I started reading this book as soon as I left for Christmas vacation back home in California. I look forward to reading mysteries during breaks from school, since it’s okay if I get caught up in a book and stay up late to finish it. I have been meaning to read this one for awhile, since I have some other books by Jacqueline Winspear, and I wanted to see how the series started. (I always like to read the first book of a series first, even if I’m not going to read the rest in order, because this is when most of the recurring characters are introduced.)
This is the first novel featuring “psychologist and investigator” Maisie Dobbs. Since Winspear is setting up an entire series, the plot of this novel shifts between the mystery and Maisie’s own back story. Maisie Dobbs has been working as an assistant to her mentor, Dr. Maurice Blanche, but when he retires, she opens her own practice. Business is slow at first, but soon she is hired by a man who suspects his wife, Celia, is unfaithful. When Maisie begins to investigate, she discovers that Celia Davenham is keeping a very different sort of secret from her husband. She is haunted by a past romance and some tragic events which took place during the First World War. Maisie, who served as a nurse during the war, finds the case brings up some painful memories of her own.
Two things set the Maisie Dobbs series apart from other mysteries: the 1920s setting and the detective’s psychological approach to solving mysteries. This is not like other popular books (or tv shows or movies) set in the 1920s. While extremely true to the era, Maisie Dobbs is definitely not a flapper. However, her story is a different illustration of the increased freedoms for women in the 20s: she is a well-educated career woman and new business owner, and her approach to psychology and crime-solving would definitely be considered avant garde by contemporaries from the time period.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries or historical fiction, and especially to anyone interested in the 1920s! Downton Abbey and Great Gatsby fans, I’m looking at you: this book is a great way to get a different perspective on an interesting time period! I borrowed this book through my local library’s collection of online media (check out my post on how to download ebooks from your local library here), but Maisie Dobbs is finally coming out in paperback this June, so keep an eye out for it! I give this book four stars-it is an entertaining read, and I already have the next two in the series! ★★★★