Laura recommended this series to me and this first one made a great audiobook to listen to while cooking, walking, and gardening. First published in 2003, it is set around the time of the First World War in Britain and its aftermath and features an appealing heroine. Maisie is of humble birth, and a smarter, more hardworking, more loyal character you could not ask for.
When we first meet Maisie, she is opening her own detective agency, having worked for her mentor. She charms those around her — and us — right away. Her careful methods are described as she works with her first client and we understand she is both dedicated to finding the truth and using it to the advantage of those who need her kindness, regardless of who is paying her.
We then learn about her background. Her mother died when she was young and her father concludes her best choice is to go into service as any money he had available were used to pay medical bills for her mother. Maisie had the good fortune to be in service in a household that recognized her intelligence and encouraged her. She reads and studies enough to be accepted at a women’s college at Cambridge, but her work is interrupted by the war when she becomes a nurse and goes to France.
The story returns to her detective work and that first case takes her back to her war experiences. Maisie shows herself to be intelligent and intrepid as she uncovers the secrets of a home for veterans who were terribly disfigured by their service. In the end Maisie’s own secret is revealed and she becomes more human to us, more appealing than the perfect figure she presents.
Jacqueline Winspear, Maisie Dobbs, Soho Press, 2003, 294 pages, (I listened to the audiobook). Available in the UVa and public libraries, and from Amazon.