My Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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.
This novel was a bit slow to start for me. Many of the characters were felt to be at a distance from the reader, as everyone was so perfectly characterized in their own ways. The mystery was interesting but did not pick up the pacing of the novel until the last 50 or so pages. More than anything else in the plot, I enjoyed getting to know Maisie’s backstory. I was surprised that her past was included in this first novel of a series, as usually an author will divulge most of the past as the series progresses forward. But I think Maisie’s past is so central to why she is the way that she is, that it must be included in this first book.
“Remember basics, Maisie, dear. Whenever you are stuck, go back to our earliest conversations. And remember connections, that there are always connections.”
Maisie herself is an unusual character. She is careful with her person, her work, and her interactions with characters. She is so perfectly careful that it would be easy for her to come across as standoffish, and yet, she is warm and charming. Maisie is clearly someone who worked hard for what she has, deeply values her friends and family, and holds her values high. It took a long time for me to find Maisie endearing, and I think I owe that change to the interesting choice of detailing Maisie’s past in this book. The reader is introduced to so many more characters in Maisie’s past, and these are characters that heavily shaped her future. So many of the other characters in this book are more dynamic than Maisie, and they all balanced each other out nicely.
“You worry what you can do for these boys, Maisie. You worry about whatever it is you can do.”
Because this mystery is also historical fiction, Winspear does a great job of really enveloping the reader in the WWI and post WWI time period. The emotions of these years played a big role in these characters’ lives and even the central mystery. I thought this book was spot on in terms of capturing British sentiments during wartime and the various ways in which individuals were coping after the war.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Although I found the pacing to be a bit off at times and the book as a whole seeming quite perfect, I thought this was a great mystery. This is a quick read and I think would fit nicely after reading a much longer story. I would highly recommend this book, especially for fans of Downton Abbey and Nancy Drew.
This book is…
Page Count: 309
Available here from Book Depository.
Have you read Maisie Dobbs? What mystery have you read recently?