Created by Jacqueline Winspear
In her spawling, ambitious eponymously-titled historical novel, we first meet MAISIE DOBBS, a young working class girl in 1920s England with a love of books and learning. Once, a long time ago (much of the book flashes back to her younger years), Maisie worked as a housemaid for social activist Lady Rowan Compton, who took the young girl under her wing, rewarding her with an education. Maise eventually earned a degree from Cambriodge, but then World War One came along, throwing a spanner into the works. Instead of furthering her education, Maisie found herself working as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse. In the years following the war, Maisie was hired by her Lady’s good friend, Maurice Blanche, a rather well-known forensic scientist, philosopher and investigator who runs a private detective agency.
The meticulously researched debut opens in early 1929, with Maisie just having opened her own Trade and Personal Investigations office in Bloomsbury. Not so much a mystery, perhaps, as the story of a woman and her life and times (although there is a juicy little mystery in it, all about WWI vets and a possible cover-up by the British Army). Maisie is a appealingly intuitive and compassionate detective, and the book received all sorts of praise for its piercing and evocative treatment of the Great War and its tragic and sustained aftermath.
By the sequel, 2004’s Birds of a Feather, Maisie is a full-fledged private detective, complete with her own office and a brass nameplate on the door which reads “Maisie Dobbs, “Psychologist and Investigator,” and the series has thundered on, leaping from strength to strength, now firmly entrenched in the Second World War; a personal, sort of eyewitness social history of the U.K. not unlike that of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins.
Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in England and later worked in publishing and as a marketing communications consultant in the U.K. before emigrating to the United States. She now lives in California.
- “… a delightful mix of mystery, war story and romance set in WWI-era England.”
— Publishers Weekly
- “Winspear does a beautiful job of re-creating the atmosphere and class strata of early-20th-century England, while never overburdening her story with details. Dedicating this novel to her grandparents, both of whom were injured during World War I, the author keenly explores the lasting damage that was inflicted on soldiers long before post-traumatic stress disorder became a catchphrase. But, as its title makes clear, Maisie Dobbs focuses on one woman and her development as an innovative and forward-thinking individual. Much less time is spent here exploring her actual detective work, and that’s unfortunate. It would have been interesting to observe the nuances of investigating a crime in a society so ruled by sex, class and social structures. Still, Maisie proves to be an engaging and original character. Now that her background has been fully revealed, perhaps we’ll see more of her detection practices in the future.”
— Cindy Chow, The Rap Sheet
- Maisie Dobbs (2003) | Buy the book | Kindle it!
- Birds of a Feather (2004) | Buy the book | Kindle it!
- Pardonable Lies (2005) | Buy the book | Kindle it!
- Messenger of Truth (2006) | Buy the book | Kindle it!
- An Incomplete Revenge (2008) | Buy the book | Kindle it!
- Among the Mad (2009) | Buy the book | Kindle it!
- The Mapping of Love and Death (2010) | Buy the book | Kindle it!
- A Lesson in Secrets (2011) | Buy the book | Kindle it!
- Elegy for Eddie (2012) | Buy the book | Kindle it!
- Leaving Everything Most Loved (2013) | Buy the book | Buy the audiobook | Kindle it!
- A Dangerous Place (2015) | Buy the book | Buy the audiobook | Kindle it!
- Journey to Munich (2016) | Buy the book | Kindle it!
- In This Grave Hour (2017) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
- To Die but Once (2018) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
- The American Agent (2019) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
- The Consequences of Fear (2021) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
- This Time Next Year We’ll Be Laughing (2020, by Jacqueline Winspear) | Buy this book | Buy the audio | Kindle it!
The author spills the beans of her hardscrabble childhood in post-war Kent, in a moving, heart-rending memoir that makes clear where many of the themes and concerns of Maisie came from.