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Posted on February 24, 2018 at 11:14 AM by Lindsey Kult
This week’s Series Saturday is Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs! This series is one of staff member Debbie’s favorites. While numerous books take place during World War II or in the years after it, Winspear writes about the years between the wars. She writes about the survivors of the Great War and the suffering they endured as they tried to start over. These historical fiction mysteries are excellently written. While they aren’t cozy, they still are clean - they just address heavier issues than “cozy mysteries.”
Historical fiction, Mystery
Location in Howard Miller:
Mystery, MYS WINSPEAR
Great Britain, France, Germany, 1920s/1930s
Meet the Characters:
Maisie Dobbs is a remarkable young woman living in London during the interwar years. Most women in 1929 worked as secretaries or labourers, but not Maisie. She starts a business as a psychologist and investigator after years of being mentored by the great Dr. Maurice Blanche (see below). It was not always clear that Maisie would be successful in life. Her mother died while Maisie was still young and her father could not raise her alone. He found her work for Lord and Lady Compton. Young Maisie stood out among the other maids. She is clever and thirsty for knowledge. Lady Rowan Compton chose to sponsor Maisie’s education after she caught the girl reading in their private library in the middle of the night. Part of this education is working closely with Maurice who teaches her how to observe people fully. Maisie is accepted to Cambridge and begins her formal education as World War I (or the Great War) starts. Like many young people at the time, Maisie decides to pause her studies and join the fight. She becomes a nurse and is sent to the front lines where she witnesses more than she ever imagined. All of these events shaped Maisie Dobbs into the independent and distant woman that readers meet in the first book.
Billy Beale is Maisie’s assistant and friend. They first met in France after Billy is injured and Maisie nurses him on the front. Years later, Billy is the maintenance man for the building that houses Maisie’s office. He remembers her eyes and the kindness she showed him during the most terrifying moments of his life. Billy lacks Maisie’s natural talents when it comes to investigating, but he is willing to learn and do anything for Maisie.
Dr. Maurice Blanche is Maisie’s mentor. He is a French medical doctor. With the help of Lady Rowan, he established medical centers for the impoverished. Maurice has contacts in all areas of society. He is friends with philosophers, politicians, doctors, scientists, and military leaders. In addition to being a medical doctor, he ran his own private investigation business until his retirement in 1929. Maisie essentially took over this business, but still turns to Maurice when she needs help with a case.
Frankie Dobbs is Maisie’s father and the groom for the Compton estate. He is the only family Maisie has left.
Priscilla was Maisie’s college roommate and continues to be one of her dearest friends. She lost all of her brothers during the war and stayed in France at its conclusion. Her married life is a contrast to Maisie’s, and is always trying to help Maisie find happiness.
Number in the Series:
There are currently 13 Maisie Dobbs book available, with a 14th book expected to be released next month. These books don’t necessarily need to be read in order, but you should absolutely read the first book before any others to learn the backstory.
This is a good series with a strong female lead. She is unique both in her time period and in modern literature. I (Lindsey) feel that these books are important to the mystery genre and literature in general because they cover a time period long forgotten. You can find a book about World War II on nearly every shelf of our library, but the years leading up to that war are rarely mentioned. The young men and women living in the interwar years were struggling with problems that we cannot imagine. They were recovering from the worst war in history (up to that point) and watching the world’s politicians march toward something eerily similar to that which they just escaped.