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Hailed by NPR?s Fresh Air as part Testament of Youth, part Dorothy Sayers, and part Upstairs, Downstairs, this astonishing debut has already won fans from coast to coast and is poised to add Maisie Dobbs to the ranks of literature?s favorite sleuths.
Maisie Dobbs isn?t just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence?and the patronage of her benevolent employers?she works her way into college at Cambridge. When World War I breaks out, Maisie goes to the front as a nurse. It is there that she learns that coincidences are meaningful and the truth elusive. After the War, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind.
- Awkward and Unconvincing, Yet Endearing...
One wants so much to applaud Maisie Dobbs -- both the book and its eponymous heroine. There's no question that the author's heart is in the right place; it's equally clear that she's done exhaustive research. Still, innumerable details of Edwardian costume and 1920's technology are no substitute for real atmosphere, and here Maisie Dobbs, the book, badly lets down Maisie Dobbs, the plucky investigator.
Whether describing the drawing room of the novel's admirable Lady Rowan or the traumatic history that has taken a housemaid through the trenches of World War I France and on to her own, indubitably genteel, offices in London, the novel rarely moves beyond the surface, while the vague underpinnings of Maisie's investigative philosophy, provided by her mentor, the mysterious Maurice Blanche, are sadly equally inert.
One ends up idly paging through Maisie Dobbs, wishing, perhaps, that instead of leading her own novel she had turned up as a subsidiary character in some other setting, say as a visitor to the Bellamys on Eaton Place in "Upstairs, Downstairs" or a guest at Louisa Trotter's louche hotel on "The Duchess of Duke Street." The air of Masterpiece Theatre is faint but ever-present, and one feels the character would have been better served by giving in to it!...more info
- A lucky literary find!
I feel fortunate to have read this delightful book! You should be forewarned, if you have a Kindle and want the next in the series, you are out of luck for now....more info
- Bright woman investigates in post-war England
Maisie Dobbs has so much potential. With the intelligence for bigger and greater things, she rises from a house maid to a university student. After getting caught in the private library of her employers, the eccentric Maurice Blanche teaches Maisie his worldly philosophy. Then World War I starts and she enlists as a nurse to the injured and dying English boys in France. After the war, she becomes an investigator and her first case unearths the hidden wounds of those who have experienced loss during the war. She also must face her own demons about the war. The prose was quite choppy at times with short chapters that provided the reader with felt more like a short glimpse, rather than a developed storyline. Also the way Maisie disarms the villain is quite unrealistic, if not hokey. Finally, the ending seems a bit forced. I would bet it was added only in retrospect to allow Maisie to feel personally connected to the subject of her investigation. ...more info
- Quirky Historical Suspense with a tough chick heroine!
Recommended by my favorite bookshopkeeper, the book is a period piece, set in post WWI. Reluctant to read what would surely be a dull and boring novel, I soon found myself intrigued and ensconced. So much so that I have even begun researching the Great War at the library (in my spare time!). The heroine, Maisie Dobbs, is a believable character, both wonderfully smart and also flawed. The author's descriptions of the time and place are so vivid and interesting, even the dialects and costumes are real and true to life. What a fabulous book. I'm recommending it to everyone I know...man, woman and child. ...more info
- "The extraordinary hides behind the camouflage of the ordinary."
When I picked this Agatha Award Winner for First Novel to read I was expecting a great cozy mystery, but I was dead wrong. I got much, much more! This is a book that is part mystery, part saga, part historical novel and part romance, and all the different pieces are blended masterfully, yielding a compelling read.
As a result of the characteristics of this book the "pure mystery reader" may be disappointed. However, those not in this category have much to gain by reading this novel. One of the most impressive accomplishments of the author in this work is that the main character, Maisie Dobbs, comes to life and we feel like we understand her motivations and actions in a very short time. This is hard to do in a mystery series, and the unusual tenor of this book makes it possible.
The way in which the author portrays World War I and the effect it had on the citizens of England is engrossing and enlightening. Winspear uses the right amount of detailed information to convey her point without going overboard. Then, there is also the aspect that has to do with the social classes in England during that time and the way in which they interacted. This provided an almost "high-end soap opera" aspect to parts of the story, but without falling into trite terrain.
Overall, this was a surprisingly wonderful read and I recommend it wholeheartedly....more info
- Fascinated by the construction
While this novel has numerous flaws, what saves it (at least for me) is the way it is constructed. The writer works back and forth in time and place without losing sight of a satisfying finale.
We see Maisie first in 1929, setting up a detective agency that seems sure to fail. Her first case is uninteresting on the outside, following a woman thought to be having an affair.
Then we go back to before the War to End All Wars, when Maisie is poor and age 13, entering "service" with a wealthy London family. The author continues on that timeline through Maisie's education and entering college, volunteering for nursing duties, and through much of the war--but leaving out one crucial scene.
Finally, we return to 1929, the result of Maisie's looking into a home for severely wounded soldiers--and her parallel experience in the war.
All this works quite well. The war seems real enough, and London feels right, both in the 1920s and before. Where the novel trips over itself is in the one dimensional characters. For example, Maisie's father is Joe Gargery reincarnated, a costermonger with a heart of gold. In Dickens, as Pip becomes more educated he is ashamed of Joe and then comes to realize that Joe is superior to all the snooty Herbert Pockets of the world. But Maisie maintains a straight line dedication to her Dad, to the point that he is simply a faceless horsecart driver.
Other characters are equally flat: Maisie's cockney assistant, Lady Rowan, Maisie's tutor, etc. etc. If only the writer had worked more on the characters, given them some contradictions, perhaps, this would have been a much better work.
Some of the writing is annoying, the "tendrils" of hair that keep escaping from beneath Maisie's cloche. I personally got tired of those tendrils and wanted to snip them. Then there is the anachronistic phrase "too much on her plate." What next? Will Maisie become "tasked" and even "pulsed"?
Nonetheless, the novel is worth reading for the plotting only and always with the hope that future Maisie books will correct the flaws....more info
- Good novel, weak mystery
In fairness to readers of mysteries, while Maisie Dobbs has several strong points, the mystery is obvious and requires little detecting. Winspear has created an interesting heroine and she writes dialogue fairly well. Her characters are believable though unchanging, and love runs strongly throughout the story.
But mystery plots are notoriously difficult to create and Winspear lacks this talent. So I found the story charming and the historical setting enlightening, but not worth reading as a mystery. I believe the same can be said of several other recent "mystery" authors: Janet Evanovich et al. They write amusing and/or charming novels but cannot construct a good mystery....more info
- Another wonderful series!
This is the first of 3 in the series, altho' the 3rd is not yet out. If you like Anne Perry and Charles Todd, you will love Maisie Dobbs. The setting is post WWI England, with a strong female detective. There are wonderful side-plots, other great supporting characters, and generally very good story line. Very, very enjoyable, and I hope the author can continue the series for many books!...more info
- Detective and pschologist
What a great book about WWL and a great nurse, detective, psychologist. It is beautifully written and has great characters.
- Did you like Nancy Drew?
If you did - well into your teens - you'll love Maisie Dobbs. If you started to get a little bored by smug perfect Nancy and the lack of characterization by, say, third or fourth grade, you might want to skip this.
After reading a couple of great reviews from sources I trust, I bought this book with great excitement. The author had been compared to Vera Brittain and Dorothy Sayers; in my world, there is no higher compliment.
Unfortunately, the only thing the author has in common with Brittain and Sayers is that she employs the same setting - England between the wars. Honestly, I can't think what the complimentary bookpress reviewers were thinking - did they read the same book? Does the author's husband employ them? I'd love to know.
Anyway, into this wonder setting, the author plops a Nancy Drew-mannequin of a heroine (many pages devoted to special, special Maisie, who may be slightly intimidated by those of a higher class, but who inspires only love, admiration, devotion, and support from both the toffs and the working class heroes she encounters), new-age philosophy (special, sensitive Maisie intuits answers from the atmosphere), and a crazy mess of Brit-slang from every decade of the previous and current centuries. All this rendered in awkward, sophomoric language, topped by a cringe-inducing ending. (If only all sociopathic killers could be disarmed and reduced to sobbing bundles by a detective singing a war song!)
The annoying part is the plot, the setting, the subtext of the post-war malaise are fascinating. I wish the author had employed a real writer to realize them. What a waste....more info
- The best series I have read in a long time
I started reading Maisie Dobbs and ended reading all three book in the series in one week-end. I am now sad that I don't have another one of Winspear's books to read. I have recommended this series to everyone I know who likes to read. Although the books do have some mystery elements, the mystery is not the focus. The third in the series--Pardonable Lies--was the least satisfying, but it was still good....more info
- Only okay.
This is primarily a background novel about Maisie who is, by the way, precognitive. She is also very taken with herself and, to me, cruel to one she says she loves. The far more interesting character is Billy, who plays a secondary role. The story of the men who fought in WWI is, by far, the strongest and most poignant part of the story. The actual mystery is almost incidental to the story and relies on information you are unaware she obtained, Billy's willingness to be the legman, and Maisie's intuitive powers. Although there were part of the book by which I was moved, I was disappointed overall. I've ordered the next book but It will need to be significantly stronger for me to continue with this series....more info
- The Start of a Beautiful Friendship!
Never much of a mystery reader, in the last number of years I have been introduced to two wonderful female detectives of sorts. One was Fremont Jones, a private detective based in San Francisco at the turn of the century and the heroine of a series written by Dianne Day. The other was Mma Ramotswe from the Alexander McCall Smith mystery series set in Botswana, Africa. While I enjoyed the mystery angles of both series, it was the women and their personalities, the geographical areas where they lived and the historical times which intrigued me so greatly. And as much as I loved these books, I remember thinking that I most likely would never find another female character from this genre who would appeal to me in quite the same way. But then I didn't know that very shortly I would meet up with the most intriguing character of all, one Maisie Dobbs from the book with the same title by Jacqueline Winspear. And as I said in the title of this review, I just know this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.
We first meet Maisie Dobbs in 1929 when she is moving into her first office in London. A private detective, Maisie has been tutored and apprenticed by a Dr. Maurice Blanche who is highly regarded in London's social circles.
Her first case seems rather ordinary when a man suspects his wife of cheating on him. Following the woman in question, Maisie finds a lady mourning a childhood friend killed during W.W.I. But more than that Maisie also uncovers a rather sinister plot involving a farmhouse used as a retreat for men unable to rejoin society. Called the Retreat it holds the answer to why certain war heroes met untimely deaths while living at the Retreat.
While this book is considered a misery it almost takes a back seat to the main character for as we turn the pages we learn more and more about Maisie and her circumstances. In a series of flashbacks we first meet Maisie at 13 when her mother has died and her father, a costermonger, has no money left for Maisie's education due to the medical expenses for his wife. Maisie's father then finds a job for her as a scullery maid in the home of Lady Compton, a wealthy woman and suffragette. While working in this large London home, Maisie soon finds a wonderful library which appeals to her sense of learning. When she is found there one night by her employer while poring over a book, Lady Compton arranges for Maisie to be tutored over a period of years, then paying for her to attend Girton, the women's school from Cambridge. But then war intervenes and the book takes a different turn as Maisie faces World War I working as a field nurse and learns about both the joys and sorrows of a first love.
I so enjoyed this book that I literally gulped it down. I found that Ms. Winspear offered her readers a wonderful glimpse into the world of London before, during and after W.W.I. From the drawing rooms of the wealthy homes to the life of a young nurse, I felt as though I was in London during these times, not reading in the year 2005. But more than anything I love learning about Maisie's life which was also laid out as a misery till the final pages revealed an important piece of the puzzle.
I must say that I might never have read this book had it not been for the recommendation of a dear online friend. So not only do I thank Ms, Winspear for writing this book, I also thank my friend for reading this and passing along the recommendation. And now that I've finished Maisie Dobbs I can't wait to read the second book in this series, Birds of a Feather. I only hope that the next book will be as good as the first one. Something tells me it will be. And then I will anxiously wait for the next book by this talented and gifted author....more info
- A promising series opener
Jacqueline Winspear's historical mystery Maisie Dobbs begins in 1929, just over ten years after the end of the Great War, when its eponymous protagonist takes on her first case as an independent "cerebral investigator." Maisie's client comes to her with an ostensibly straightforward domestic problem, but the case leads Maisie into a greater mystery involving a home for disfigured veterans--a path that leads Maisie also to reexamine her own war-time experiences.
In a lengthy digression from her "modern" mystery in the book's midsection, Maisie's past is fleshed out. The daughter of a costermonger, Maisie went into service in 1910, at the age of thirteen, in the home of a woman who would become her benefactress. Maisie was tutored by a friend of her employer's, a Yoda-like character who spouted Eastern wisdom and taught his prot¨¦g¨¦e a sort of holistic approach to detection. Later, after a brief stint at Cambridge, Maisie served as a nurse in the blood and muck of France and was courted by a charming doctor with whom she had danced once in England prior to shipping out. When the book's narrative returns to Maisie's present what we now know of her past renders her experiences in 1929 more poignant.
Maisie Dobbs is a nicely written book and a gentle read, despite its subject matter. In large part the book is successful, though Maisie's apparent ability to understand the emotions of others by adopting their posture strains credibility. The character of Maisie's tutor too, the seemingly omniscient Maurice Blanche, does not quite come to life. More literary than genre fiction--if one is to categorize the book by those unspecific terms--Maisie Dobbs does not in fact offer a compelling mystery. Its focus is rather on the characters Winspear is introducing and on recreating the feel of the period between the wars, in showing, in particular, the effect the First World War had on those who lived through it. But with this back story established in this first book, it will be interesting to see how the Maisie Dobbs mystery series proceeds, whether our heroine's powers of detection will be tested in subsequent installments by mysteries sufficiently gripping to carry a book themselves.
Reviewed by Debra Hamel, author of Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece
- Good start to an intriguing series...
Despite the author's suspiciously Harlequin-esque name, "Maisie Dobbs" was an enjoyable historical mystery (set in just post-WWI). Not bad for a first novel, though a bit slow moving at times. The sequel ('Birds of a Feather') was much better in terms of plot believability, villian, action, and emotional impact. Overall, a series to keep an eye on. Because of the time period and geographic location (London mostly), I kept expecting Lord Peter Wimsey to pop in for a cameo, but not even a mention of monocled noblemen graced the pages.
This series uses history very much to its advantage. Many of the characters that Maisie encounters have been in some way altered by the Great War and their outlook on life is never the same. ...more info
The book is boring and should be billed as a romance novel rather than mystery. If people who bought Elizabeth George novels as well as this they must have been sorely disappointed. I won't make the mistake of selecting a book on this basis again....more info
- Welcome new series
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear is a delightful, new book book. She paints a vivid picture of life for a young woman "in service", in England in the years preceding The Great War. As Maisie matures and is educated, she volunteers to go to France, to nurse the wounded allied soldiers. The scenes of the terrible scarring of bodies and souls change the direction of her life.
The book manages to charm, all the while depicting life in extremely difficult circumstances....more info
- Skip This One -- Go Directly To Birds of A Feather
This first Maisie Dobbs book was obviously just a warm up. You should skip it and go right on to the second book in the series, BIRDS OF A FEATHER. It has a much better mystery.
This book contains barely any mystery at all. Once Maisie goes after the sinister man running the Retreat, the pieces come together with laughable ease. And you will not believe the big musical "finale" where the power of song converts the villain into a big, blubbering baby. I mean, really! Charlie Manson was a big Beatles fan, but if his victims had burst into a chorus of "Yellow Submarine" he probably just would have rolled his eyes and kept right on stabbing away.
What saves Winspear as a writer is just that her characters are so wonderful and kind. I wanted to hear so much more about Priscilla, Maisie's sexy and fun-loving girl friend from Oxford. She should have a novel of her own, or at least be reunited with Maisie for a big mystery! And I think it was a mistake to keep mentioning Lady Rowan's son James, and all his "problems" and never allow the man to speak for himself. Bring him back too!
BIRDS OF A FEATHER tells you everything you need to know about Maisie Dobbs. Begin there!
- Maisie Dobbs A Real Joy
I absolutely loved Maisie Dobbs. The sense of time and place were very well done. I only caught one problem, when she dialed a phone number. Other than that everything seemed authentic and true to the times. The characterizations were fully rounded and the storyline was compelling, especially in the background flashbacks. As this is the first in a series, I am really anxious to read the next installment. I think British detectives are the best!
- MASIE DOBBS
IT SHOWS WHAT WOMEN WENT THROUGH DURING THE FIRST WW AND IT IS AMAZING THAT THEY STILL WERE DIGNIFIED BUT IT ALSO SHOWED WHERE WOMEN COULD ATTEND COLLEGE AND BECOME SOMETHING MORE, AND I MEAN MUCH MORE. THEY WERE ALLOWED TO USE THEIR MIND....more info