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.