Review: Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear
Spoiler alert: this was a good, interesting read that sufficiently sparked my interest in the characters that I will be definitely picking up, at minimum, the second book in the series.
This mystery centers around Maisie Dobbs, a private investigator/psychologist, taking on cases in 1929 London. I will go right out and say it, the societal commentary and the characters in this book are better handled and more interesting than the central mystery itself - the mystery actually ends up resolving in a way that felt a bit anticlimactic, and the big reveals of the puzzle were facts that Jacqueline Winspear dropped on us as a deus ex machina rather than sprinkling them as clues throughout the novel. The way it was connected to the initial client was also a bit of a stretch. The dialogue was also a bit repetitive and wasn't always smoothly integrated into the narrative - also, why on earth do they keep using each others' names in every other line? That isn't conversational at all. Having said that, Maisie Dobbs is an interesting enough central character that I am willing to forgive those minor flaws.
Her backstory was really well crafted, and the relationship that was developed between Maisie and her mentor, Maurice, and her benefactor, Rowan, were given the appropriate amount of narrative space and scope to develop organically, and lay some really interesting groundwork for the following books. Where this novel really shone, though, was in the story of the Great War, and Maisie's relationships with her fellow nurses, the soldiers, and the doctor she ends up falling in love with. The emotional climaxes and arcs of the World War I stories were expertly handled, and the heartbreaking final chapter of that storyline hit me so hard I had to put the book down and take several beats before I could continue (the fact that Winspear was able to convey that kind of devastation in subtext and unsaids made me just weep even harder).
There was also an introduction right at the tail end of the book that leads me to suspect there's going to be a bit of a romantic subplot in the following books that might be fun, as well.
All things said, I do very much look forward to the following books in the series, and I am hopeful that the mysteries will improve as Winspear becomes more familiar with the genre and more experienced with the subtleties of a well-crafted puzzle. And I look forward to getting to know more of Maisie, and seeing more of how her mind works.
If you're in the mood for a quick read that still makes you think, and tugs on your heartstrings, and some historical fiction that looks at the fallout of war and how long-term those impacts can be rather than just the famous battle scenes, then this is definitely the book for you. And, if you want something that'll keep you occupied for a while, it might be just the ticket as there are 16 works so far and I don't think Winspear is planning on calling off the character's journey anytime soon!
Please do let me know if you plan on picking this book up - or if you want to read along the series with me.