Review: Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

Release Date: June 2003
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 320 pages
Source & Format: Gifted; Paperback
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (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 out 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 horror of the Great War and the love she left behind.

Thoughts On Maisie Dobbs
I came into this book expecting a mystery, which it kind of is, but it's also got a little historical fiction and psychological exploration aspect to it. It's hard to pin it down. I expected a mystery, and I was kind of disappointed when it didn't really deliver in that regard. So, if you decide to read this book, don't expect it to "fit" into any genre.

This book opens in 1929. Maisie is setting up her own private investigator practice. She receives her first solo case from a man who wants to find out if his wife is having an affair. Maisie ties up that little detective work pretty quickly. In fact, I was kind of shocked when what I expected to be the mystery was wrapped up in the first 100 pages.

The setting then abruptly switches to 1910. And I do mean abruptly. Suddenly, you're reading about Maisie's life growing up. She's from the lower class, but she's a smart and driven young woman. Her father's struggles with money require her to enter into the service of a wealthy family. From here, you learn how she became Maisie Dobbs, girl detective. Maisie receives a good education and is able to rise above her rank. The majority of this 320-page book is spent on this section, which I found really surprising. Why? Because it was kind of boring. I'd rather the author slipped in some memories, a few reflections on her past, rather than spend almost an entire book in backstory. I honestly felt like I was reading a really long prologue. Unfortunately, that left me feeling a little "blah" when it came to this book.

Then, it jumps back to 1929. Maisie is now tracking down another case that's really just an offshoot of her first one. My big pet peeve with this book? Maisie solves her case through intuition. I'm not saying a character can't use a little intuition, but it came across like this: "Oh, and by the way, here's what's going on. I just totally figured it out in my mind. The end." Umm... okay?

There was one aspect I really liked, and it dealt with the treatment of soldiers returning home from way. The discussion about their sacrifice, and their place in society, was really touching in a few parts.

All that being said, this is no Agatha Christie novel. I really loved the setting, and I wanted to love Maisie more than I actually did. Still, I might recommend borrowing it from the library because I'm interested in reading the second to see if it gets better without so much backstory.

So Quotable
"Truth walks toward us on the paths of our questions... as soon as you think you have the answer, you have closed the path and may miss vital new information. Wait awhile in the stillness, and do not rush to conclusions, no matter how uncomfortable the unknowing."


  1. I felt the same for the most part about this one. I've read the second and most of the third. The author has the most annoying habit of frequently retelling parts of Maisie's past throughout the other two. I understand that some people really appreciate this particular action, but I feel that it's completely unnecessary for those actually committing to the series. I enjoyed the bits about her past but felt it was a little forced at times. Maisie is an icy character and doesn't really pull me in. I'm not really a fan of Agatha Christie but I've only attempted a small portion of her work. I'd be interested to see your thoughts on the second, if you decide to read it.

    1. I'm glad to hear you agree! And that's disappointing that Winspear includes a lot of backstory in the later books. I don't mind a little refresher information in a series, but I definitely think that constantly rehashing old material is a disservice to committed readers. I'm going to try to find the second book at the library to see if I connect more with Maisie, but I agree that she's not the most likeable character. If I'm still not feeling this series after the second book, I'll probably call it quits. I can't commit to a series that I'm not really invested in.


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