secondary characters and an absorbing plot [make Winspear a] writer to watch.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
 
“A poignant and compelling story . . . [Winspear handles] human drama with compassionate sensitivity while skillfully avoiding cloying sentimentality. At the end, the reader is left yearning for more. Highly recommended.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

From the Publisher
Praise for Maisie Dobbs

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Agatha Award Winner for Best First Novel
Macavity Award Winner for Best First Novel
Alex Award Winner

"[A] deft debut novel . . . Romantic readers sensing a story-within-a-story won't be disappointed. But first they must be prepared to be astonished at the sensitivity and wisdom with which Maisie resolves her first professional assignment."
The New York Times

"The reader familiar with Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency . . . might think of Maisie Dobbs as its British counterpart . . . [Winspear] has created a winning character about whom readers will want to read more."
The Associated Press

"[Maisie Dobbs] catches the sorrow of a lost generation in the character of one exceptional woman."
Chicago Tribune

“A fine new sleuth for the twenty-first century. Simultaneously self-reliant and vulnerable, Maisie isn't a character I'll easily forget.”
—Elizabeth George, #1 New York Times Bestselling author of the Inspector Lynley series

“The book is much more than a cosy mystery—it is also about women's growing emancipation and the profound changes to society after the First World War.”
Mail on Sunday

"[Maisie Dobbs] catches the sorrow of a lost generation in the character of one exceptional woman."
Chicago Tribune

“A delightful mix of mystery, war story and romance set in WWI–era England . . . A refreshing heroine, appealing secondary characters and an absorbing plot [make Winspear a] writer to watch.”
Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
 
“A poignant and compelling story . . . [Winspear handles] human drama with compassionate sensitivity while skillfully avoiding cloying sentimentality. At the end, the reader is left yearning for more. Highly recommended.”
Library Journal, Starred Review

From the Hardcover edition.

The New York Times
… when Maisie's investigation into a convalescent home for such men sends her back in time to her experiences as a battlefield nurse, she must face her own nightmares. Winspear takes her through her ordeal with great compassion -- and the promise of brighter days ahead. — Marilyn Stasio
Publishers Weekly
In Winspear's inspired debut novel, a delightful mix of mystery, war story and romance set in WWI-era England, humble housemaid Maisie Dobbs climbs convincingly up Britain's social ladder, becoming in turn a university student, a wartime nurse and ultimately a private investigator. Both na ve and savvy, Maisie remains loyal to her working-class father and many friends who help her along the way. Her first sleuthing case, which begins as a simple marital infidelity investigation, leads to a trail of war-wounded soldiers lured to a remote convalescent home in Kent from which no one seems to emerge alive. The Retreat, specializing in treating badly deformed battlefield casualties, is run by an apparently innocuous former officer who requires his patients to sign over their assets to his tightly run institution. At different points in her remarkable career, Maisie crosses paths with a military surgeon to whom she's attracted despite his disfigurement from a bomb blast at the front. A refreshing heroine, appealing secondary characters and an absorbing plot, marred only by a somewhat bizarre conclusion, make Winspear a new writer to watch. Agent, Amy Rennert. (July 9) Forecast: Blurbs from Elizabeth George and Charles Todd will alert their readers to the quality of this book, which ought to draw mainstream and romance readers as well. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
From its dedication to the author's paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother, who were both injured during World War I, to its powerful conclusion, this is a poignant and compelling story that explores war's lingering and insidious impact on its survivors. The book opens in spring 1929 as Maisie Dobbs opens an office dedicated to "discreet investigations" and traverses back and forth between her present case and the long shadows cast by World War I. What starts out as a plea by an anxious husband for Maisie to discover why his wife regularly lies about her whereabouts turns into a journey of discovery whose answers and indeed whose very questions lie in a quiet rural cemetery where many war dead are buried. In Maisie, Winspear has created a complex new investigator who, tutored by the wise Maurice Blanche, recognizes that in uncovering the actions of the body, she is accepting responsibility for the soul. British-born but now living in America, first novelist Winspear writes in simple, effective prose, capturing the post-World War I era effectively and handling human drama with compassionate sensitivity while skillfully avoiding cloying sentimentality. At the end, the reader is left yearning for more discreet investigations into the nature of what it means to feel truth. Highly recommended.-Caroline Hallsworth, City of Greater Sudbury, Ont. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Maisie is 14 when her mother dies, and she must go into service to help her father make ends meet. Her prodigious intellect and the fact that she is sneaking into the manor library at night to read Hume, Kierkegaard, and Jung alert Lady Rowan to the fact that she has an unusual maid. She arranges for Maisie to be tutored, and the girl ultimately qualifies for Cambridge. She goes for a year, only to be drawn by the need for nurses during the Great War. After serving a grueling few years in France and falling in love with a young doctor, Maisie puts up a shingle in 1929 as a private investigator. She is a perceptive observer of human nature, works well with all classes, and understands the motivations and demons prevalent in postwar England. Teens will be drawn in by her first big case, seemingly a simple one of infidelity, but leading to a complex examination of an almost cultlike situation. The impact of the war on the country is vividly conveyed. A strong protagonist and a lively sense of time and place carry readers along, and the details lead to further thought and understanding about the futility and horror of war, as well as a desire to hear more of Maisie. This is the beginning of a series, and a propitious one at that.-Susan H. Woodcock, Fairfax County Public Library, Chantilly, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A romance/investigation debut novel set firmly in the spiritual aftermath of WWI. Maisie Dobbs, recently turned private investigator in 1929 England, had been a nurse back during the war to end all wars, so she knows about wounds-both those to the body and those to the soul. It's just a month after she sets up shop that she gets her first interesting case: What initially looks like just another infidelity matter turns out to be a woman's preoccupation with a dead man, Vincent Weathershaw, in a graveyard. Flashback to Maisie's upbringing: her transition from servant class to the intellectual class when she shows interest in the works of Hume, Kierkegaard, and Jung. She doesn't really get to explore her girlhood until she makes some roughshod friends in the all-woman ambulance corps that serves in France, and she of course falls for a soldier, Simon, who writes her letters but then disappears. Now, in 1929, Maisie's investigation into Vincent Weathershaw leads her to the mysterious Retreat, run like a mix between a barracks and a monastery, where soldiers still traumatized by the war go to recover. Maisie knows that her curiosity just might get her into trouble-yet she trusts her instincts and sends an undercover assistant into the Retreat in the hopes of finding out more about Vincent. But what will happen, she worries, if one needs to retreat from the Retreat? Will she discover the mystery behind her client's wife's preoccupation with a man who spent time there? And by any chance, albeit slight, might she encounter that old lover who disappeared back in 1917 and who she worried might be dead? Winspear rarely attempts to elevate her prose past the common romance, and what might have been ajourney through a strata of England between the wars is instead just simple, convenient and contrived. Prime candidate for a TV movie. Agents: Amy Rennert, Randi Murray/Amy Rennert Agency
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616954079
  • Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/3/2014
  • Series: Maisie Dobbs Series , #1
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 10
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 39,871
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear is the author of New York Times bestsellers Among the Mad and An Incomplete Revenge, as well as eight other Maisie Dobbs novels. Originally from Kent, England, she now lives in California. This is her first book in the critically acclaimed and internationally bestselling Maisie Dobbs series.

Biography

Lovers of British mysteries and historical novels will find something to appreciate in Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs books. Maisie, a housemaid-turned-student-turned-nurse-turned private investigator in early 20th-century London, manages to straddle Britain's class system by being a woman of exceptional "bearing" and intellect who happens to come from working-class stock. As an investigator, she's green, but sharp and ambitious. She's also surrounded by vividly sketched secondary players, such as her benefactor, Lady Rowan, and mentor Maurice Blanche.

In Winspear's first Maisie story, we learn the character's background: Forced by family circumstances to go to work as a housemaid at an early age, Maisie Dobbs' curiosity and intellect are noticed by her employer, Lady Rowan. Rowan takes care of her education, and she makes it to university – but the Great War interrupts her ambitions. She serves as a nurse in France, then returns to England and starts her career as a private investigator in 1929. Her first case seems like a simple investigation into infidelity; it grows into something larger when it leads realizes there's something amiss at a convalescent home for war veterans called The Retreat.

Winspear's talent didn't go unnoticed when her first novel was published in July 2003. Maisie Dobbs was named in "best" lists in both the New York Times and Publishers Weekly. It was also nominated in the best novel category for an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. There was an almost palpable sense of relief in the reviews, pleasant surprise that someone had offered not only a solid addition to the historical mystery genre, but had given it further depth and breadth. As an NPR reviewer put it, "[The book's] intelligent eccentricity offers relief."

Telling Maisie's stories using a warm third-person narrator, Winspear charms with her ability to convey the historical context surrounding her characters, particularly regarding the impact of the Great War. For this reason, and because her mysteries steer clear of graphic violence or sex, her books are often recommended for younger readers also. Far from hardboiled, Winspear's characters are very human, and she delivers a little romance and heartache along with the criminal wrongdoing.

Part of the appeal in Winspear's books also lies in her ability to bring a deeper, more philosophical atmosphere to the proceedings. Maisie is trained in Freudian psychology and is as interested in helping as she is in solving. A case referenced in the second Maisie story, Birds of a Feather, for example, "would not be filed away until those whose lives were touched by her investigation had reached a certain peace with her findings, with themselves, and with one another." Reading Winspear's Dobbs series may not bring inner peace, but there is something relaxing about spending time with her appealing characters.

Good To Know

Winspear also works as a creative coach. She writes on her web site, "As a coach I am engaged by those who want to establish clear intentions for their artistic endeavors, to support and encourage so that they sustain a level of energy and empowerment which is demonstrated in work that is rewarding, inspiring -- and finished!" Winspear also writes about international education.

Winspear loves outdoor pursuits such as horseback riding, hiking, sailing, and mountain biking; she's also an avid traveler, according to her web site bio.

In our interview, Winspear shared some fun facts about herself:

"My first ever job after college was as a flight attendant. I wanted to travel and could not afford it, so I decided to get myself a job where I could travel. I did it for two years and had great fun."

"My worst-ever job was in an egg-packing factory when I was 16."

"I love dogs, horses and generally all animals. I will always stop to check on stray dogs -- I once ended up in the emergency room with a tick embedded in me which had jumped off a dog I had rescued from a busy road. It was a deer tick, which carries Lyme Disease, so I wasn't taking any chances. Funnily enough, when I opened the only magazine in the emergency room, it was to a page carrying an article on tick bites and disease. It stated that you have six hours after the tick embeds itself, before it begins to release the bacteria that cause disease. I counted the hours from rescuing the dog, and by the time the doctor came in I was pleading, ‘Get this thing out of me!!!'"

"My favorite way to unwind is to go for a walk with my husband and the dog at the end of the working day, then we go to our local health club for a swim and to sit by the pool and read for a while. I love time with family and friends, but completely relish time on my own when I have no agenda to follow, no to-do's, just me and time alone."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Jackie Winspear
    2. Hometown:
      Ojai, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 30, 1955
    2. Place of Birth:
      Weald of Kent, England
    1. Education:
      The University of London’s Institute of Education
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

SPRING 1929
CHAPTER ONE

Even if she hadn’t been the last person to walk through the turnstile at Warren Street tube station, Jack Barker would have noticed the tall, slender woman in the navy blue, thigh-length jacket with a matching pleated skirt short enough to reveal a well-turned ankle. She had what his old mother would have called “bearing.” A way of walking, with her shoulders back and head held high, as she pulled on her black gloves while managing to hold on to a somewhat battered black document case.
        “Old money,” muttered Jack to himself. “Stuck-up piece of nonsense.”
       Jack expected the woman to pass him by, so he stamped his feet in a vain attempt to banish the sharp needles of cold creeping up through his hobnailed boots. He fanned a half dozen copies of the Daily Express over one arm, anticipating a taxi-cab screeching to a halt and a hand reaching out with the requisite coins.
       “Oh, stop—may I have an Express please, love?” appealed a voice as smooth as spooned treacle.
       The newspaper vendor looked up slowly, straight into eyes the color of midnight in summer, an intense shade that seemed to him to be darker than blue. She held out her money.
       “O’ course, miss, ’ere you are. Bit nippy this morning, innit?”
       She smiled, and as she took the paper from him before turning to walk away, she replied, “Not half. It’s brass monkey weather; better get yourself a nice cuppa before too long.”
       Jack couldn’t have told you why he watched the woman walk all the way down Warren Street toward Fitzroy Square. But he did know one thing: She might have bearing, but from the familiar way she spoke to him, she certainly wasn’t from old money.
       At the end of Warren Street, Maisie Dobbs stopped in front of the black front door of a somewhat rundown Georgian terraced house, tucked the Daily Express under her left arm, carefully opened her document case, and took out an envelope containing a letter from her landlord and two keys. The letter instructed her to give the outside door a good shove after turning the key in the lock, to light the gas lamp at the base of the stairs carefully, to mind the top step of the first flight of stairs—which needed to be looked at—and to remember to lock her own door before leaving in the evening. The letter also told her that Billy Beale, the caretaker, would put up her nameplate on the outside door if she liked or, it suggested, perhaps she would prefer to remain anonymous.
       Maisie grinned. I need the business, she said to herself. I’m not here to remain anonymous.
       Maisie suspected that Mr. Sharp, the landlord, was unlikely to live up to his name, and that he would pose questions with obvious answers each time they met. However, his directions were apt: The door did indeed need a shove, but the gas lamp, once lit, hardly dented the musky darkness of the stairwell. Clearly there were some things that needed to be changed, but all in good time. For the moment Maisie had work to do, even if she had no actual cases to work on.
       Minding the top step, Maisie turned right on the landing and headed straight for the brown painted door on the left, the one with a frosted glass window and a To Let sign hanging from the doorknob. She removed the sign, put the key into the lock, opened the door, and took a deep breath before stepping into her new office. It was a single room with a gas fire, a gas lamp on each wall, and one sash window with a view of the building across the street and the rooftops beyond. There was an oak desk with a matching chair of dubious stability, and an old filing cabinet to the right of the window.
       Lady Rowan Compton, her patron and former employer, had been correct; Warren Street wasn’t a particularly salubrious area. But if she played her cards right, Maisie could afford the rent and have some money left over from the sum she had allowed herself to take from her savings. She didn’t want a fancy office, but she didn’t want an out-and-out dump either. No, she wanted something in the middle, something for everyone, something central, but then again not in the thick of things. Maisie felt a certain comfort in this small corner of Bloomsbury. They said that you could sit down to tea with just about anyone around Fitzroy Square, and dine with a countess and a carpenter at the same table, with both of them at ease in the company. Yes, Warren Street would be good for now. The tricky thing was going to be the nameplate. She still hadn’t solved the problem of the nameplate.
       As Lady Rowan had asked, “So, my dear, what will you call yourself? I mean, we all know what you do, but what will be your trade name? You can hardly state the obvious. ‘Finds missing people, dead or alive, even when it’s themselves they are looking for’ really doesn’t cut the mustard. We have to think of something succinct, something that draws upon your unique talents.”
       “I was thinking of ‘Discreet Investigations,’ Lady Rowan. What do you think?”
       “But that doesn’t tell anyone about how you use your mind, my dear—what you actually do.”
       “It’s not really my mind I’m using, it’s other people’s. I just ask the questions.”
       “Poppycock! What about ‘Discreet Cerebral Investigations’?”
       Maisie smiled at Lady Rowan, raising an eyebrow in mock dismay at the older woman’s suggestion. She was at ease, seated in front of the fireplace in her former employer’s library, a fireplace she had once cleaned with the raw, housework-roughened hands of a maid in service.
       “No, I’m not a brain surgeon. I’m going to think about it for a bit, Lady Rowan. I want to get it right.”
       The gray-haired aristocrat leaned over and patted Maisie on the knee. “I’m sure that whatever you choose, you will do very well, my dear. Very well indeed.”
       So it was that when Billy Beale, the caretaker, knocked on the door one week after Maisie moved into the Warren Street office, asking if there was a nameplate to put up at the front door, Maisie handed him a brass plate bearing the words “M. Dobbs. Trade and Personal Investigations.”
       “Where do you want it, miss? Left of the door or right of the door?”
       He turned his head very slightly to one side as he addressed her. Billy was about thirty years old, just under six feet tall, muscular and strong, with hair the color of sun-burnished wheat. He seemed agile, but worked hard to disguise a limp that Maisie had noticed immediately.
       “Where are the other names situated?”
       “On the left, miss, but I wouldn’t put it there if I were you.”
       “Oh, and why not, Mr. Beale?”
       “Billy. You can call me Billy. Well, people don’t really look to the left, do they? Not when they’re using the doorknob, which is on the right. That’s where the eyes immediately go when they walk up them steps, first to that lion’s ’ead door knocker, then to the knob, which is on the right. Best ’ave the plate on the right. That’s if you want their business.”
       “Well, Mr. Beale, let’s have the plate on the right. Thank you.”
       “Billy, miss. You can call me Billy.”
       Billy Beale went to fit the brass nameplate. Maisie sighed deeply and rubbed her neck at the place where worry always sat when it was making itself at home.
       “Miss . . .”
       Billy poked his head around the door, tentatively knocking at the glass as he removed his flat cap.
       “What is it, Mr. Beale?”
       “Billy, miss. Miss, can I have a quick word?”
       “Yes, come in. What is it?”
       “Miss, I wonder if I might ask a question? Personal, like.” Billy continued without waiting for an answer. “Was you a nurse? At a casualty clearing station? Outside of Bailleul?”
       Maisie felt a strong stab of emotion, and instinctively put her right hand to her chest, but her demeanor and words were calm.
       “Yes. Yes, I was.”
       “I knew it!” said Billy, slapping his cap across his knee. “I just knew it the minute I saw those eyes. That’s all I remember, after they brought me in. Them eyes of yours, miss. Doctor said to concentrate on looking at something while ’e worked on me leg. So I looked at your eyes, miss. You and ’im saved my leg. Full of shrapnel, but you did it, didn’t you? What was ’is name?”
       For a moment, Maisie’s throat was paralyzed. Then she swallowed hard. “Simon Lynch. Captain Simon Lynch. That must be who you mean.”
       “I never forgot you, miss. Never. Saved my life, you did.”
       Maisie nodded, endeavoring to keep her memories relegated to the place she had assigned them in her heart, to be taken out only when she allowed.
       “Well, miss. Anything you ever want doing, you just ’oller. I’m your man. Stroke of luck, meeting up with you again, innit? Wait till I tell the missus. You want anything done, you call me. Anything.”
       “Thank you. Thank you very much. I’ll holler if I need anything. Oh, and Mr. . . . Billy, thank you for taking care of the sign.”
       Billy Beale blushed and nodded, covered his burnished hair with his cap, and left the office.
       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 at 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.
       She remembered Simon, in another life, it seemed now, sitting under a tree on the South Downs in Sussex. They had been on leave at the same time, not a miracle of  course, but difficult to arrange, unless you had connections where connections counted. It was a warm day, but not one that took them entirely away from the fighting, for they could still hear the deep echo of battlefield cannonade from the other side of the English Channel, a menacing sound not diminished by the intervening expanse of land and sea. Maisie had complained then that the damp of France would never leave her, and Simon, smiling, had pulled off her walking shoes to rub warmth into her feet.
       “Goodness, woman, how can anyone be that cold and not be dead?”
       They both laughed, and then fell silent. Death, in such times, was not a laughing matter.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 153 )
Rating Distribution

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(79)

4 Star

(42)

3 Star

(21)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(4)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 153 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2004

    A Rare Treat

    I recommend this book to everyone. Classified as a mystery, it transends any one genre with its psychological and spiritual overtones, class struggle, and battlefield scenes woven nicely into the dire circumstances of WWI Europe. And, oh yes, there is a mystery to be solved. Jackie Winspear has created a believable,admirable character in Maisie Dobbs. The reader pulls for her while racing through the well-crafted story. Maisie Dobbs should move right to the bestseller list along with The Secret Life of Bees and The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency. Winspear was nominated for an Edgar, and won an Agatha for Maisie Dobbs. I'm looking forward to her next book, Birds of A Feather.

    10 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2011

    Very Highly Recommended

    I first noticed Ms. Winspear when the last book in this series, so far, was atop the best sellers list. I bought the first in the series, read it, loved it and immediately purchased the entire remaining set. I couldn't recommend it more highly. I knew a lot about the conditions in Germany between the World Wars but very little, as it turns out, about the conditions in England. Ms. Winspear's meticulous research and historically accurate depiction of life in England during that period makes the books worth reading for that reason alone. That they are also outstanding mysteries with that compelling can't-put-down quality is an amazing bonus. There are few authors who I buy in hardcover, preferring to wait for the paperback but Ms. Winspear is now among that elite list for me, when she publishes, I want the book NOW. The vernacular takes some getting used to but it in no way detracts from the story or the history. Wonderful reading.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Like a dose of Masterpiece Theatre!

    I'm not one for mysteries and not one for serials. I purchased this one to send to my mom, but as I was looking for an easy read and this one was in reach I cracked it open to take a gander. Well, it was a pleasant surprise! It didn't take long before I found myself engrossed in the life of Maisie Dobbs.

    As this is the first in the Maisie Dobbs series, it was light on the mystery and heavy on the "set up" and history for the series (which could be why I liked it so much). It also felt like I was reading an episode of Masterpiece Theatre--which I absolutely love. Maisie seems like somone I would have as a friend and Winspear's writing gave me strong images of WWI post-WWI England. Finally, the last two pages had me sobbing like a baby. Kudos Winspear for such a lovely story! I look forward to book #2.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 12, 2010

    Maisie Dobbs, Boring Lady Detective

    I'd heard much about Maisie Dobbs so I decided to buy the first book in the series. Ick. Perhaps the subsequent novels in this series are more interesting because this book is lacking in plot, character, and dialogue. I can't find anything to hold my interest. Maisie, while having many superior qualities, is so boring and humor-free that she never comes alive to me as a person. She is just words on a page. None of the characters are interesting and I am sick of the oft-quoted advice of Maisie's detective tutor, Marice. His homilies and quips are annoying. The plot is lacking too. I have no interest in why the dead soldier is buried with just his first name on a tomb. That's not a very compelling plot. I have given up on the book because it's just so mind-numbingly boring. Life is too short to read bad books.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 10, 2009

    Great Book Club selection

    Being the first it was loaded with back ground info on the characters. I would highly recommended starting with this book. That said World War 1 is such a large part of this book and for me the best part of the book. I wonder if the author has made her Psychologist and Investigator business interesting enough for Maisie books to keep me buying. She is the perfect daughter, friend and associate that you just go ho-hum she's visiting again. I recommended it for a book club because there is so much to talk about and it would be one of those book you like or don't like. Makes for a lively discussion but Maisie herself does not interest me enough to read another.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 20, 2011

    Once You Meet Maisie...

    Once you meet Maisie, you won't be happy until you've read as much of her story as has yet been told. This first entry in Winspear's series (now up to #8, with #9 in the wings) is an excellent beginning to a totally delightful series. We meet Maisie as an early teenager who enters domestic service when her family falls on hard times just before the outbreak of WWI. By dent of her own hard work and some extraordinary good luck, she manages to achieve an education and resulting independence, while solving mysteries along the way. The series is filled with intresting, well-developed characters and a good backdrop of England between the World Wars. Maisie's approach to solving cases reflects the growing interest in "alienists" (pyschologists) and foreshadows today's use of behaviorial analysis in crime solving. Her detection is thoughtful in every sense of the word, and it is spiced up with some wonderful moments of droll humor.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2003

    Looking forward to more Maisie Dobbs

    Winspear has succeeded in making something new out of the mystery novel... the mystery behind the plot draws you in and keeps you turning the pages but this book also has soul. This originality comes through in its exploration of the ethics, almost the spirituality, that underlie the profession of private investigator. In a highly original combination, Winspear works Buddhism, philosophy, feminism, the history of WWI, and an ideal of personal growth into an enjoyable mystery story that not only drew me in but inspired me. Maisie Dobbs is written with a lot of heart. I'm looking forward to hearing more of her story.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2011

    Maisie Dobbs Series

    I repurchased this book because it is the first in the series. I had lent this book to a co-worker and never got it back. I really enjoy this series and I wanted a complete set. I plan on re-reading the series from beginning book to end in about 10 years. The book "Maisie Dobbs" was a find in a tiny little book store. Who knew I would be "hooked!" I am so glad I was able to buy this one again to add to my set!!!! She is a great character. The book has mystery, compassion and the hardships of war, that any of us can experience. I think if you start with the first one you will get hooked just as I did!!!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2003

    Good Book!

    I recently read this book and enjoyed it very much. According to the book jacket, it is intended to be the first in a series. If so, I look forward to reading the next 'Maisie Dobbs.' The basic plot (serving girl gets educated by broad minded employer) may be a bit cliched, but given the time period and what happened to the social classes at that time, it comes off as believable. Part of what made this book interesting was the way Maisie's psychological situation was revealed to the reader.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A great start to a historical mystery series

    Maisie Dobbs takes place following World War I in London. It's an era that I didn't know much about, and so soaking in all of the atmosphere that Winspear so painstakingly researched was a revelation. Although I'm not much of a clotheshorse, I really enjoyed how the author described Maisie's clothes. My mother-in-law designs and makes antique clothes, and as I read this book, I thought of how much she would love this.

    I like how Maisie is so intelligent, yet she doesn't have all the answers. The way she mimics the posture of the person with whom she is talking to make them more comfortable with her fascinated me. Her mentor Dr. Maurice Blanche's psychological insights to Maisie, such as
    "Never follow a story with a question, Maisie, not immediately. And remember to acknowledge the storyteller, for in some way even the messenger is affected by the story he brings,"
    are illuminating, and useful to the reader.

    Maisie's straddling of two different classes of society- her father's working class and her benefactor's aristocratic one- makes for interesting conflict for her. Her father, a groom on the estate where Maisie is a maid, wants a better life for Maisie, yet fears losing her completely to her new life. Lady Rowan, her employer and benefactor, is an interesting character and I hope we get to see more of her in future books.

    And in the end, it was Enid, Maisie's fellow maid, who was the greatest influence on Maisie. Her words to Maisie about her duty to help the boys in the war effort may have had the deepest effect on Maisie's life.

    Maisie Dobbs starts in 1930, after Maisie has become a private investigator, and establishes the adult Maisie before taking us back to her childhood and the story of how Maisie got to where she is. It is a good technique because we are so invested in Maisie's adult life before we see how she got there.

    I felt that the author's take on the horrors of war resonated deeply. So much of what happened to the men and women who fought in war is universal and timeless. While techniques of war have changed greatly since World War I, the awful effects of it have not. I liked seeing war from a female point of view.

    But my favorite quote from the book has to do with reading, of course.
    "The feeling inside that she experienced when she saw the books was akin to the hunger she felt as food was put on the table at the end of the working day. And she knew she needed this sustenance as surely as her body needed fuel."
    That just might be my new Facebook quote.

    Since Maisie is a private investigator, there is a mystery to be solved, and mystery fans will be satisfied with this part of the story. But for me, the story of Maisie's life is what I felt most deeply about and I look forward to finding out more about her in the books to come.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2010

    Maisie Dobbs

    Excellent! This is a book I would re-read and that doesn't occur often. The writing reminds me of Anne Perry, in her WW1 novels, and yet Winspear has a distinctive style all her own.

    Winspear has done a beautiful job of giving her characters breadth and depth, then again, I do think the Brits do a much better job of this as they take the time to introduce us to the charcter and allow us to discover the multi-dimensional personalites.

    The plot is also multi-dimensional which gives further reason for why the characters are present. I did enjoy the handling of the time periods.

    As I have already ordered the next couple of books in this series I obviously recommend it. If the next books are as captivating as this first one then I will be delighted.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2007

    Very Unpredictable!

    Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear is a heart-wrenching mystery and novel written to take place during the early 1900s. I would recommend this book to some people, but if you need to keep track of things in succession, I would skip the book. It jumps around a little bit and the beginning was a slow one for me. I believe the author was trying to get across how deeply some of the soldiers were affected when the war was over. Friends and family abandoned some soldiers when they finally came home. Some soldiers were mentally traumatized whereas others had minor physical impairments, such as limps, all the way to being horribly disfigured and not recognizable by loved ones. A big part of the story is the mystery and astonishing uncovering of a veteran retreat. During that unveiling, it seemed that those men had never left the war in the first place. The book emphasizes the postponement of marriage during this time because many men, who were sent overseas, never came home alive. As time passes, it¿s easier for wounds to heal and to ignore past feelings and this story points it out, in a big way! Jacqueline was successful in presenting the hardships of broken relationships after wartime. It was mentioned more than once that family just ¿stopped visiting¿ and friends never bothered to get in touch and claimed, they too, were just so shocked and were not ready to meet up.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2003

    Thoughtful Tale of WWI

    Maisie Dobbs is an interesting, well-researched story of WWI and the aftermath. I found it very enjoyable, and hope that the author does continue with the series. Maisie is complicated and empathetic -- an unusual, likeable heroine.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 2, 2014

    Maisie Dobbs is the first book in the Maisie Dobbs series by Bri

    Maisie Dobbs is the first book in the Maisie Dobbs series by British-born American author, Jacqueline Winspear. The story starts in 1929, when thirty-two-year-old Maisie is setting up her own private investigation business. She has taken over the business of her mentor, Maurice Blanche, and is supported by her patron, Lady Rowan Compton and the very capable office caretaker, Billy Beale. Her first client is convinced his wife is being unfaithful: an easy case to solve, but it leads Maisie into a very different investigation, partly out of curiosity, and partly on behalf of Lady Compton. The novel is divided into three parts, with the middle section describing Maisie’s life from her early teens through her involvement in the Great War, a history that proves very relevant to her investigation. Winspear has created a fascinating heroine: clever, wise, considerate, philosophical, with a good knowledge of psychology and a strong intuitive endowment. Alexander McCall Smith describes Maisie Dobbs as “a real gift”. In this novel, Winspear touches on desertion, “shell shock” (perhaps better known these days as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), cowardice, disfiguring injuries and adjusting to post-war life. Maisie Dobbs was a nominee for Best Novel in the Edgar Award 2004. This historical mystery is a moving and thought-provoking read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2012

    Excellent

    Well-written, I can't wait to read the rest in the series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Mystery of the Great War

    A very well written and interesting story. I love the character of Maisie Dobbs and look forward to the next book in the series!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2011

    grreatread

    it breaks your heart to read of the suffering if the british soldiers. maisie is great y

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This book has it all

    I started reading this book with somewhat low expectations. I just thought it would be light and charming mystery, not too intense. What i found was a wonderful story filled with likable characters, a mystery, and a heartbreaking love story. So much more than i expected. I laughed and cried and to me that means a great book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2009

    One of the best

    I really enjoyed this one and promptly went to buy others in the same series. Very clever, the atmosphere was well done. The characters, I found, engaging. Have already recommended this to friends and even loaned my copy to one friend with 'strict orders' that it is to be returned.
    I read mysteries for 40+ years while I worked, raised my family, etc. then went on to romances etc. - this one brought me back to my original favorite genre.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 22, 2014

    Highly Recommend

    Well done...excellent story

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