New Mystery Series: Maisie Dobbs

The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear is a recommendation of friend and regular reader Mary R. in Minneapolis. I love finding an author new to me who develops her character and plot lines over several books. Winspear, who won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel — named for Dame Agatha Christie of course — is a gem of a writer.

Maisie Dobbs is a psychologist and private investigator whose stories are set in World War I London and the aftermath. While Dobbs is unraveling the latest mystery, her creator gives us a vivid picture of the conditions following a war: desperate poverty caused by an economy upended by conflict, grievous wounds to the body and spirit that never really heal, the long trailing suffering that leaches out from the actually wounded to the loving families who have to build up some semblance of normalcy.

Winspear paints a vivid picture of post-World War I London, and of the lives of rich and poor who lived there. The mysteries her character is called to solve occur mostly among the privileged; they are, after all, the ones with the money to hire an investigator. But Maisie began her life in service at the age of 13, her father is a former costermonger and now lives in a small cottage on the estate of Maisie’s wealthy patron, and Maisie’s assistant, Billy Beal, lives in that part of London where diseases like diphtheria ruthlessly claim the lives of small children whose poor parents can offer them only limited access to doctors.

Winspear puts a lot into these books, and I’m unable to tear myself away from the series in order to read other books I’ve downloaded and want to read, like Elaine Pagels Why Religion? I just finished Maisie Dobbs book 4, and am downloading the next three.  The Pagels book, which I expect to enjoy very much, will have to wait.

12 thoughts on “New Mystery Series: Maisie Dobbs

  1. Glad you like her. So many people who have taken my WWI course love her books and have recommended them. However, I have had so many non fiction books to read on the Great War, that I have avoided fiction. However, I did read one and found the historical background to be right on target. Now that the course is over (my third time teaching it), perhaps I will move to fiction!

  2. for Ada: I think you’d really enjoy the series. What strikes me most, aside from the fine writing and character development and ordinary good stuff that a reader gets with a competent author, is the long trailing suffering that hangs around after a war. We know this from our returning soldiers, but somehow Winspear uses fiction to make the reality more vivid.

  3. for Ada: I just finished book 5. They get better and better. I’ve been nursing a cold and lying low, reading. These are great books.

  4. I was teaching for our life-long learning group, the Peer Learning Partnership (PLP). Started in 2010 teaching courses on WWI (i have three, but condensed it into two). Taught in 2011, 2014, 2017 and 2018. Not planning to teach next year, although I did a two hour talk on the Korean War for the PLP’s History Buffs this year and will do one on Truman firing MacArthur in the summer of 2019. I am also very involved with the Curriculum Committe, as well as the Movie Forum Committee of the PLP. Thse plus two book groups and attending other PLP lectures, keeps me plenty busy, sometimes busier than I want to be. I am trying to slow down a bit!

  5. that’s what I hope………….but every time I forget a word, I shudder. Would I have forgotten this when I was 25? Probably, but it would not have concerned me. Just shrugged my shoulders and moved on!

  6. for Ada: I know. I feel the same way. Ditto for the fall I took while exercising over the summer, scraping my knees. It was just a fall. But, I had a flash of panic about the slippery slope. Wouldn’t have had that fear as a younger person. Would simply have said, Damn, I fell.Getting older is hard.

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